If you think you have a problem with one of your electrical outlets or light switches, the first thing to consider is that faulty electrical work can cause fires and receiving an electrical shock isn’t much fun – they can actually cause severe injuries. If you have never worked on electrical wiring and have no idea what you’re doing, it’s always a good idea to call a qualified electrician to work on your electrical outlets and light switches rather than charging in blindly.
Light switches and electrical outlets that don’t work but have been okay in the past may simply be due to a breaker tripping in your main electrical panel. If that turns out to be the case, there’s a possibility that you may have overloaded the circuit with the tools or appliances that were plugged into the outlets controlled by that breaker. Unplug a few items and try flipping the breaker into the on position until it locks in place. If it refuses to lock or immediately flips to the off position again, your work is done – call a professional electrician to look at the problem that could be a faulty breaker or a short in the line somewhere. Under no circumstances should you remove the cover off the electrical panel unless you have experience in this area.
If the breaker wasn’t in the off position, there’s a good chance the problem is at the outlet or switch. It isn’t unheard of for either to go bad on occasion. While replacing electrical outlets or light switches is a fairly simple operation, it’s still a good idea to use a qualified electrician for the project. If you insist on trying it yourself, ensure that the breaker controlling the switch or outlet has been turned off before removing the fixture’s cover. The best way to make sure is by using a professional tester available at most hardware stores and electrical supply distributors. Do not attempt to work in the fixture box until absolutely sure the juice is off to the outlet or switch.
Removing the switch or outlet is fairly easy and normally a just matter of loosening a few screws. Take the faulty switch or outlet with you when purchasing a replacement to ensure you’re getting an identical match. Put everything back together and make sure you don’t have any wires touching each other in the box. If the fixture still doesn’t work, call an electrician to take a look.