BYC: Garage Outlets Stopped Working
Caller: ”Hello, my garage outlets have stopped working, my garage door opener, water softener, landscape timer and spare refrigerator are all out. I checked the breaker box and nothing helped. I need help?”
This is is a very typical call when the power in a garage goes out. For many this is the first time they have had to deal with this issue. It can be very inconvenient and unsettling. Clients go to their electrical panel and do not find any breakers tripped and are not sure what else they can do. So they call Elect Electric.
Our customer service representatives are trained to ask if the clients have reset any GFCIs yet. Some clients know what is meant and they fix the issue with this reminder. Some do not know what we are talking about and others do not want to check as electricity makes them uncomfortable. We want to go one step further to help clients out Before You Call (BYC).
If your home was built using the 1978 National Electrical Code or a later edition then your garage has to have GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) protection and this normally is done with an outlet that looks like this:
GFCI outlets are easy to spot because they are always rectangular and have two buttons in the center. GFCI outlets are a life safety device and help stop people from getting electrocuted. They are required in any place where you will likely have electricity and water in the same location. The two buttons are a “Test” and a “Reset” button.
GFCI outlets are required to have a test button to ensure they are working. They are supposed to be tested every month. To test you simply push the “Test“ button, it should cause the reset button to “POP“ out and the outlet/s should stop working. To get the outlet/s to work again simply push the “Reset” button. (Sometimes resetting a GFCI is not so easy, you can try to use an object with a small enough point to push, like a flat head screw driver or a pen)
GFCI outlets can also protect additional outlets downstream from where they are located. Due to the high cost of the GFCI outlets, contractors will often install one outlet to protect a whole circuit of outlets. This is what can cause confusion for the homeowner. And this is also why when the garage outlets go out you do not have a tripped breaker. It is likely you have a GFCI that has tripped.
To “Reset“ a normal GFCI it is as easy as pushing the button. In garages, however the trick is finding the outlet. Most of us use the garage for storage and only use one or two outlets in the garage. We may have put storage shelving on walls and the shelves may be covering a GFCI outlet. Another issue is that some garage outlets get covered with a multi outlet adapter or a large plug in transformer. Here is a photo of a covered outlet:
To see if this outlet is a GFCI that needs to be “Reset“ first you must unplug the multi-outlet adapter:
No that was not it. Keep looking. In the garages below, the outlets may be hard to spot.
Your garage may be separated into two or more parts, don’t forget to look for the GFCI in both parts.
Once you locate the GFCI check if the “Reset” button is in or out. It can be hard to tell by looking so you can also check by pushing it in. Does it push in, click and remain depressed? If so you have likely corrected the issue . But what if it does not stay depressed? What if it keeps “popping” out?
This could be a sign of a more serious issue but there may be one more thing you can do to isolate the issue before you call. Try and unplug everything plugged into any of the outlets effected when the GFCI is tripped. (Check outside outlets as well as they may be protected by the garage GFCI) Once everything is unplugged try to push the “Reset“ button again. If it clicks and stays depressed you know the issue is in one of the things you unplugged. Plug in one thing at a time until the GFCI trips again. Whatever you plugged in that caused the GFCI to trip is the issue. (Old plug strips and outdoor extension cords are often the culprit)
If the GFCI will not reset, it is time to call Elect Electric. We will come out and diagnose the issue and, in most cases, repair the issue the same day.
You may may also wish to have any old GFCI outlets replaced. A GFCI outlet that is ten years old should probably be replaced to ensure it is working properly. If your GFCI trips frequently this is also a sign you may need to have it replaced. GFCI technology is always getting better. Here is what a new outlet looks like:
What do you do if your garage outlets are out and you cannot open up your garage door?
There should be a red cord hanging from your garage door where the door connects to the openers trolley. Pull that red cord and you should be able to push the door up manually.
Here is a video I found on YouTube that shows you how: https://youtu.be/Rtpb9Pa8ong
Please let us know if you have any questions or comments on this post.
We look forward to providing you exceptional service.
1 (805) GET-HELP