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Call an electrician when an electrical outlet quits working.

By Allen Norwood
Allen Norwood
Allen Norwood writes on Home design, do-it-yourself and real estate for The Charlotte Observer. His column appears each Saturday.

We recently had a problems with an outdoor GFCI electrical outlet. A problem – as in it quit working. It lost power completely, and cut power to a couple of other outlets on the same circuit.

I fiddled with it a bit, but never got it straightened out. I finally turned off the power to that circuit at the breaker box and waited for an electrician, someone who knows far more about those sometimes cantankerous gizmos than I do.

About the second day of the wait I broke into a sweat.

Over the years, electricians have warned that stashing an old refrigerator or freezer in the garage can be a precarious idea. The garage outlet is typically GFCI, too, and might be linked to outdoor GFCI outlets. If you trip an outdoor outlet – by, say, chopping a drop cord in half with a hedge trimmer (not that I’ve done that) – you might cut power to the freezer in the garage.

We have a refrigerator in our garage. Losing all the food because of a silly accident would be embarrassing – and expensive. If you ever trip an outdoor outlet, or turn it off as I did, go check the refrigerator or freezer in your garage.

I finally checked our garage refrigerator – and was never happier to see the little light inside flash at me.

Clogged shower heads

I think the reader who sent the email knew the answer to the question about clogged shower heads – but just didn’t like it.

“Heads” being the crucial word. The shower has four heads, and they all seemed to be losing water pressure. They’re either clogged with grit and debris, or with mineral deposits.

The obvious answer is, yes, the homeowner has to take all four heads down and clean them. Plumbers have been generous with that advice, too.

Plumbers say that multiple heads usually pose about the same problems as single heads. There are just more of them. In a shower with four heads, alas, there are four times as many little holes to get clogged.

If the problem is grit it might just rinse out. If minerals have built up, the heads should be soaked in vinegar and then the holes opened with bristles from a stiff brush. A wood or plastic toothpick works, too.

I’m not a plumber but, if the problem turns out to be grit or debris, it might be a good idea to check filters on washing machine hoses.

Which I will surely have to do, just as soon as my wife sees this column.

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