Many homeowners are savvy enough to solve a total power outage. They know what to look for. But what about a partial power outage? What if only half of the house lost power? The guide below will tell you what to do.
Power Out In Half Of House – Why?
This issue is more common than people realize, and it is just as easy to diagnose as a total power outage. Consider the following:
1). Faulty Breaker
Your search should start at the electrical panel. The panel contains most, if not all, your breakers. You will lose power in the whole house if the main breaker trips. But if some of the branch circuit breakers trip, you will only lose power in the rooms associated with their circuits.
Some contractors will label the branch circuits, allowing you to identify the circuits they control at a glance. If your breakers are not marked, finding the circuits they control may take a while.
A damaged breaker can produce a partial power outage. This should encourage you to inspect the main breaker. Don’t assume that a faulty main breaker can only lead to a total power outage.
How To Fix It?
You should start by resetting the affected breakers. Open the panel and look at the breakers.
You will notice that some switches have flipped to the off position. Flip them back and check the affected rooms. Is the power back? Hunker believes that turning the main breaker off may solve the problem because it resets the breaker switches.
But this procedure won’t work if the circuit breakers are defective. According to Consumer Product Safety Commission, breakers can last forty years.
But your breaker can wear out within a few months or years because of poor wiring and frequent overloads, spikes, and surges.
Use the following procedure to test your circuit breaker to determine whether or not it requires repairs:
- Wear protective gear. Keep the area around the panel dry.
- Identify the breaker you want to test.
- Turn off all the devices connected to the circuit the breaker controls
- Change to the AVC setting on the multimeter.
- Connect the multimeter’s prongs to the terminal and ground screws.
- A reading of zero shows that your breaker is dead.
What if you’re too scared to test the breaker because you lack the relevant expertise? A faulty breaker will manifest various signs. If you notice these symptoms, call an electrician:
- The breaker trips repeatedly. This phenomenon only counts if you’ve ruled out the possibility of an overload.
- The lights will flicker. Again, this doesn’t count as a genuine symptom until you eliminate the possibility of an overload and loose connections.
- Sniff the panel. Does it smell like something’s burning?
- The breaker won’t reset.
- The breaker feels hot to the touch.
- You can see burn marks and melted wires.
If the breaker was installed decades ago, you don’t need an excuse. Just replace it before it catches fire.
2). Tripped GFCI
GFCI technology defends against ground faults. Unlike breakers, which cut the power when an overload occurs, GFCIs trip when they detect an imbalance in the outgoing and incoming current. They protect people from electrocution.
What kind of GFCI do you have? Better yet, what type of power outage have you observed? Maybe the sockets in multiple rooms are dead, but does that mean the lights are off? If the power outage is limited to the sockets, you have a GFCI upstream that tripped, killing the power in every connected receptacle downstream.
You can confirm your hypothesis by testing the lights. If they work, you have a tripped GFCI receptacle. If the power is well and truly off, including the sockets and lights, check the electrical panel.
Whole-house GFCIs sit in the panel. They provide protection to every device on the circuit. Therefore, the entire circuit de-energizes when they trip. This assumes that you have a whole-house GFCI. If you’ve yet to install one, keep troubleshooting. Your problem lies elsewhere.
How To Fix Tripped GFCI?
A tripped GFCI shouldn’t concern you. After all, these devices are easy to reset. Find the tripped receptacle and press the ‘RESET’ button to restore power. This procedure is only challenging if you have multiple receptacles because you must inspect them all to find the device that tripped.
Contractors prefer to daisy-chain this technology. This allows them to protect multiple outlets using a single GFCI receptacle. And if things go wrong, you only have one GFCI to troubleshoot.
You can’t avoid this problem by simply removing the GFCI. The NEC has strict rules that compel consumers to install GFCI technology in locations prone to ground faults. Don’t expect every GFCI to reset simply because you pressed the button.
GFCIs have a lifespan of 15 years. If you’ve had yours for a few years, you should consider replacing it. Do the same for a defective GFCI.
Defective GFCIs trip repeatedly for no reason. Some receptacles will refuse to reset. Others will stop working altogether. Fortunately, GFCIs are not that expensive. These devices are pricier than traditional outlets, but most consumers can still afford them.
Whole-house GFCIs are more expensive than their outlet counterparts. But replacing a faulty GFCI is safer than fixing it. Consult an electrician if you have doubts. They will determine whether or not repairs are viable.
3). Grid Malfunction
Don’t be so quick to dismiss the power grid as a potential cause. A malfunction on a line will restrict your house to one phase of electricity, leading to a partial outage. You can blame such occurrences on an overload, poor connections (at the transformer), bad weather, a dead fuse, etc.
Keep in mind that service providers use two hot wires to bring electricity to American households. Each line carries 120V. Combining them gives you access to 240V, which heavy-duty appliances such as ovens use.
Even if you rule out factors like bad weather and overloads, one of these lines can break because the wires repeatedly heat and cool, expanding and shrinking in the process. They can only take that strain for so long before coming loose.
Unlike the breakers and panels in your house, problems on the power grid are out of your control. Fight the urge to climb the closest electric pole to your home. The local authorities will penalize you.
How To Fix It?
You can’t do anything about a failure on the power grid. No one expects you to climb a pole and reattach a broken wire. Your utility provider will perform this task. Your only job is to call them when things go wrong.
The bare minimum you can do is to confirm that nothing in your house is responsible for the partial power outage. That means checking the GFCIs and breakers. If you have concerns about broken power lines and your utility provider is taking longer than expected to respond, you can call an electrician.
Besides advising you on what to do as you wait, they can engage the utility provider directly to expedite their response.