Using a Multimeter to Test Outlets

Are you familiar with the multimeter? The go-to tool for diagnosing electrical problems, a multimeter is an extremely useful and versatile outlet tester. It can help you find out what’s going on with your electrical system by testing whether an electrical outlet is actually receiving power, whether it’s grounded and whether the wiring is reversed within the outlet. Read on for more information about this tool and how to use it.

First, a note about safety. When you’re using a multimeter, you’re working with live wires, and that’s a situation that should always be approached with caution. If you’re not careful, you can burn, shock, or electrocute yourself. Holding the probes in one hand will reduce the chance that you’ll create a full circuit and harm yourself. Any time you’re going to use your multimeter, check it out to make sure it’s not damaged and has no loose connections. If it does, don’t use it.

Multimeters can be analog or digital. An analog multimeter is inexpensive and uses a needle on a graduated scale to display readings. Analog multimeters may not be as accurate as digital multimeters, and they’re harder to read. Digital multimeters give a reading on an LCD screen, so their slightly higher cost may be outweighed by their easier and more accurate readings.

  • How to Measure Voltage with a Multimeter: Simply set the multimeter to measure voltage, insert a probe into each slot of the outlet, with the red lead in the smaller slot and the black lead in the wider one. Read the line voltage measurement. If your outlet is working properly, you should see a reading of 110 to 120 volts on the voltage meter.
  • How to Check that Your Outlet is Properly Grounded: Put one probe into the small outlet slot and the other probe on the receptacle’s center screw. Your voltage tester should light up, If the light doesn’t turn on, the outlet is not properly grounded, and you’ll need to do a polarity test.
  • How to Test the Polarity of Your Electrical Outlet: First, make sure there’s no paint on the screw of the outlet to inhibit a good contact. Insert one probe into the large slot of the outlet and the other against the screw. If the voltage detector lights up, that means the hot and neutral wires are reversed. If it doesn’t light up, place the probe in the other slot. If it still doesn’t light up, have your wiring checked.

If your multimeter indicates a problem, it’s time to call the experts at Hoover Electric. Established in 1980, Hoover Electric, Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling has been serving customers in Southeast Michigan ever since, offering courteous, professional service. Because we offer all the services you need for residential maintenance under one roof, we’re able to offer extremely competitive pricing while maintaining great customer service and guaranteed satisfaction. When you’re looking for top-quality electrical, plumbing, heating, or cooling services in Clinton Township, contact Hoover through our website or call 586-232-9204 today.


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