How to test a wire for power?

Old 04-01-04, 01:48 PM
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How to test a wire for power?

My question is how can I tell if the line is hot? We just moved into an old home built in 1928. I want to install a light fixture in the basement but the breaker box is not labeled.

The spot in question has a juncture box with an old line and what looks to be a pig tailed new line. The new line runs back toward the washer/dryer but also branches off in two places.

My question is how can I tell if the line is hot? I know which breaker turns off the washer/dryer by trial and error but I am still concerned the line is hot. How can I check the line? I have both an old multi-meter (Triplett Model 110?) and a newer digital one but don't know how to use them. They were my father's before he passed away.


Old 04-01-04, 02:04 PM
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I bought a tester that you just hold up to the wires and it buzzes and gives a light when there is power.
Old 04-02-04, 08:04 AM
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Make sure you set the multimeter to read AC voltage. Then you'll need a ground wire. Simply touch the lead of your multimeter to the line you want to check and touch the other lead to the ground wire. If it reads ~120v its hot. In older houses you may not have a ground wire, if its a metal junction box with shielded metal cable then you can use the box itself as a ground. If neither of those apply you can use whats called a tick tester as described already.
Old 04-02-04, 08:38 AM
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Both of the previous suggestions are good. You should probably use both methods. The tester that pagerboy mentioned is called a voltage "tick" tester, and they are less than $15 at Home Depot. They are fun too--you can amaze your kids and they'll like the chirping and flashing.
Old 04-04-04, 08:42 AM
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Multimeter figured out!

Thanks all. I figured it out. I used the newer digital meter and it was pretty simple. I will learn how to use the older one as time provides. Since it was my dad's I want to use it just because.

It was pretty simple but it has been probably fifteen plus years since I touched one. Light fixture is installed!

Have a good one.

Duane Dyar

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