How To Use Electrical Testers and Meters

By Dave Rongey - Summary:

How to Use an Electrical Tester or Meter: Types of Electrical Meter Testers and Basic Electrical Testing Procedures, Induction Voltage Testers, Analog Testers, Digital Meters, Common Mistakes With When Testing Voltage, How to Test an Electrical Circuit.

The Basics of Electrical Testers and Meters

Electrical Question: How do I test a regular residential electrical panel box for 220volts?

  • Can I put both my test leads on each screw side by side?
  • Or will that blow my meter?

This electrical wiring question came from: Darome, a Student from Miami, Florida.

Dave’s Reply:

Thanks for your electrical troubleshooting question Darome.

Preparations for Testing Electrical Wiring

Application: Testing Electrical Circuit Wiring.
Skill Level: Advanced – Should be performed only by a Licensed Electrical Contractor or Certified Electrician.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools, Ammeter and Voltage Tester, electricians gloves, face protection, and insulated personal protection.
Estimated Time: Depends on age of the home, the condition of the electrical system and available access to electrical components.
Precaution:  Working in an electric panel is dangerous due to arc flash hazards and the possibility of electric shock.
Notice: Making changes to electrical panel or electric circuits should be done according to local and national electrical codes with a permit and be inspected.

How to Use an Electrical Tester or Meter

Darome, that’s a great question. The testing procedure will depend on the electrical tester that you are using, weather it is a digital meter or a induction type tester.

Types of Electrical Meter Testers and Basic Electrical Testing Procedures

  • Induction Voltage Testers
    • The typical induction tester does not have any settings.
    • There is a display or window with numbers which represent the amount of voltage that is being tester.
    • Induction testes have two wire leads which are placed on the circuit or device to be tested.
    • Induction testers are great for testing home electrical wiring because they can can be used for 120 volts or 240 volt circuits.
  • Analog Testers
    • Analog testers are also referred to Sweep Needle Digital meters are different because they usually require settings that are appropriate for what is being tested.
    • Analog testers can be used for testing the voltage and resistance of a circuit.
    • Analog testers have two wire test leads, and one dial for setting for the voltage range, and the AC or DC, or Resistance setting.
  • Digital Meters
    • Digital meters have a digital display and a dial setting, and may have additional buttons or switches for specific functions.
    • Digital meters are different because most meters usually require settings for the application which is to be tested.
    • More advanced meters have built in protection to prevent internal damage to the meter if it is not set up properly.
  • Common Mistakes With When Testing Voltage
    • One common mistake is to use a 12 Volt DC Car or Automotive Tester for 120 Volts AC home circuits.
    • Using a Low Voltage DC Tester, such as a 12 Volt DC tester, for testing 120 volts will damage the tester.

How to Test an Electrical Circuit

  • How to Check for Voltage
    • Voltage is checked by placing the test leads on the circuit wiring, where one test lead is placed on the power wire, and the other test lead is placed on the neutral or ground wire.
    • This test tells you the circuit voltage which will help determine if the circuit wiring and voltage is operating normally.
  • How to Check for Continuity Using the OHMS  Setting
    • The OHMS  setting test the resistance of a circuit wire or the resistance of an electrical device, such as the internal windings of a motor or transformer.
    • One of the most practical OHMS test is to see if a fuse is OK or not.
    • NOTE: Keep in mind that this setting is used to measure the resistance of a circuit or circuit component and is performed when there is NO VOLTAGE on the circuit, or the circuit power is OFF.

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