As a homeowner, you might know that there are a lot of things that can go wrong with your home's electrical system. From faulty outlets to overloaded circuit breakers due to electrical issues, it's important to be able to troubleshoot these problems as they arise.
A digital multimeter is a valuable tool that can help you do just that. In this article, we'll give you 5 tips on how to use a digital multimeter to test an outlet.
Are you ready to learn more about using a multimeter?
What Is A Multimeter?
A digital multimeter is a device that can measure voltage, current, and resistance. It can also be used to test continuity and diodes. Most digital multimeters have a built-in LCD screen that displays the readings.
A digital multimeter is a valuable tool for troubleshooting electrical problems to check for loose connections, broken outlets, and dead outlets. It can be used to test for continuity, measure voltage and current, and test diodes on electrical outlets.
How to Use A Multimeter
Before we jump into the essentials of outlet testing, we want to make sure that you understand the basics of how to use a digital multimeter with an electric outlet.
A digital multimeter is an electronic testing device that is used to measure AC or DC voltage, resistance, and continuity. It can also be used to test for current in a circuit.
To use a digital multimeter, you will need to connect the black probe to the COM or common terminal. This is usually the black port on the digital multimeter.
Then, you will need to connect the red meter probe to the VΩmA, or volts/ohms/milliamps, port. This is usually the red port on the digital multimeter.
Once you've done that, you're ready to begin testing.
Digital Vs Analog Multimeter
There are a few things you should keep in mind when using digital multimeters that differ from analog multimeters:
- Read the manual before using the multimeter. This will help you familiarize yourself with the features and functions of the device.
- Make sure the multimeter is turned off before you plug it in to any electrical outlet hole or slot whether it's the vertical slot, the left slot, or the neutral slot.
- Select the proper range for the measurement you're taking. For example, if you're testing continuity, you'll want to use the ohms setting.
- Connect the probes to the proper terminals. For example, when testing continuity, you'll want to connect the black probe to the "COM" terminal and the red probe to the "Ω" terminal.
- Take measurements in a well-lit area. This will help you see the readings on the multimeter's LCD screen.
How To Test An Outlet For Accurate Readings
Now that you know how to use a digital multimeter let's take a look at 5 tips on how to test an outlet with one and to get the most accurate readings for your next electrical project.
- Make sure that the power switch for the house is turned off. You can do this by flipping the switch on the circuit breaker panel. This way you do not have to worry about the electrical current.
- Next, remove the cover plate from the outlet. Be careful not to touch any of the wires.
- Using the multimeter, test your modern outlets for continuity between the hot and neutral wires. The reading should be zero if the outlet is wired correctly.
- Now, test for continuity between the hot wire and the ground wire. The reading should be zero if the outlet is grounded correctly.
- Finally, test for continuity between the neutral wire and the ground wire. The reading should be infinity if the outlet is wired correctly.
There may be a problem with the outlet if you get any readings other than what's listed above.
If you're not sure how to fix it, give us a call for an estimate or contact a qualified electrician if not in our service area.
What Are the Different Tests You Can Run?
Now that you know the basics of how to use a smart multimeter and the digital multimeter readings let's take a look at the different outlet tests you can run to diagnose outlet issues.
1. Test for AC voltage
To test for AC voltage, touch the multimeter probes to the COM terminal and the red probe to the VΩmA terminal.
Then, turn on the digital multimeter and touch the probes to the black and white wires of the outlet. If the digital multimeter reads between 0 and 120 maximum voltage, then the outlet is working properly.
2. Test for Continuity
If you're testing continuity on a standard outlet, you'll want to set the digital multimeter to the Continuity Test mode. To do this, you'll need to press the Mode button until the word "Continuity" is displayed on the screen.
Once you've done that, touch the black probe to one end of the circuit and the red probe to the other. If the circuit is complete, you'll see a reading on the digital multimeter's screen.
3. Test for Resistance
If you want to test for resistance, you'll need to set the digital multimeter to the Resistance Test mode. Do this the same way you did in the previous steps.
Then, touch the black probe to one end of the circuit and the red probe to the other. The digital multimeter will display a reading on the screen. If it reads "0," then the circuit is complete.
4. Test for Current
To test for current, you'll need to set the digital multimeter to the Current Test mode. Again, do this by pressing the Mode button until the word "Current" is displayed on the screen.
Then, touch the black probe to the COM terminal and the red probe to the mA terminal. Finally, touch the probes to the black and white wires of the outlet. The digital multimeter will display a reading on the screen.
5. Test for DC Voltage
Direct current, or DC, is a type of electric current that flows in only one direction. It's the type of electric current used in batteries and solar panels.
When you want to test for DC voltage, you'll need to set the digital multimeter to the DC Voltage Test mode. You'll be looking for a reading between 0 and 12 volts.
Now that you know how to use advanced multimeters to take an accurate voltage measurement, put your knowledge to the test.
Use these tips on testing an outlet slot to make sure that your outlets are in working order.
As always if you are ever unsure of how to resolve an electrical problem, it is always best to have a qualified electrician assist you. Call us at 866-819-6311 to schedule a free estimate.
How do you check if a wire is live with a multimeter?
To test for live wires, use a multimeter and set the meter to its high volt setting.
After connecting the red (positive) probe to one wire and the black (negative) probe to ground, check the multimeter for a reading. If the multimeter reading is 120V (with lighting wires) or 240V (with appliance outlet wires), the wire is hot or live.
How do you test if an outlet is getting power?
To measure voltage with a multimeter, insert a probe into each slot and read the line voltage measurement. A properly working outlet will display a reading of 110 to 120 volts.