Electrical Testers and Their Uses

  • 01 of 07

    Electrical Testers and Their Uses

    Electrical testers are used to check both AC and DC voltage, continuity, circuit problems, amperage, ​shorted and open circuit problems, and to make sure the voltages are correct at the electrical panel.

    Electricians use these electrical testers every day to see if a circuit or device is energized. They are crucial safety tools that keep electricians out of harm's way and tell them if there is trouble on a circuit or device. There are several different types of ​testers on the market, some...MORE with specific purposes only and some with multiple testing features. Here are the top 6 electrical testers used by professional electricians.

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  • 02 of 07

    Continuity Testers

    A continuity tester is a device that is powered by batteries and has a probe at on end and a cord with either an alligator clip or another probe at the other end. Basically, if you touch the two together, you complete a circuit and a light lights or a sound, like a buzzing sound, goes off to indicate there is a complete circuit. These testers are great for checking to see if something like a single-pole switch is working properly. Beware! be sure to turn the power off to the circuit or device...MORE that you'll be testing!

    Continuity testers are also great for checking wire runs for a complete circuit.You may also find short circuits in wiring with this tester, say two wires have melted together inside the outer jacket of NM sheathed cable. By touching one probe to the white and the other to the black wire, if the light lights and the buzz sounds, the wires are identified as shorted together. Once again, be sure the power is off before doing any testing.

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  • 03 of 07

    Inductance Tetsers

    Inductance testers, better known as non-contact testers, are probably one of the safest testers around. The reason being that these testers provide you valuable information about an electrical circuit without touching any live parts. The device is like a mini wand with a small tip on the end that senses current flow in such things as electrical wiring, outlets, circuit breakers, lamp cords, lamp sockets, and switches, sometimes without even removing the cover.

    Inductance testers use a battery to...MORE power the device and most models inform you of voltage present by showing a lighted glow at the end of the tip of the tester. Most have an annoying beeping sound that warns you of voltage present. They come complete with a handy pocket clip so you can carry it close to your heart and always have it ready for safety purposes.

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  • 04 of 07

    Solenoid Voltage Testers

    Solenoid voltage testers, frequently called wiggies, are multi-function testers. They are capable of testing both voltage and polarity. Electricians use them frequently because they can test bot AC voltage and Dc voltage in a range from 100 to 600 volts.

    Solenoid testers have two wires, each with a probe, extending out of the bottom of the tester. One is red and the other is black in color. Solenoid testers do not use batteries to power them so they are always ready to check voltage accurately.

    The...MOREy have a very low impedance and for this reason, they will trip GFCI's when testing them or their circuits, so beware of that.

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  • 05 of 07

    Neon Voltage Testers

    Neon voltage testers have been around for as long as I can remember. I think my first kid's toolbox had one in it along with a hammer and pliers. They are a handy testing tool, usually measuring only a few inches to a half a foot long with a light at one end of the tester and two wires with probes on the other. They are inexpensive I'm sure most tool boxes have one in it.

    However, the danger lies with the metal probes that could allow you to get shocked by touching these bare probe ends!...MORE The more expensive models have insulated handles to protect the user.

    Using the device is easy enough. Simply touch the one lead to a terminal on a switch or outlets and the other to ground or a neutral terminal. The neon light on the end of the tester should light if there is power. the other way to use it is to press one lead into one of the straight slots in an outlet and the other lead into the other straight slot of the outlet, much like plugging in a cord. the light should light on the tester if the circuit is on. Again, be careful with the cheaper model!

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  • 06 of 07

    Plug-in Circuit Analyzers

    Plug-in circuit analyzers are great, quick electrical testers that fit easily in your pocket and test outlets with ease. these testers are designed to test outlets, but only ones that have three holes, meaning ones that have a hot, neutral and a ground. Polarized outlets cannot be tested with the testers because no ground wire is connected to these outlets.

    Plug-in circuit analyzers have a chart sticker right on one side of the tester that tells you what the lighted light pattern means on the...MORE three neon light on the end of the tester. there are two yellow lights and one red light on the end of the tester. Different light combinations signify either a correct circuit, reverse wiring, an open circuit, no ground, etc...

    To use the tester, simply plug it into the outlet and look at the lights on the end. It will tell you the story about you outlet wiring and what to do to correct it.

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  • 07 of 07


    Multimeters are the most complex electrical testers because like their name says they perform various functions of testing. With this tester, you can have precise readings of resistance, AC and DC voltage, continuity, capacitance, and frequency if you get the high-dollar tester.

    In choosing a multimeter, you get what you pay for. Some have dial or selector buttons in which you must choose the voltage range you'll be testing if you know that. However, a better model is equipped with an...MORE auto-ranging feature that automatically selects the proper range for you. For an all-in-one tester, this is a great choice to have around the house.