A failed outlet may stop working completely, or it may seem to short out or overheat for no obvious reason. Don't ignore these issues. Instead, call an electrician right away.
1. Circuit Breaker Overload
The most common cause of a failed outlet is an overloaded circuit in the main breaker box. The breaker switch will flip, cutting off power to everything on the circuit. You can turn it back on by pushing the flipped breaker all the way to the off position, waiting a moment, and then turning it back on. However, the problem may keep reoccurring. Therefore, an electrician will need to inspect the circuit to determine why it is overloading so a permanent fix can be implemented.
2. Tripped GFCI Unit
If the problem outlet is a GFCI unit, then the problem may be easy to fix. Simply push the reset button and test the outlet to see if it is now working. If it still fails to work, then there may be moisture trapped in the outlet that is causing the safety switch to trip. Your electrician can disassemble the outlet and troubleshoot the cause for you.
3. Switch Failure
Sometimes the issue isn't with the outlet. For those outlets that are controlled by an external switch, the cause of the failure could actually be in the switch assembly. It could be something as minor as a dirty contact point or loose connectors that aren't allowing the relay to the outlet to work properly. Your electrician can examine the switch to determine if it can be repaired or if a new switch must be installed.
4. Loose Wiring
Wiring can come loose in an outlet, particularly one that sees frequent use such as those in kitchens or the one you use to plug in different hand-held appliances. Constant pulling and pushing of plugs in the outlet can jiggle wiring loose over time, especially if the wires weren't properly secured or grounded initially. Fortunately, this is an easy fix for your electrician to make once they open up the outlet for inspection.
5. Receptacle Issues
Outlet receptacles do have a finite lifespan, even if it can often be measured in decades. If you have an older home, it just may be time to replace a worn outlet receptacle. Receptacles can also age and wear out prematurely if they are ever exposed to water or if they experience frequent electrical shorts and power surges. Replacement is the best fix.
Contact a residential electrical contractor if you need more help.