Someone that just purchased a new home contacted us with a question about the lack of power to their Kitchen Appliances and Washer / Dryer.
It seems that they just moved in and found that all of their major appliances were lacking power. After checking what they could they asked if there were any switches that they should look for on the back of the appliances or maybe a hidden wall switch that wasn’t turned on.
Well, in the USA all appliances are required to be placed on a dedicated circuit that is only used by that appliance. The exception is sometimes a refrigerator may share a circuit but that is only normal if it is a secondary appliance that is placed in a basement or garage.
The reason each appliance has its own circuit is because you do not want a problem with one appliance knocking out power to all of the other appliances.
For instance if the broiler element went bad in your electric range while you were self cleaning it overnight and that caused a circuit breaker to jump then you do not want the power for your refrigerator turned off all night or it could be very costly.
Another reason is that each appliance takes a lot of power so a dedicated circuit or wire from your circuit breaker directly into the back of the appliance is necessary. Some appliances are hardwired meaning a bare wire comes out of a box on the wall and you open an access door and wire it directly inside the appliance. Other appliance such as a washer / dryer will have large and often special plugs that only allow that type of appliance to plugin to that specific outlet.
So, what should this person look for?
The first thing they should do is check each appliance and the circuits for the lights and wall sockets in the kitchen. If they have power to normal outlets and to lighting but none of the appliances then they should check the circuit breakers in their main circuit breaker box.
It is possible that the previous owner turned off the connections because they were moving appliances. If the home is new the contractor may have turned the circuits off.
Whatever the reason you should go to your circuit breaker box and look for a diagram or number guide for the switches on the inside door of the breaker box.
Each breaker should be numbered on the box and then on the diagram the number related to that specific breaker should tell what it is connected to.
If the installer did not number the breakers then you will need to find the breaker for your appliances.
First find any breaker that is in the off position.
Have someone stand near the appliances and turn on your washer and dryer and have them look for the lights in the refrigerator and the stove unit.
As you try each circuit breaker in the off position have them yell to you when the appliance comes on. For your Washer and Dryer it may be easy to hear but for the range you will either need a helper or to run up and down the stairs.
When you find the circuit for the device.. Mark it in the diagram or make your own list of numbered circuits and what they are connected to.
You should really do this for all of the circuits in your home and if you are just moving in this is the time to make your list.
Make sure that you test all the wall outlets inside rooms, in hallways and even outside of your house. Check all the lights and bathroom fans.
You will find that rooms may share circuits with other rooms and your outside outlet may even be wired into your bathroom’s GFCI outlet to provide protection incase water gets into an outside outlet and causes a short.
Still can’t get it working?
If you still have problems then call your home inspector that looked at your home before you made the purchase.
Call the owner or business / realtor you made the purchase from.
As a final resort call an electrician.
You may need an electrician but if you just moved into the home you do not want to pay a bill because the previous owner didn’t explain what they did or a problem with the electrical system.