In a 15-year old house we bought a few years ago, we've just developed an
electrical problem that didn't exist this morning. One 20-amp circuit
breaker feeds seven duplex outlets along an outside back wall (3 outlets),
around a sidewall (2 outlets) and up the front wall of the house (the final
2 outlets). All outlets are installed within sheet-rocked walls. When we got
home tonight, we found that the last four duplex outlets appeared to have no
power although the first three duplex outlets in the run continued to have
power and function OK.
Using a power/polarity tester with three indicator lights, I was able to see
that the first three outlets in the run showed correct wiring with power.
The last four outlets showed a "hot ground reverse". I reasoned that one of
the four outlets that tested with the "hot ground reverse" must have failed
internally. I turned off the power to the circuit and began removing the
outlet covers and hold down screws, pulling each outlet out of its box to
first check to see if the wiring was correct and intact. I found that each
outlet was wired correctly with nothing appearing to be wrong with the
I decided to see if simply removing each duplex outlet from its box had
changed/disturbed anything. I retested with the power/polarity checker. What
I found this time was that outlets 4, 5 and 6 in the run now tested as an
"open neutral". Outlet 7 in the run showed absolutely no power at all. I
replaced duplex outlet 7 with a new outlet and retested but still found no
power at all in it, while outlets 6, 5, and 4 continued to show an "open
neutral". The reason I started with outlet 7 is because it is the end outlet
in the run with only a black, white and ground wire connected to it, making
it simpler to work on. Each of the other outlets have two sets of black,
white and ground wires running into them.
I have no idea if there are any junction boxes behind the sheetrock. Before
I simply replace the remaining outlets (difficult to get at in view of
placement), I wonder if anyone can offer me ideas about what may be wrong. I
've turned off that particular circuit breaker for safety.