5 Easy Ways to Determine if You Appliance is the Problem or the Receptacle

Picture this…it’s Saturday morning and you have mounds of laundry to do.

You load your washer with a weeks’ worth of dirty laundry…work cloths, kids sports gear that has been smelling up the laundry room for days, etc.  You put in the detergent and press start. Nothing Happens. What now you ask yourself??????

Is the problem an appliance problem or an electrical problem? Who should you call first?

You don’t want to pay an electrician to tell you it is a problem with your appliance and you don’t want to pay an appliance repairman to tell you it is a problem with the electric.

Here are a few simple tricks and tips you can try to determine your next course of action…

  1. Is it a GFI Receptacle?

The first thing you need to do is determine if your receptacle is a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (aka GFCI or GFI) Receptacle. A GFI Receptacle has a test and reset button and are typically in places were water is present such as Bathrooms, Kitchens, Basements and Outdoors.

Some GFI Receptacles, like the one shown here on the left, have a green light that appears when receptacle is working, and it turns off when it needs reset.

Other GFI Receptacles have a red light that appears when the receptacle needs reset and others don’t have anything to indicate that the receptacle needs reset.

If the receptacle that your appliance is plugged into is a GFI Protected Receptacle, unplug the appliance and reset the receptacle. You do this by hitting the Reset button until you hear it click.

If you’re not sure if your receptacle needs reset, you can hit the test button. If you hear nothing than it needs reset. If you hear a pop, it means that the GFI receptacle was not tripped and you will need to hit the reset button until you hear it click.

If your GFI Receptacle was tripped and you reset it, and it trips again (with nothing plugged into the receptacle), you will need to contact an electrician. There may be a problem with the GFI Receptacle and it may need to be replaced.

If your GFI Receptacle was tripped and you reset it, and it trips when you plug the appliance back in, proceed to step #3. The problem may be with the appliance tripping the GFI Receptacle or with the Receptacle itself. Step #3 will help you narrow down the problem.

  1. Are there any GFI Receptacles tripped anywhere else in your Home?

Depending on how your home is wired the Receptacle the appliance is plugged into may not be a GFI receptacle but may be protected by another GFI receptacle at a different location in the home.

Go throughout your home and make sure that none of your GFI receptacles are tripped (meaning that the test button is popped out).

Be sure to check outside as well for tripped GFI receptacles. Some homes are wired in a way that the outdoor GFI receptacle protects receptacles in your home.

  1. Try something else in the Receptacle

If you are unable to find any tripped GFI Receptacles, one of the quickest ways to determine if the problem is with the appliance or with the receptacle is to find something that you know works, such as a lamp, and plug it into the receptacle.

If the item works, when plugged into the receptacle, then your problem is with the appliance and not with the electric to the appliance.

If you have a small appliance, such as a toaster or hair dryer, that is not working in the receptacle it is plugged into, try moving it to a receptacle that you know works to determine if the problem is with the appliance or the receptacle.

At this point, you should know if your problem is with the appliance or with the electric. If you are still unsure, you can try these final two steps, which are a little more complex…

  1. Check your Electric Panel for tripped Breakers

Go to your electrical panel (usually located in the basement or a garage) and open it. Look down through and see if there are any breakers that are tripped.

If you find a tripped breaker, turn it all the way off and then back on in order to reset it.

If the breaker holds and does not trip, try plugging in your appliance again and turning it on. If the appliance still does not work, you will need to contact an appliance repairman.

If the breaker trips off right away or after you start your appliance, you will need to contact an electrician.

If the breaker holds and the appliance is working, congratulations, you just fixed the problem and do not need to call anyone!

**Please use extreme caution if you decide to open your panel and start testing breakers. You run the right of electrocution. We strongly advise that you have  trained professional handle issues that arise when you electrical panel.**

  1. Buy a Receptacle Tester

If you want to be sure without a doubt if your receptacle is getting current, you can buy an inexpensive receptacle tester.

These can be purchased at your local hardware store, HomeDepot or Lowes.

If you are looking at a possible career in the electrical field, this would be a great investment.

IF you have tried all three of these tricks and tips, you should now know where your problem is and who you need to call or hopefully it was something easy like a tripped GFI Receptacle and you were able to fix it yourself.

Appliance Problem

If you were able to determine that your problem is most likely an appliance problem, we would encourage you to give your local appliance repairperson a call. If you are not sure who to call, feel free to check out LH Brubaker or Martin’s Appliance.

Electrical Problem

If you were able to determine that your problem is most likely an electrical problem, call a trusted electrician.

We would also welcome the opportunity to help you out with your electrical needs. You are welcome to give us a call at 717.392.0804 or visit the Contact Us section of our website to fill out a request for Service.