Lamp Socket Defective

Problem: The bulb flickers or will not work in a lamp, even though other lamps work using the same receptacle.

Background: Lamp sockets, especially those with switches, are liable to failure, and can be replaced relatively easily. Replacements are available for major types, which include those with twist knobs, push knobs, and pull chains. Often re placements come in blister-packs, with instructions on the back. The parts of a lamp socket include the outer shell with insulating sleeve in side; the socket, which has 2 terminals; and the cap which also has an insulated liner. The outer shell, which holds the socket, clips into the cap by pressure.

What to do: Use proper electrical safety procedures, and make sure lamp is unplugged from receptacle. To replace a socket, first remove the shade and harp (the metal part that holds the shade). Squeeze the outer shell to remove from the cap; it should be marked “press” in an area near its base. Note the position of the wires, then remove wires from screw terminals. (With a newer lamp cord, 1 of the 2 wires may have ridged insulation covering; this wire goes under the silver screw while the other goes under the brass screw.) Fit the new socket inside the outer shell with it’s insulating sleeve, and lock the unit back into the cap.

Special advice: Before replacing the socket, first look for the other possible problems. Try plugging the lamp into another outlet, and also try a new bulb. If it doesn’t work, check the plug and the cord carefully to see that they are in good shape. If they appear to be functional, unplug the lamp and remove the bulb. Scrape the contact with a screwdriver, and pry it up if it appears to be flattened. Insert bulb and try it again. If it still doesn’t work, replace the socket.

Helpful hint: If you see that the cord is frayed or damaged, be sure to re pair (or preferably replace) it be cause dangerous shocks may result, especially if you handle the lamp while standing on a wet floor.

Light Switch Defective

Problem: Switch does not work, works occasionally, or must be repeatedly switched off and on to make light come on.

Background: Correcting a defective light switch is relatively easy, but take proper precautions to avoid electrical shock; make sure the power is off before working on switch. Generally, all you need is a screwdriver and pliers. Though light switches can be wired in a circuit in a number of ways, if you buy the identical switch and wire it exactly the same way as the old switch was wired, you shouldn’t have any problems. Light switches are sometimes replaced when the problem is a burned-out bulb. Even if you have a switch that controls a number of lamps or fixtures, be sure that the bulbs are working before assuming that the switch is defective.
First replace a bulb in a lamp controlled by the switch with one you know works, then work the switch. If the bulb doesn’t light, try to determine if power is reaching the switch. Check the fuse or circuit breaker in the main panel box that feeds the circuit. Replace the fuse or circuit breaker with one you know works, then try the switch again. If it still doesn’t light the bulb, the switch is probably defective.

What to do: To replace a switch, first turn off the power by unscrewing the fuse (or switching off the circuit breaker) or by throwing the main switch to the “off” position. If you are not sure that the power is off, don’t proceed any further until you can get qualified help. With the power off, remove the switch cover plate. Inside you’ll see 2 additional screws that hold the switch mechanism in side the outlet box. By removing these screws you’ll be able to pull the old switch out of the box with the electrical wires still attached. Make note of the color and position of the wires and the screws on the switch.
Double-check to be sure you have the same kind of switch and also note the ground wire (usually green), which may run from the switch to a terminal inside the outlet box. (The ground wire in systems using the newer Romex cable will be a bare wire coming out of the cable.) Loosen the screws holding the wires to the old switch, remove the switch, and attach the wires in the same way onto the new switch. Fasten the switch inside the outlet box, replace the cover, and restore the power.

Special advice: If the new switch doesn’t work, re-check to make sure that the fuse or circuit breaker for that circuit is supplying power. Occasionally a circuit breaker, even a new one, may be defective. Also, though a fuse is of the proper amperage, it may be just slightly shorter than the original, resulting in a power interruption to a particular circuit.

Helpful hint: Hook the loops of the wires under the screw terminals in a clockwise manner so that they remain in position as the screws are tightened. Two-way, single-pole switches will have a screw on each side of the switch. Three-way switches will have three terminals; two will be brass for connecting red and black hot wires, and the third, usually bronze or silver (sometimes black), is for connecting the white neutral wire.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter Device Defective

Problem: When the test button is pushed, the device does not trip to indicate that it is working.

Background: A ground fault circuit interrupter, often referred to as a GFCI or a CR, is designed to interrupt the flow of electricity if a current leakage to ground occurs anywhere in the line. Circuits protected by such a device reduce the danger of current leakage and the possible shock hazard when some one touches an appliance or light fixture that is not properly grounded. The National Electrical Code and most local codes require that bathroom circuits, outdoor and underground wiring, especially swimming pool lighting, be CFCI protected. Several types are avail able that include GFCI receptacles and GFCI circuit breakers, which combine a ground fault interrupter and circuit breaker in one device.

What to do: When the test button is pushed, a similated ground fault is introduced into the sensing circuit. A properly installed device will trip and must be reset after the test but ton is pushed. If the device does not trip, make sure that the circuit is receiving power; the device must be energized to operate, even when testing. If it is receiving power and does not trip when tested, have an electrician check to see that all connections are properly made. If a properly wired and energized GFCI does not trip when tested, it should be replaced immediately because the protection has been lost.

Special advice: Receptacles with built-in ground fault protection are installed similarly to the way standard duplex receptacles are installed. Some models have “pigtails” for connections; others have normal screw connections. Feed-through models provide ground fault protection to other receptacles connected to the same cable “downstream” of the GFCI receptacle.

Helpful hint: Some GFCI receptacles require extra-deep electrical boxes, so check the instruction sheet provided for size before buying and attempting to install. Also note that GFCI circuit breakers are connected in the main panel differently than standard circuit breakers.

Doorbell Defective

Problem: The doorbell doesn’t ring at all, works only occasionally, or rings continuously.

Background: In most all cases the doorbell will be powered with low voltage, fed from a transformer that converts 120-volt household current to the 6- to 8-volt range for older systems, or to a 12- to 14-volt range for newer systems. The low-voltage power supply wire is interrupted by the push button switch at the door. When the button is pushed, the power is fed through to the bell. Weather can corrode outdoor switch contacts, and vibration can loosen connections at the bell.

What to do: Possible causes for the failure include a faulty switch, wiring, transformer, or the bell itself. Chances are best that the switch may be bad, so start there. Unscrew the push button and check to see that the wires are making good contact under the 2 screws behind the switch. If the connections are good, touch a screwdriver between the 2 screws or remove the 2 wires and touch them together. (Normally low-voltage wiring does not carry enough cur rent to be dangerous except at the transformer.) If the doorbell rings, the problem is the pushbutton. Clean its terminals with sandpaper or electrical contact cleaner. If that doesn’t work, replace it; replacements are low cost and readily available.
If, when the wires are touched together, the bell doesn’t ring but the transformer hums, suspect a wiring defect or the bell itself. If the transformer doesn’t hum, suspect defective wiring or a burned-out transformer. Check all wires from the transformer to the push button and back to the bell, making sure connections are good. Inside some bells you may be able to clean the contact breaker points with fine sandpaper or emery cloth. The gong should touch the bell when the con tact points are closed; if not, bend the hammer slightly.

Special advice: If the transformer is suspected, be sure to turn off the master electrical switch before disconnecting because the wires feeding the transformer will be 120 volts. If you are not positive the transformer is bad, have it tested at an electrical supply dealer before buying a re placement.

Helpful hint: To assure your safety in case the transformer has gone bad and is not reducing power to low voltage, use a tester and touch its leads to the 2 screws on the push button switch. A 120-volt tester will not light up if the transformer is reducing the power to low voltage.

Cordless Phone Defective

Problem: Cordless phone doesn’t work at all, or has static, noise, or a weak signal.

Background: Cordless phones, which provide walk-about convenience, depend on radio signals to transmit between the handset and base unit, using batteries in the handset and an AC power supply to the base. They must be plugged into both a telephone jack and an electrical outlet. Some may have more than one channel which can be used to transmit. A cordless phone’s performance depends on several factors, such as the distance between the handset and base unit, the home’s building materials, and the weather. They work best when antennas are completely pulled out and, in a multilevel home, when used in a room on an upper floor.

What to do: If you just installed the phone and it doesn’t work, make sure the power cord is plugged in, that the cord between the wall jack and base unit is firmly connecte4, and that the antennas are pulled out. If the phone beeps when you press the “phone” button, or if the phone indicator light (on the handset) doesn’t come on when you press “phone,” the batteries may need re charging. If you recently replaced batteries, double-check to be sure they are correctly installed.
If you get static, noise, or a weak signal (even when you are close to the base), pull the antenna out fully and change channels if the phone has more than one channel. Noise can be caused by household appliances or other cordless phones. If possible, plug the base AC cord into another electrical outlet, which is not on the same circuit as other appliances. Also try moving the base to a higher location, such as a second or third floor.
If the phone doesn’t ring on in coming calls, make sure the ringer switch on the base is set to “on,” pull out the antenna, and move closer to the base or unplug some other phones; you may have too many phones to allow them all to ring audibly. If you hear other calls on the line, change channels if possible. Or disconnect the phone and connect a conventional phone. If you still hear other calls, the problem is likely in your wiring or the phone company’s lines. If you hear a lot of noise and none of the phone’s features work, try hanging up for a few seconds to make sure the handset and base are operating on the same channel and security code.

Special advice: If you walk out of range without pressing “off,” a cordless phone may be left off the hook. To hang it up properly, walk back into range, and periodically press “off” until the “phone” indicator light goes out. Instead of pressing the switch hook (as you would with a conventional phone) to signal phone company equipment for ser vices like call waiting, briefly press the “phone” button.

Helpful hint: Don’t depend on a cordless phone as the only phone in your home; it is best used as a second phone. A cordless phone will not operate in the event of a power failure, while conventional phones don’t rely on AC power and thus should work.

Bathtub Stopper Defective

Problem: The stopper in the tub doesn’t operate, doesn’t seal, or causes slow drainage.

Background: Two basic stopper mechanisms are found in tubs. One is the trip-lever type which uses a trip lever to open and close a brass stopper inside the tub’s drain. These have a strainer, instead of a stopper, at the drain opening. Another is a pop-up type, in which the lever is linked to the stopper at the drain opening.

What to do: Both types can be taken apart by removing the 2 screws on the decorative overflow plate, lifting the plate off, and then working the mechanism out through the over flow hole. For trip-lever types, clean the mechanism of debris and apply small amounts of grease on its moving parts. For pop-up types, clean off debris and check the condition of the 0-ring, which is positioned underneath the top lip of the stopper. If the 0-ring is worn or missing, replace it with a new one. If the pop-up stop per doesn’t work even with the new 0-ring, remove it and check to see if the linkage needs adjustment. Link age that is adjusted so that it is too long will keep the stopper from sealing properly.

Special advice: Keep in mind that accumulated hair on the linkage of a pop-up mechanism can cause slow drainage. When adjusting linkage on this type of mechanism, make small adjustments at any one time, by turning the threaded rod into the brass yoke, which connects to the trip lever.

Helpful hint: If the stopper mechanism seems to be unrepairable, or if you only need to replace components, take the entire mechanism when you go to the store so you will be sure to get the right parts.