“Troubleshooting Tricky Electrical Outlets in Older Homes”

Troubleshooting Tricky Electrical Outlets in Older Homes


As a homeowner with an older house, I occasionally run into issues with electrical outlets that don't seem to work properly. This can be frustrating, but with some basic troubleshooting, I can usually resolve the problems myself. In this article, I'll share the common issues I've encountered over the years and the steps I've learned to diagnose and repair faulty outlets in my 1926 home.

Signs of a Problem

There are a few obvious signs that can tip me off to a potential issue with an electrical outlet:

Any of these are good indicators that further inspection and repairs are needed. Safety should always come first when dealing with electrical issues.

Testing the Outlet

Once I notice a problem, the first thing I do is test the outlet with a multimeter or outlet tester. This will help me determine if the issue is with the outlet itself or something further down the electrical line.

To test properly, I'll first turn off the circuit breaker for that outlet so there is no live power. I then plug the multimeter probes or outlet tester into the receptacle slots to get the readings.

My main areas of focus are:

This test will point me to where the problem lies.

Simple Fixes

If my test shows that there is still power getting to the outlet, the issue may be a simple one that I can quickly fix:

Troubleshooting the Wiring

If I determine the outlet itself is fine, then the problem may be in the wiring behind the walls. Some things I look for:

Often, wiring issues take more extensive troubleshooting and electrical skills. If I'm unsure, I always call a licensed electrician rather than take risks working with older electrical.

When to Call an Electrician

While I can handle basic outlet repairs, there are certain situations where I involve a professional electrician right away:

Safety is paramount when dealing with tricky electrical gremlins in an older home. I take it seriously and call in an expert when needed. With the right precautions, most issues are fixable.


While electrical outlet problems can be frustrating, a methodical approach of testing, inspecting, and troubleshooting based on my findings allows me to resolve most issues successfully. Knowing when to call a professional electrician is also key for safety. With diligence and the right tools, I can keep my home's outlets working properly for years to come.