Renter’s Repair Guide: Help! My Power Went Out!

When I worked as an on-site apartment manager I handled most of my tenants’ emergency maintenance requests, including occasional calls from tenants who had suddenly lost power in their apartments — a problem often proclaimed in distress as “My Lights Won’t Turn On,” “None of My Kitchen Appliances Work,” or “My Electricity is Broken or Something.”

Hands-on experience taught me that a tripped circuit breaker is the most likely source of a power outage. One telltale sign of a tripped circuit breaker is that only part of your apartment loses electricity, and it often happens because a sudden surge of power overwhelmed your electrical wiring. The circuit breaker “trips” and shuts off power as a safety mechanism to prevent fire and electrical shock.

For some people, fixing this problem and resetting a tripped breaker is a no-brainer. But if you’ve never done it before, it can be intimidating.

Read on appliance repair Jacksonville for easy, guided instructions how to reset a tripped breaker and, at the end of the guide, learn how to recognize when you’ve done all you can do as a tenant and it’s time to call your apartment manager for help from the maintenance crew.

Turn Off Appliances in the Affected Area

Sure, they’re “off” because the power is out, but before you attempt to get electricity going again, actually flip the switches of your lights, appliances, devices and anything else that draws power to the off position. You can actually unplug them if it makes you feel safer, especially any large appliances that draw a lot of power such as window air conditioning units or refrigerators.

Locate Your Circuit Breaker Panel

There is a very good chance that your circuit breaker panel, also called a fuse box, is somewhere in your apartment. Closets and other storage areas are common places for circuit breaker panels to be placed; but if your apartment has a basement, your circuit breaker panel will almost certainly be down there.

From the outside, your panel or box sort of looks like a metal medicine cabinet, and like a medicine cabinet it may be recessed into the wall or mounted onto it. It will probably have a metal door, but sometimes the door will have been painted to match the surrounding wall color.

Locate and Flip the Suspect Switch in Your Circuit Breaker Panel

When you find the circuit breaker panel, open it up to find rows of breaker switches. They’ll all be set to the same “on” position, with the exception of the one breaker that is giving you problems. If you’re lucky, all the switches will be labeled with the room or specific appliance they are wired to, making it even easier to identify the problem breaker.

Flip the problem switch all the way to the “off” position and then flip it back the other way so it matches all the other switches in the “on” position.

If none of the switches are noticeably different from the others, and they aren’t labeled, you might try resetting all of them. Don’t worry; this isn’t going to hurt anything, although you will later have to reset your digital clocks or alarm systems because when you turn these breakers off, you are also turning off the power supply to the various rooms in your apartment.

Turn Appliances and Lights Back On

Return to your problem area and plug in any appliances or devices you unplugged, and turn them back on.

I always liked to do each appliance, device or light fixture one at a time, slowly demanding more and more electricity to the room or area. This technique helps determine if a particular appliance or outlet caused the problem, so you can avoid it happening again.

Be wary of any outlets into which you have plugged too many devices. Outlet strips that allow you to turn a two-plug outlet into six or eight outlets are handy, but they may draw more electricity than the outlet was designed to handle and cause circuit breakers to trip.

Should I Call Maintenance to Fix My Electricity?

If you cannot locate your circuit breaker panel: Yes, you should call for maintenance. It’s possible that you simply don’t have access to it.

If you’ve flipped your breakers off and back on, and you still can’t get your lights and appliances to work: Yes, you should call for maintenance. Your problem is likely more complicated than a tripped breaker.

If you managed to get power going again by flipping the breaker switches but it went out again, or if you lose power several days in a row: Yes, you should call for maintenance. Something may be wired incorrectly in your apartment or you may simply have a breaker that went bad. Only a qualified electrician should attempt the repair at this point.

If your circuit breaker panel is sparking or smoking: Yes, call for maintenance. Call right away, but only after you’ve grabbed your cell phone and your pets and left your apartment.

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