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Receptacles Not Getting Full Power

By Dave Rongey - Summary:

How to Get Your Wall Outlets and Receptacles Working Again: When Wall Outlets and Receptacles do not work or Do Not Have Full Power and the Voltage is Not Normal – This is a typical indication that a splice or connection to the neutral has been lost. This process of inspection should be made on all the working outlets and affected outlets until the problem is discovered.

Why Do I Have 70 Volts on a 120 Volt Receptacle?

Electrical Question: I have receptacles that are not receiving full 120 Volts, they are averaging around 70 volts, and the neutral side is reading hot on these receptacles.

  • The house is from the 1930′s and there wasn’t a grounding system.
  • The contractors added a grounding system and installed GFCI outlets in the kitchen and bathrooms, but the rest of the receptacles in the house are still only two wire systems with no ground.
  • What could cause the low voltage at the receptacles and why would the neutral side read hot?

Background: Paul, a Student from Bremerton, WA

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical wiring question Paul.

How to Get Your Wall Outlets and Receptacles Working Again

Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools and Voltage Testers and Meters.
Estimated Time: Depends on personal level experience, ability to work with hand tools and electrical troubleshooting skills.
Precaution: Identify the circuit, turn it OFF and then Tag it with a Note before performing any wiring or inspections.
Important: Electrical troubleshooting is best performed by a qualified licensed electrical contractor.

When Wall Outlets and Receptacles do not work or Do Not Have Full Power and the Voltage is Not Normal

  • This is a typical indication that a splice or connection to the neutral has been lost.
  • The best way to troubleshoot this type of electrical problem is to locate the upstream outlet that is working and giving normal voltage readings. Turn off the power to this circuit and then remove this outlet and inspect the wiring connections.
  • Pay close attention to the neutral connections that may be made to the outlet or check any neutral wire splices.
  • In several instances such as this a bad connection is found where the neutral wire pushes into the back side of the outlet.
  • This is especially a problem in rooms where high consuming electrical devices are used such as portable heaters because the load of these devices is placed on and through every splice or connection within the circuit.
  • Most of the time it will be the neutral side of the circuit that is affected.
  • This process of inspection should be made on all the working outlets and affected outlets until the problem is discovered.
  • If the problem is due to the push-in type of connection then replace the outlet and make a new splice and pigtail out with one wire that will connect to the neutral side of the outlet.
  • This will now prevent the load of the circuit from passing through the outlet, but place the load path through the splice instead.
  • Be sure to make a good splice and use the correct size wire connector.
  • Home Electrical System Problems
    • If most of the home power does not seem to be correct then contact your electrical utility company or provider so they may check their side of the electrical service to your home.
    • If the electrical utility company reports that the electrical service power is OK,  and the condition persists then it is best to contact a licensed electrician who can perform electrical troubleshooting tests to identify the electrical system problem and make the necessary electrical repairs.

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FAQs Frequently Asked Questions and Comments

6 Responses to “Receptacles Not Getting Full Power”
  1. cory says:

    I get 122.6 volts out of my wall socket, is that normal?

  2. jim says:

    When I test outlets in a room that has no power I put both tester probes in the outlet and I get a reading of 1.7 – 1.3 volts. When I test with one probe in the outlet and one on the ground it reads 122- 124 volts. All the outlets in the room are out. Where should I look to find the problem?

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Jim,
      It appears that the outlet circuit may have lost connection with the neutral, so the circuit wiring and connections will need to be examined to identify the problem. typically this involves turning the circuit OFF and inspecting each outlet for a burnt wiring splice or a faulty connection. This will require proper repairs and in many cases replacing an outlet that may be affected due to a burnt wire connection.

      • robert says:

        Here’s a hint about low power at recepticle or doing any DIY electrical work: Write down on paper everything you move, remove, or adjust at the breaker box. I (apparently) removed the white wire from the ‘ground’ in a circuit to my garage outlets. I kept focusing on the breakers which I thought may have gone bad and in the process disconnected the white wire. There was a GFI that was no longer being used and I disconnected it and the good white wire. The was no way I could blame my wife but I took a few minutes to at least try.
        This site saved me from having to pay someone which is admitting defeat which means I can go to my wife and look up into the sky and simply say: “Genius”.
        Thank You

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Receptacles Not Getting Full Power

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