Problems with wirings and circuits are a hard bunch to deal with. It’s a job we prefer to leave to the experts and that’s for a good reason but you can’t always NOT deal with the issues yourself. You don’t necessarily have to be a professional electrician to resolve most electrical dilemmas inside the home and learning the basics of diagnosing the problem and fixing it yourself can come quite handy.
With help of an outlet tester, detecting whether an outlet is “hot” along with its functioning level has never been easy. In this article, we’ll provide you with essential, tips on how to safely deal with outlets and wires along with an easy to follow guide using a plug in outlet tester and interpreting the readings.
When dealing with electricity, your safety should always be the priority.
Take note of these guidelines before you proceed with the steps.
- Before starting any electric project, turn off the electric from the service panel.
- Do not touch your service panel with both hands – you could receive a shock since your body would be creating a closed circuit if both hands touch the panel at the same time. So always keep one hand at your side.
- Put a piece of tape over the breaker/fuse to be sure no one accidentally puts it back on while you’re working.
- When starting ALL electric projects, handle the wires as if they were hot until you re-check the power is off with an outlet tester.
- Be aware of your surroundings and remove any water/liquid material that might be near the outlet that you’re working on.
Now that we’re done with the guidelines, let’s show you how to test an outlet using an outlet tester and interpret the lights.
- Read the results. There’s usually a guide that can be found at the top of the lights but it varies per manufacturer. To cite an example, the Sperry 3 Wire receptacle tester’s lights can be interpreted using the following information.
- Insert the tester into the receptacle until it is fully seated. The tester should illuminate immediately with any combination of its three lights.
- If the middle light and the light on the far right are both yellow, the circuit is wired correctly.
- If the light on the left is red and the light in the middle is yellow, this indicates that the hot wire and the neutral wires are crossed. The black hot wire must be connected to the brass terminal, and the white neutral wire must be connected to the silver terminal to be wired correctly.
- If one yellow light in the middle of the three is illuminated, this indicates that there is an open or disconnected ground in the circuit. If there is no ground wire, this would also cause that light to be illuminated.
- If the yellow light on the far right is the only one that’s on, it means there is an open neutral wire in the circuit. Neutral wires have white insulation or white tape if the wire used as a neutral was a color other than white.
- If no light is illuminated, this means that the circuit has been turned off or the hot wire is disconnected. The hot wire in the circuit has black insulation.
- If the light on the left is red and the two to the right are yellow, this indicates that the hot wire and the ground wire crossed. The ground needs to be connected to the green grounding post of the receptacle, and the black hot wire should be connected to the brass terminal.