Why Does Half of an Electrical Outlet Work and the Other Half Doesn’t?

May 30, 2018

Outlet failure is a common problem homeowners face. Usually, an outlet won’t work properly because there is a wiring issue but there are four other common reasons for only half of an electrical outlet working. For example, you may have one of the following:

  • A switched plug
  • An outlet that was set up with backstabbed wiring
  • A wire nut that wasn’t used properly
  • The wrong type of metal wire was used

Read how these may affect your outlet and more importantly when to call a professional.

Switched Plugs

First of all, check if you have switched outlet. Most homes have duplex outlets that allow you to plug two devices into them at once. A half-hot (or switched) outlet is a duplex outlet that only has one plug permanently “on” while the other half is turned on and off by an ordinary wall switch.

This kind of outlet is commonly found in modern construction and in rooms that do not have an overhead light. For example, switch outlets are usually in living rooms and bedrooms where you would need to plug a lamp into the switched side of the outlet. This allows you to easily turn a lamp on and off with a flip of a wall switch.

Backstabbed Wiring

There are two ways to wire a standard plug or switch. The right way is to curl the wire around the screw and tighten the screw down. The wrong way is to backstab the wire by pushing it into the connector that grabs the wire inside. This creates a loose connection that will easily burn out. This can be checked without the help of a professional but if it needs to be fixed, hiring a professional is suggested. To check, take off the outlet plate and remove the receptacle from the outlet box. You should then see if the wires were wrapped properly or backstabbed.

Incorrect Use of Wire Nuts

Technically, a wire nut is designed to keep all wires together and covered. Some electricians use wire nuts to make a connection between wires. Not using them properly will cause an outlet to stop functioning properly. Call a professional to have your wires properly connected.

Wrong Type of Metal Wires

Aluminum and copper are the two main types of metal used for wires. Copper is stronger and most devices are rated for copper wiring. Aluminum is brittle, easily breaks and has more resistance to electricity. High resistance causes heat to build up inside the outlet and burns up the wiring.

However small an electrical problem may seem, it’s always wise to call a professional. Call the trained professionals at Reddi at (316) 771-9699.

Resources found on our website are provided as general guidelines, and Reddi Industries does not assume any liability resulting from the provided information.