Strange loss of electricity in one curciut???

My 3 upstairs bedrooms are on one 15 amp circuit. Occasionally when my daughter uses her hair dryer the breaker will trip (usually only when one room has the AC running.) Yesterday we lost power in all three room but the breaker did not trip. even flipping the breaker did nothing to restore power. I checked and there was power at the breaker, I went upstairs to what I believe is the first outlet on the circuit. It had a small fan and a window AC plugged in. When I unplugged the fan the power came on in all 3 rooms. I suspected a problem with the fan. I tried the fan in another circuit and it worked fine. Later that night my wife unplugged the AC from the same outlet and we lost all power on that circuit. when she plugged the AC back in power was restored?????
Could this be a bad outlet??? My other concern is some varmints have gotten into the attic, squirrels I think, I've been trying to catch them in a trap with no luck yet, They did steal my bait though!!! I'm afraid of them chewing on the wires... The attic is almost impossible to get into. I wont fit thought the rafters to get up there anymore.
Any advice on the electrical problem??? Could it be chewed wires or could it be a bad outlet???
TIA
Steve
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Steve wrote:

It sure could be a poor connection at that outlet, and it could be dangerous: if the connection is arcing it could generate heat without tripping the breaker. Kill the power to the circuit by tripping the breaker, and have that outlet inspected.
If the wires have been backstabbed instead of screwed down, consider having all the outlets in the house reworked to use the screw terminals.
Also consider having the breaker that's been tripping replaced with an arc-fault (AFCI) breaker. It won't trip any less, in fact it may trip more, but it'll protect you from arcs in these bedroom outlets. AFCI's are now mandatory for new work on all bedroom circuits in most places in the US and Canada, to protect against exactly this risk.
The problem with the tripping won't go away until you have a dedicated circuit put in for the A/C and/or the hairdryer. 15A among several bedrooms including A/C and a hairdryer isn't nearly enough.
Chip C Toronto
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Steve wrote:

....
Yes.
Although I'll vote for A) first, given the symptom of mucking w/ the receptacle changes things. Actually, of course, it could well be (probably is?) simply a loose connection rather than the receptacle itself being faulty.
I would recommend throwing the breaker if a simple look-see doesn't uncover the problem at the outlet as a fire-reduction measure. As it sounds like you're not particularly comfortable w/ the idea of wiring, if it isn't obvious to you what is wrong when you look at the outlet, I'd recommend getting an electrician to check it out...this could be a significant fire hazard.
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I suggest that you shut off the circuit breaker for that circuit and open up the outlet to see what is going on. The problem could be a loose connection on the outlet. If all of the wires feed through on that outlet I recommend that you pigtail them so that all of the current for that circuit is not passing through that outlet.
If the problem is not in that outlet, than you must open up the remaining outlets on that circuit in search of the problem. The fact that you plugged a fan into that outlet and it had an effect on the entire circuit suggests that the problem is in that outlet. When you open it up you may see some burn marks on the outlet. Replace it and pigtail it as I suggested.
How old is the house?
John Grabowski http://www.mrelectrician.tv

even
outlet
gotten
trap
it
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On Mon, 12 Sep 2005 09:26:05 -0400, in alt.home.repair "Steve"

This same scenario with different details has happened twice in 23 years here.
Both times it was a loose wire of the 12/2 connecting to the side of the outlet. When one goes they all go. Think of a string of Christmas lights.
Before you check be sure that you turned off the right breaker by testing the outlet with a known working lamp or other device.
FACE
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Thanks all!
The house is 30 - 40 years old. I've replaced some of the outlets due to the tension being lost and the outlet would not hold the plug. I'll check this outlet tonight. I'm not sure if its one that was changed but if so I might have not used the screw terminals. I have since learned they backstabbing is not "reliable/correct" (not sure why not?)
I'll also look into pigtailing the outlet. Is it incorrect to just pass through the outlet the way it is? Obvious problem of shutting down everything after it???
Sounds like nobody attributes this to critters chewing wires??? Hopefully not but I still have to deal with that problem.
Sound like another post?
Thanks
Sr
wrote:

even
was
outlet
Later
lights.
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On Mon, 12 Sep 2005 11:29:30 -0400, in alt.home.repair "Steve"

If your gable vents are open and not screened or the screen is torn, tack hardware cloth behind them. (Since you say that you no longer can go through the rafters, grab a teenager to do it.)
FACE
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.

For exactly the kind of poor connection that you no doubt hsve I went tthrough the exact situation a while back.
Charlie

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