Most people assume electrical work is best left to a professional, and for the most part, they’re right. However, in the instance of a power outage, there are a couple of things that even a novice can do to restore it. We’ve asked four Diamond Certified Expert Contributors to explain simple steps homeowners can take to restore power to their homes and avoid unnecessary service calls.
How to reset a GFI
Due to the presence of water, safety codes require the electrical outlets in bathrooms and kitchens to be equipped with ground fault interrupters (GFIs), which protect against electric shock in the event of a “ground fault,” which is an inadvertent electrical path between a source of current and a grounded surface. When a GFI detects a disruption in the current, it immediately shuts off power to protect the user. This means doing anything from using a hair dryer in the bathroom to using a blender in the kitchen can trigger a ground fault and cause that outlet to lose power.
Fortunately, as Brian Ramirez of BR Electric explains, you don’t need to call an electrician if this occurs. In fact, all it takes to restore power to the outlet is the simple touch of a button—the GFI’s reset button, to be precise, which is located on the outlet itself. Once it’s reset, you’ll see the little green indicator light come back on, indicating that power has been restored.
Additionally, Gerry Reyes of Aren Electric Co., Inc. recommends testing the GFIs in your home on a monthly basis. You can do this by pressing the “test” button, which will trigger an artificial ground fault and cause the power to shut off. To restore power, simply press the “reset” button and look for the green indicator light to come back on.
How to reset a circuit breaker
Another instance where you can restore power to your home without professional help is a tripped circuit breaker. Chris Bennett of Bennett Electric, Inc. says you can tell a tripped breaker by its position: Like a light switch, a breaker will point up when “on” and down when “off.” To restore power, simply flip the tripped breaker to the “on” position.
This may sound simple, but in some instances, troubleshooting a circuit breaker can get complicated. For example, sometimes a breaker that appears to be in the “on” position isn’t. Also, circuit breakers aren’t always labeled properly, which can make it difficult to determine which is responsible for the outage. Joe Greenwood of Greenwood Electric, Inc. offers a simple way to avoid confusion: Reset all of your circuit breakers. After you’ve turned them off, wait until you hear a mechanical “click” and then turn them back on. By resetting all of your breakers, you rule out the possibility of mistakenly resetting the wrong one.
In either of the aforementioned cases, if power doesn’t return after you’ve taken the appropriate steps, call a professional electrician who can look further into the problem.