Basic Test Equipment for the DIY Electrician

Jerry WalchStarred Page By Jerry Walch, 25th Feb 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/3flkutlq/
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>DIY>Electrical

There are only four basic test instruments that you really need to get started as a DIY electrician—a digital multimeter, a clamp-on current meter, a GFCI receptacle tester, and a noncontact voltage tester. There are many specialized test instruments that you will want to add to your basic tool kit, as you need them, but these four will be all that you will ever need for most residential electrical projects.

The Digital Multimeter (DMM)

The digital multimeter is the one test instrument that you will be using most often when troubleshooting residential electrical circuits and when troubleshooting both large and small home appliances. The DMM allows you to measure both AC and DC voltages, DC resistance, current up to 10 Amperes, and test for continuity. Some, even some entry level DMMs have special features for testing diodes, ca and with special probes, you can measure the high voltages found in microwave ovens and frequency. An entry level DMM can be purchased for less than $15, but I recommend a higher quality meter such as the Klein Tools MM200 Auto Ranging Multimeter, which, depending on where you shop will cost between $40 and $60.

Clamp-On Current Meter

A clamp-on current meter allows you to measure the current flowing in a circuit without having to cut a wire and inserting the meter in series with the wire. The clamp-on meter simply clamps over the wire and the current is induced in a sensing coil employing electromagnetic induction, the same principle on which transformers operate. A clamp-on current meter is essential when servicing circuit overloads, nuisance tripping of circuit breaker, and when troubleshooting appliances like clothes dryers and hot water heaters. Like with the DMM, you can get a decent one for less than $20 today, but it is better to pay a little more and get a high quality meter that will last ten to fifteen years with proper care and use.

The Noncontact Voltage Tester

The noncontact voltage tester is a must have for anyone working with electricity. Unlike most voltage testers the noncontact voltage testers, the noncontact tester does not require an intact ground or neutral wire to operate; they operate by detecting the electrical field around the conductors. Professional electricians carry these to double check what their expensive DMMs are telling them, making sure that a circuit is actually safe to work on. My favorite is the Sperry because it is sensitive enough for me to use to trace current carrying wires concealed in walls.

GFCI Receptacle Tester

This simple and inexpensive tester is another must have because they tell you everything you need to know about a ground fault circuit interruption protected receptacle at a glance. Simply plug it in and read the light pattern—open neutrals, open grounds, reversed polarity wiring (reversed neutral and hot wire), and trip testing at the push of a button. This tester, like the noncontact voltage tester is a tester that even the rank novice can use after reading the instructions. These testers can be had for less than $10 but my favorite is the one made by Klein Tools and sells for about $40.

Related Article
Basic Hand Tools for the DIY Electrician

Tags

Basic Test Equipment, Clamp-On Current Meter, Digital Multimeter, Diy, Diy Electrician, Diy Elrctrical, Dmm, Gfci Tester, Noncontact Voltage Tester

Meet the author

author avatar Jerry Walch
Jerry Walch is a 71 year old freelance writer for hire living in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He has been writing since the late 1970s, and writes for both the print and online media. He specializes in

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Comments

author avatar cnwriter..carolina
25th Feb 2014 (#)

how interesting...you are definitely multi knowledgeable...

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author avatar Jerry Walch
25th Feb 2014 (#)

Comes from working as an electrician for 40 years.

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author avatar Stella Mitchell
25th Feb 2014 (#)

You obviously know your subject Jerry ..
God bless you
Stella ><

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author avatar Jerry Walch
25th Feb 2014 (#)

Hi Stella. I worked as a journeyman electrician for 40 years.
Have a blessed day.
Jerry

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author avatar Lady Aiyanna
25th Feb 2014 (#)

Good one.... Know couple of Sparkies and their company that would be taught this. Sparkies are slangs for electricians in NZ. This will be a good Spark Plug In to their tool kit for them too. They are newbies worth their learning. Giving them your link.

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author avatar Jerry Walch
25th Feb 2014 (#)

Hi Lady A.
I think that "Sparkies" is slang for electricians the world over, at least we use it here in the United States as well.

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author avatar vpaulose
25th Feb 2014 (#)

Very good post on DIY. Thank you my brother Jerry.

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author avatar Jerry Walch
25th Feb 2014 (#)

Thank you brother.

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author avatar Songbird B
25th Feb 2014 (#)

Really informative and detailed, Jerry..Another excellent Star page..\0/x

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author avatar Jerry Walch
26th Feb 2014 (#)

Thank you Songbird B. Careful with the profuse compliments, we wouldn't want to give me a swollen head now would we :-)))

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author avatar Connie McKinney
26th Feb 2014 (#)

What a practical, useful and informative article, Jerry. This one will help a lot of people. Thanks for sharing.

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author avatar Jerry Walch
26th Feb 2014 (#)

Thank you for reading and for commenting, Connie.

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
26th Feb 2014 (#)

Interesting post!

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author avatar Jerry Walch
26th Feb 2014 (#)

Thanks Fern.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
26th Feb 2014 (#)

Thank you Jerry for the useful share. Nowadays serves well to be a jack of all trades though need not be a master of all - siva

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author avatar Jerry Walch
26th Feb 2014 (#)

Good morning Siva. There was a time when a man truly could be a jack of all trades, but that ability is rapidly going the way the Model T Ford went. Today, so many trades requires such expensive, specialized tools and test equipment that most people cannot afford to buy them unless they will be using them everyday to earn a living.

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22nd Sep 2014 (#)

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