Questions My Mother Asks Me

“Why does it spark when I unplug my vacuum cleaner?”

“What does this switch do?”

“Can I put an exhaust fan in my bathroom? Your father says we don’t need one.”

“Why won’t the outlet in the bathroom reset?”

“Can you get my printer to print?” … Sorry, wrong blog

Over the years my mother has asked me all kinds of questions. In fact, many of these same questions we get asked all the time from our customers. That is what has prompted me to start this blog, basically an “Ask an Electrician” type of blog. My goal is to explain things in a way that even my mother would understand. I don’t mean this in a disparaging way, just that she doesn’t know much about electricity.

I thought I would start with a few answers that might just save you some time and money. A common call that we receive is one where the customer has no power to the bathroom outlet, usually one of those funny looking ones known as a GFCI receptacle. Yes, we electricians refer to outlets as receptacles, they are the same thing. A GFCI receptacle serves as an added measure of protection, something we will talk more about at a later time. It has the buttons in the middle of it. One is to test the GFCI, the other is to reset it. I am sure you have had one trip on you. Usually, all you have to do is hit the reset button and it’s fine.

I get the call from my mom after she has tried resetting the GFCI. The call usually goes like this:

“Todd, it’s your mother, the bathroom plug is broken.”

I respond with words of encouragement and usually end the call with, “I will be right over.”

Let me assure you that it’s never any trouble to go over and help my folks and they live close. However, if you don’t have a son or daughter that is an electrician, you just might end up calling Simple Electric. One of the questions we ask is whether or not you checked your breakers to see if any of them have tripped. It is common that whatever caused the GFCI to trip might also have caused the circuit breaker to trip. The GFCI will not reset without power to it. It might be as simple as resetting the breaker and then the GFCI.

It’s important to know that breakers can trip and not appear to be tripped, especially the older breakers. If your panel is labelled correctly, you can try resetting the breaker marked for the bathroom or wherever the GFCI is located. It’s important to remember that you need to move the handle all the way to the “off” position until you feel the handle catch and then move it to the “on” position.

If this still doesn’t work for you, then please, do give us a call. It might be an issue with a bad breaker or a bad GFCI. On a safety note, it is also important that your panel is labelled correctly. This is something you can do yourself or one of our technicians will be happy to come out and label your panel for you.

Stay tuned for more posts in our “Questions My Mother Asks Me” series. And don’t be afraid to forward some of the questions you or your mother asks you.

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