Lost power to PART of the house...?

So, this is very odd. Yesterday I was using the microwave when suddenly it died on me. This happens time to time, but normally because someone else is using a hair dryer or something, for whatever reason the outlets in the kitchen are on the same curcuit as a bunch of other things in the house, including the downstairs bathroom.

However, this time when I went to flip the breaker back, there was no flipped breaker. Everything looked good on the board. What? I went upstairs and at first thought the microwave might have taken a crap, but noticed the air fryer was also down. A quick test revealed all three outlets along one wall, plus an outlet on the opposite side of said wall, are down. In addition, the outlets in the bathroom are down, and the lights are not coming on in the bathroom or room just outside the kitchen.

The GFCI outlets that are down will not pop the reset button when TEST is pushed, which Google tells me means they aren’t getting power. My Dad theorizes that one of the 120 lines coming into the house is down, and I need to call the Utility company to have them come out and investigate, while my wife thinks one of the outlets in the kitchen (probably the one the microwave goes into) is bad and causing the issue. I’m willing to pick up a few more GFCI outlets (the ones we have are at least 14 years old from when we moved in) but I can’t help but wonder about the fact the lights don’t work… would replacing one bad GFCI outlet fix all of this?

Dad’s theory holds more water for me, but he pointed out the dryer needs both 120’s to operate - one for power/motor functions and one for heating, and our dryer is both running AND heating, so maybe it IS a bad outlet?

Or maybe something else? Anyone else have any theories? I’ve about 3 hours before the store opens up and I can grab some 15A outlets. If you don’t hear from me again, I probably electricuted myself!!

By the way, to make sure I don’t accidently end up on a Darwin award, I’m actually turning off power to the entire house before I replace these recepticles, just to be sure, since I don’t know which breaker is the one that normally flips when this happens and I’m not taking any chances, I’ll just reprogram clocks and the like when I’m done.

I’ve had two outlets on different circuits fail (at different times); one to the dryer, one to the kettle, both of which are power hungry appliances. I do not remember any of the other outlets on the circuit going out (would have been the entire kitchen or utility room ring), otherwise I would have taken much quicker action on getting an electrician in, who told me each time, why don’t you do this thing yourself (because I don’t futz with things where a mistake could burn the house down).

Also, aren’t your outlets and lights on different circuits?

So my guess is your dad is closer to being right? if that helps ¯_ (ツ)_/¯

I should add one detail - a few years ago we had our fridge just stop working all the sudden. Some internet sluething led me to believe the outlet the fridge is plugged into is bad (it’s a GFCI, which I’ve since found out you should NOT plug fridges into, but it hasn’t been an issue otherwise since or before).

I replaced that GFCI outlet and still no go - however, my wife found out the GFCI outlet next to the fridge, one we don’t even use, had tripped. So we reset that one and boom, fridge working again. Now, GFCI outlets are NOT supposed to be set up in such a way (series, I assume) that one going down takes the rest of them in the line down, but that’s exactly what happened here. We also know the person that owned the house before us knew just enough to be dangerous - he so many things are intalled backwards or wrong here, that one bad GFCI outlet could, in theory, take the entire circuit down. It’s not inconceivable, for sure.

Yeah, outlets and lights (at least the ones that are down) are on the same circuit - when we blow the breaker from running the microwave and toaster at the same time (for example) the lights in the bathroom would also go out. At least, I’m 95% certain of that.

If replacing these three outlets in the kitchen don’t work, I’m not replacing the one in the bathroom as that’s pretty new from when we redid our basement some years ago, I’ll call the utility company to test my Dad’s theory.

Is anyone else in your neighborhood having similar issues? We had similar problems which several other houses in the neighborhood also had, and it turned out there was something wrong with the power company wiring in the area. We have buried wires and they had to re-run wires between several of the transformers to fix the issue. Google ‘partial power outage’ if you haven’t already. Good luck!

The dryer actually usually would run off of 208V–that is, it’s phase-to-phase and not phase-to-neutral. If you have a meter, you could measure the voltage between each of the wire receptacles on your dryer outlet and the ground plug. There should be two that measure 120V. (Make sure your meter is measuring AC voltage! Sometimes they denote that by having a V with a squiggle over the top of it.) You can measure receptacle voltages safely by putting probes into the socket. Angle them so they’re touching the metal walls. Make sure you don’t touch the probes and that they don’t touch each other.

Here are two typical dryer outlets. Green is ground, white is neutral, black are the hot wires:
image

Yours might be another type. On older dryers, sometimes there’s only three wires. You can look up a chart of NEMA plugs to get idea which is yours. They’re all different and all for specific phase, current, and voltage configurations.

Breaker panels in the U.S. are usually wired so that every other 120V breaker is on a separate phase. (This is done for load balancing between the two phases coming to your house.) So if every other breaker is out of power that’s a good sign that one of the 120V phases coming to your house is bad. It’s possible the problem is with your main breaker, but you’d need an electrician to fix it.

If you replace receptacles, please be careful and make sure you wire them correctly. Hot (black, red, or brown wire) goes to the small plug, neutral (white or blue wire) to the larger one, and ground (green or green/yellow) to the tunnel shaped one. If you aren’t 100% confident about what you’re doing, it’s better to call an electrician. If you don’t have a meter to verify that the circuit is dead (using the AC setting!) before starting work, call an electrician.

Thanks everyone, I apprciate the info and suggestions!

I ended up calling the Utility company first, which was my idea until the wife pointed out I could try and change out the outlets since we’ve seen them down cause issues before. But when I woke up (and why I made the thread when I did) I couldn’t help but feel like that didn’t make sense, with them not even GETTING power and also the lights not working.

So the utility company sent out a few guys that actually went above and beyond - they came in and tested every breaker and found one that was completely dead, so my original theory seems correct - the microwave fried something and the breaker, a frequent offender, was too weak to trip this time so it blew.

I have a call into a local guy these guys like and he said after his current job he’ll swing by and swap the breaker out. It didn’t seem like a big deal, but I was told that the breaker flipping when we would use a hair dryer and a microwave (or air fryer) is NOT normal, so it could be the breaker was always going bad or it could be a wiring issue. This didn’t happen until about 6 or so years ago, so I think the breaker just started going bad and eventually took a shit yesterday. In any case, for now I’ll be content to swap the breaker alone and if it trips again at some point, then we’ll go ahead and hire this guy to re-wire a few things.

As an addendum to the previous update, we’re all good now. The elctrician came out and found that actually the circuit was good - I don’t now how they tested 0 on the one they tested, it ended up being the garage/garage door so I flipped that one back and they found that ALL the circuits were good.

They tested each outlet and found one that, when they poked their tester in to detect power (none of the others were getting power but the breaker was indeed providing it to the house side) and discovered a loose connection. That connection was what the upstairs and other lights were being fed by, something that would have been installed when we had the basement redone four or five years ago. He stripped the wires and re-did the work that was done somewhat poorly before (it wasn’t stripped very well, so it was not really making full contenct, just enough to barely touch - which he explained caused arcing, and pointed out how hot/melty the connector was).

So after he re-did the junction everything is good to go now. Thanks again for all the advice everyone! I’m glad I didn’t waste an hour swapping outlets - I would never have done the one that ended up being the culprit AND even if I did I doubt I would have noticed how bad the connection was, hidden in a twist cap like it was (I wasn’t about to explore to that level).

Glad everything worked out!

It’s very possible that half of your house could lose power without it being a breaker or circuit. We had half of ours go out earlier this year, only to find out that something external had blown & the power company was already working on it. Took 5 or 6 hours and then everything was back up & running. But it was a weird situation because I couldn’t figure out a pattern to what was working what wasn’t. There were two lines into the house and one of them was coming from the transformer that blew.

Glad it worked out.

We have a similar weird gfci circuit in the place we bought a few years ago that has, among other things, outside wall boxes on it. The first time it tripped, I tore the house apart looking for where the gfci was, and eventually discovered it is in the little closet that houses the electrical panel and the furnace.

Glad everything worked out. I wanted to add that I apprenticed as an electrician for 6 months and a bad GFCI can indeed shutdown an entire circuit, if its the lead receptacle in the circuit line. If its not the lead, it should still kill everything in the circuit behind it. I actually had this situation happen to me earlier this year. Half of my kitchen was out and the breaker was fine. It turned out to be a bad GFCI near my sink.

I was under the impression you’re only supposed to do GFCI in the bathroom, outside, and workroom?

Anywhere you could get moisture in the outlet. The one in our kitchen behind the fridge is a puzzle, but it’s not causing issues so far so I haven’t removed it.

I was wondering if I should have been putting them all over my house :)
Glad you’re all fixed up!

I recently had something like this where one of the outlets in the kitchen worked intermittently and then all the outlets on the circuit went out. Didn’t know what to make of it. Called in an electrician and he blamed the contractors (even though our house is like 60 years old). He said the wires had just been pushed into the outlets instead of being screwed in. Sounds crazy, but he tested all the outlets on the circuit, and presumably snugged down all the wires. If I’d have known that’s what the problem was, I might have done it myself. But I was happy he figured it out and the fix was something relatively easy.

Not really. The outlets are designed to work either way (if he’s talking about what I think he is). I thought that was a relatively recent thing, though.

I also thought it was only the newer outlets that allowed you to “insert” the wire (rather than wrapping it around the screw and screwing it down). My house is also about 60 years old, and I know none of our original outlets featured the “insert wire” convenience.

Also, holy cow is it hard to find a competent electrician these days. We did some remodeling last spring, and are just now finishing the “cleaning up all the stuff they contractor did wrong” phase. Our contractor used three different electricians, each of which screwed things up in novel ways.

I know I’ve used the “insert wire” type of connection on light switches at least 25 years ago. Don’t know about outlets.

All the outlets in our houe have screws you pin the copper down with, no inserting. In fact, just a few years ago I bought a new GFCI outlet and it was also screws, not insert, so maybe it’s a regional thing?

For solid wire, the spring clamps will actually hold the wire better than screws.

I had lost power to the outlets on one wall. The problem ended up being that they were controlled by a wall switch. Now in my defense I had placed a cover on the wall switch so we would not accidently shut off the power and it never occurred to me that someone would take the cover off, flick the switch, and replace the cover!