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Short circuiting outlets

If too much heat builds up in an outlet, it can actually melt the insulation that surrounds the wires. As the wires become exposed, the chance for an electrical fire increases. When a connection is made, the electrons can leap to the wrong area and cause a serious spark. This is known as a short circuit and can actually case an electrical fire.

Short circuiting outlets

If too much heat builds up in an outlet, it can actually melt the insulation that surrounds the wires. As the wires become exposed, the chance for an electrical fire increases. When a connection is made, the electrons can leap to the wrong area and cause a serious spark. This is known as a short circuit and can actually case an electrical fire.

Shoddy electrical repairs

When a homeowner decides to fix an outlet themselves, it’s important that they know exactly what they are doing. When you try to take short-cuts to fix electrical problems, you often create far more dangerous situations that can result in fires.

Repairing faulty outlets

If an outlet sparks briefly once in a while, then it’s probably normal and safe. When an outlet sparks every time you plug something in, you probably have a problem.

Replacing an outlet is not a difficult job, but if you suspect a problem hire a professional. Installing a GFCI outlet can be tricky and can cause problems further down the line if not done properly.

Your hair dryer, TV, refrigerator, electric heater — all were working just fine, until the outlet went dead.

We take electricity for granted, casually plugging in items and just expecting that they’ll work. When you find an electrical outlet not working, it's not only frustrating — it can also be an indicator of a more serious problem.

Angie’s List member George Umezawa chose to be safe rather than sorry when he hired Power Up Electric in Los Angeles to replace six two-prong electrical outlets in his 1957 home. “The job was not a difficult one, but a little tricky because I have an old house with old wiring,” Umezawa says. “So I was glad to have a real electrician do the work rather than risking a do-it-yourself job.”

If you have an electrical outlet that's not working, one of these common culprits might be the cause.

Tripped circuit breaker

It’s common for a single circuit breakerto trip, causing the outlet you want to use to stop working. Check the panel and reset any breakers that shut off.

When a circuit breaker trips, the knob doesn't always flip to the opposite side. Sometimes it sticks somewhere in the middle; sometimes it sticks so close to on that it's hard to see it's tripped.

If a circuit continues to shut down, you likely have a problem with overloading it. See if you can unplug some items, or hire an electrician to make the changes that are necessary.

RELATED: 7 Electrical Safety Tips Homeowners Should Know

Tripped GFCI outlet

Modern building codes require outlets near sinks to be either a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) or protected by one. These outlets will shut down by themselves when they detect a short or overheat, rather than causing the breaker to flip off.

If you have an electrical outlet in your bathroom or kitchen stop working, reset all GFCI outlets in that room. A GFCI that pops will also cause all outlets further down the line on the same circuit to stop working. Sometimes an outlet in another room is wired on the same circuit, especially in older homes, and a tripped GFCI in your bathroom is shutting it off.

Faulty outlets in older homes

Electrical outlets can go bad for no apparent reason. Their contacts can become loose, and the entire unit may simply need to be replaced.

Because electrical work can be dangerous, it's recommended that you leave repairs to a professional electrician. Failure to shut down the right outlet at the panel can result in serious injury. Failure to properly install the new outlet can cause a fire down the road. It can also create a situation where people who are trying to use the outlet may get shocked.

MORE: How Much Does It Cost to Rewire a House?

Burned out outlets

Sometimes electrical outlets will literally burn out. A brief flare and fire can cause the outlet to stop working.

If an electrical outlet begins to spark or shows any sign of blackening around the outlet plugs, it should not be used. Even if one plug is working, the entire outlet should be replaced immediately to avoid the possibility of starting a fire.

To easily determine if your outlet problem results from a broken outlet or the appliance you are using, plug something else into the outlet.

Before calling the professionals, check all GFCI electrical outlets in the room and check the circuit breaker or fuse panel. If it’s not one of these simple fixes,