Q&A: Testing electrical outlets

Q&A: Testing electrical outlets
Q&A: Testing electrical outlets

Reader Annie asks …

I’ve noticed a couple of my electrical outlets aren’t working.  Is there something I can try myself before I call the electrician?

 Absolutely, Annie!

If you don’t have one in your toolbox, go to your local hardware store and pick up an outlet tester.  It looks like a 3-prong plug without the cord.  Here’s a recommended model from Ace Hardware – you should be able to find a similar item at any hardware store.

Outlet and GFCI Tester – $13.99 at Ace Hardware

Whatever brand you get at whichever hardware store, make sure that it has this answer key on it.


Now, for the good news – it’s easy to check your iffy outlets!  First, check your electrical panel/breaker box and make sure the breaker for that outlet is in the ON position.  If it’s in the OFF position, move it to the ON position; if it’s sitting between OFF and ON, move it to the OFF position and then to the ON position, just like a light switch in your house.  Now, take that outlet tester and plug it in to the suspect outlet.  If it lights up with any series of lights besides the “Correct” one, or if it doesn’t light up at all, you’ve got a problem with that outlet.  At that point, you should call in an electrician.


Hope this helps!