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Intermittent Electrical Receptacles

Question: This house is only about 3 years old. We have a strange problem with the electrical outlets. It seems that sometimes they go dead. For instance, I have a AA battery charger plugged in here. If I do not use it for a while then put some batteries in it, the charger will not come on. I plug other things in and they will not work either. After a couple of days the outlet starts to work again. We have a laptop plugged in downstairs and yesterday it shut down because the battery went dead. I unplugged it and plugged it back in at the next outlet a few feet away and it started right up. Today I went to turn a stereo on that is on the same wall and I am guessing the same circuit and it would not come on either. What could possibly cause outlets to go dead like that? I am no electrician but I have a basic grasp of electricity and I am completely baffled.

Answer: It is most likely a loose wire on a terminal on a receptacle or at the main distribution panel on the breaker terminal or the neutral terminal. More complex however, it can also be loose connection in a wire connector, one bad receptacle or a nail in a wire that has split a conductor.

The first thing to check is the distribution panel.If those two terminals are tight, (black on the breaker and white on the neutral bar) try to locate the first device in the circuit, in 95% of the cases the wires are run to the physically closest device on that circuit and then to the second closest, etc. Remember that the bad connection can just as easily be in a light fixture or switch box.