What To Do When The Lights Go Out

The loss of electrical power in our homes and business is a fairly common, and sometimes a frequent event in our daily lives.  Knowing what causes these power outages and subsequently how to correct them can make this nuisance a little less stressful to deal with.  Some outages will be out of your control and must be resolved by the utility company.  Still many will originate from within your home or business and, with a little knowledge, can often be corrected very quickly and simply. Here are a few of the most common types of power loss and the steps you can take to get the lights back on and life back to normal.

Complete or Widespread Electrical Power Outage

When you experience either a complete loss of power, or outage that involves several rooms or areas of your home or business, many times the resolution to the problem lies with the utility company.  Certainly if there is a storm raging or high winds in the area, the problem is likely a result of a failure in the power grid and there is not much you can do except to report the outage to your electrical provider.  There are some scenarios where the problem is isolated to your electrical system and not the utility company.  If you notice

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Qualified Electrician Inspecting Electrical Panel

that your power is out but your neighbor has power, check to see if the main breaker of the electrical panel has tripped.  The main breaker will be located at the top, center of your breaker panel or outside at the electrical meter socket.  As with any breaker, first turn the main breaker off, then back on to reset it.  If this does not restore power, a call to a qualified electrical contractor will be necessary.

Electrical Power Loss to Isolated Areas Only

This type of power failure is the most common type encountered in homes and businesses.  It occurs when a problem develops on an individual electrical circuit, resulting in a loss of power to isolated areas of the house, business, or even just one appliance.  With this type of outage, most other areas of the building will operate normally.  An isolated power loss can have many potential causes such as overloading a circuit by having too many devices running at the same time, defective equipment such as a  vacuum, hair dyer or other item plugged in or turned on, damage to wires in walls or ceilings after renovation work, and wires for outdoor lights or outlets that may have been damaged during recent planting or excavation work.  In addition, if a home has recently been pressure washed or equipment in a business has been sprayed down for cleaning, water can infiltrate electrical boxes and fixtures and cause a loss of power.

The best action to take if you experience a loss of power to a piece of equipment or isolated area of your home or business is to first check for a tripped breaker in the panel, or panels if you have more than one.  Many times a tripped breaker can be hard to distinguish from a breaker that is functioning properly as a breaker moves only slightly into the “tripped” position rather than turning off all together.  Reset the breaker by first moving the handle fully to the “off” position and then back to the “on” position.  Check to see if power has been restored.  If you still don’t have power to the affected area, check to see if you have any tripped GFCI receptacles.  These devices have a “test” and “reset” button located on the face of the receptacle.

How to Reset a GFCI | Belco Electric Inc.

GFCI-Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter

They can be reset by depressing the “reset” button and it should click into place if the receptacle was tripped.  One thing to note, you may not always find the tripped GFCI receptacle in the area you are experiencing an outage in.  It is well worth the effort to have a look in each bathroom, kitchen, basement, garage, utility room, and outdoor areas to be sure you don’t overlook the cause of the problem.  If you have checked both the breakers and all GFCI’s and have not been able to restore power, it’s time to call in some help from a qualified electrician.  The problem may be caused by a loose or damaged wire or a defective breaker or GFCI that needs replacing.

Many instances of power outage can be resolved without the need of a professional electrician as the vast majority will be the result of a tripped breaker or tripped GFCI.  In cases where these outages are associated with a burning smell, sizzling or crackling noises, a professional electrician should be called to evaluate any damage that may have occurred.  If you need service in the Atlanta area, click here to schedule an appointment.

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Tim Jackson

About Tim Jackson

Tim Jackson is Director of Service Operations at Belco Electric. He joined Belco in 2000 and holds an Unrestricted Electrical Master Contractor license. He specializes in the residential electrical area.
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One Response to What To Do When The Lights Go Out

  1. When the loss of electrical power in my home many times the resolution to the problem lies with the utility in my house. I think the best action to take if you experience a loss of power to a piece of equipment or isolated area of your home or business is to first check for a tripped breaker in the panel, or panels if you have more than one. Thanks!

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