Tools For Diyrs'


Old 06-10-06, 09:24 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: North of Boston, MA.
Posts: 2,113
Tools For Diyrs'

This area can be VERY dangerous.
I would like to recomend to anyone willing to take the time and effort to attack this on their own to invest in some prorper testing equipment.

1) a GOOD voltage tester... (wiggie, Knop.. etc) a coil based tester. (reads between hot, neutral and ground.

2) A basic continuity tester, ( will read shorts or opens between conductors)

3) Proximity tester, This will only tell you if voltage is present, and will not diagnose anything more. (the type that beeps when placed near a "hot" conductor)

4) Plug in tester... This will tell you if the outlet you installed is wired correctly, (some models test GFCI as well)

So the $40 to $60 dollars you spend BEFORE starting the project could save you much more than the project.( and perhaps your family)

There is a tool for every job, use them.

And these particular ones you will use time and time again.
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Old 06-10-06, 11:11 PM
ddr is offline
Join Date: May 2006
Location: New York City
Posts: 133
I’ve noticed some posters here state they prefer analog over digital multi meters (a common reason being “phantom voltage” readings). What makes the digital easier to fool? Are there other reasons analog is better than digital?

For someone like me, who only does occasional residential work, is a digital so bad that I should get an analog?

Thanks for any opinions...
Old 06-11-06, 04:40 AM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: New Bern, NC
Posts: 1,623
Voltages can be induced in a wire from a variety of sources. I once ran 100 foot of wire underground and had about 12 volts induced before the wires were hooked up to anyting just from the earth.

This is called a phantom or ghost voltage because a meter will sometimes see it but it cannot be sustained under an electrical load.

Digital meters give ghost readings more often because they have a very low impedance (think of that as if it were resistance) of thier own. The coil based tester mentioned requires a larger current to operate and therefore will not give ghost readings.

In most DIY situations, and this includes electrical apprentices, the exact voltage present is not an issue. A multimeter, digital or otherwise need not be on the tool list. The spring tension meter will tell the difference between 120, 240, 277, and 480. I even saw one once that would start at 24vac then had the rest.

lectric lee has listed the ones you really need. I will add though that you can often get the continuity tester and spring coil tester as one device. Volt-con is a good one. I think Ideal makes it but dont quote that. These testers even draw enough current to trip a GFI which is handy if you want to test to see if a rec down stream is hooked to a gfi somewhere else.
Old 06-11-06, 07:40 AM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: USA
Posts: 3,188
Digital meters give ghost readings more often because they have a very low impedance
I think it's just the opposite. Input impedance on a DMM is much higher than than of an analog meter. That's why "phantom" voltages are more likely to be seen on a DMM. They present little load on the wire being tested.

I only do electrical work on my own house, and I have never seen a phantom voltage. I usually use a Fluke DMM for voltage and resistance. I imagine if I were to measure an odd voltage (something other than 120 or 240), I would break my Simpson 260XLP out of retirement to check it out.

I have a plug in tester (3 lite kind) that I use on outlets, but if I have a DMM in hand I will use that.
Old 06-11-06, 08:17 AM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: New Bern, NC
Posts: 1,623
You are right High impedance low current. I was thinking while I was typing LOL..

Heck I cant even walk and chew gum.
Old 06-11-06, 11:09 AM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: USA
Posts: 3,188
I know what you ean. Sometimes I try to think ad type, but my brain usually outruns my index finger.

I reread this - after I posted it. I decided to leave in the typos, it kinda' makes my point. That's what happens when I try to use both index fingers.
Old 06-11-06, 08:16 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: USA
Posts: 973
I personally have never used a proximity tester, so I'm not real familiar with their capabilities.

Can they read voltage through the sheathing of Romex?

I've got an electrical project on my to-do list where I want to move a few existing recepticals off their current circuit to a new circuit (splitting the circuit into multiple circuits). This is part of my desire to update a 1975 house to 2005 code...splitting the bathroom/outdoor/garage recptical circuit into separate circuits. Anyway, I want to find (in the attic) the accessible part of the romex where it leaves the last bathroom receptical and goes to the next receptical in the circuit (an outside receptical). I will cut the romex and (if it is long enough) move it to a junction box in the attic to attach it to its new circuit. (The part remaining that comes from that last bath receptical would be terminated in a j-box.)

Here's where a good tester comes in. I want to be VERY sure I've identified the right piece of romex in the attic before cutting it. That's why I wonder whether the proximity tester could give accurate readings through the sheathing...and I'm talking 1970's bulky NM sheathing, not todays thin NM-B sheathing.

Anyone else wanna relate how they make sure they have the right piece of romex when they cannot trace it completely back to its source?
Old 06-12-06, 01:59 PM
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: USA
Posts: 4,305
Originally Posted by chirkware
Can they read voltage through the sheathing of Romex?
I love my proximity tester. It's a real quick and easy way to initially check whether a circuit or switch is off, or to confirm that a run is wired (reasonably) properly. In your case, you should be able to use a prox tester to verify first you "see" voltage on the line, and then after tripping the breaker, verify you no longer see it.

Granted, I always follow up with voltage tester (two leads with a neon bulb) to make doubly certain before I start sticking my hands in a box. Especially in the house I just purchased. The prox tester works well most of the time, but has had flaky readings with BX and sensing of phantom voltages. So in this house, I always double check. (I didn't once and my diagonal cutters haven't been the same since).

Good luck!

Old 06-12-06, 02:23 PM
Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: Orange County, CA
Posts: 331
Updating too

I am re-wiring my entire house to replace aluminum wiring. I use a device called Live Wire. It will determine if the wire is live or not.

I turn the breaker off that feeds the circuit I want to work on and then get close to the wire that I think I should cut, then verify using the Live Wire. I verify Live Wire by testing on at least two wires, one dead and one live.

One big problem I have is if I cut a cable then I am cutting power to other devices down stream. So often I end up tackling everything on the entire circuit before I cut it. This is a huge amount of work since each old circuit has about 7 to 10 receptacles or lights and I want to home run almost everything.

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