How to Test an Outlet with an Analog Multimeter

What You'll Need
Analog multimeter
Electrical outlet

You can easily test your electrical outlet and circuits for continuity using an analog multimeter. This is an older version of the digital models that are available today, and they function in a similar fashion. An analog meter can also test the voltage flow in a circuit where a digital reader can not, making an analog multimeter a good choice for checking alternating currents. You will also want to ensure that all electricity is shut down to the area you are going to be testing to avoid ruining your tester or causing electrical shock. 

Step 1 - Set your Analog Multimeter to Ohm

Set your analog multimeter to the dial setting that reads Ohm, which looks like an upside-down horseshoe (the symbol for omega in Greek). This is the setting you use when checking for an open or closed circuit. The concept is simple, when your multimeter is on and the tips of the tester are not touching you will get a reading of infinity, this means the small electrical signal going through the device is not getting back to itself.

When you put the tips of your analog multimeter together you will get the reading of 0 (zero). This indicates that the circuit is now closed. What is happening is the small signal is going from one tip into the other and the meter can read the signal coming back through the line. This is indicating a complete or closed circuit, which lets you know that the device is holding electricity properly, and no repairs will be needed.

Step 2 - Shut Down the Main Power to the Test Area

Before testing the outlet with your analog multimeter, turn off the breaker switch to the outlet in question to avoid burning out your meter or causing electrical shock. Once the power is off, place each of the tips into the outlets positive and negative sockets, ignoring the ground wire hole. Double check the outlets on that wall or line before inserting your device to ensure that the correct power has been shut down at the electrical box. You can also take off the cover plate to the outlet and apply your tips directly on the screws of the positive and negative to take your reading.

Step 3 - Reading the Multimeter

Now that the power is off and the analog multimeter is connected to each port on the electrical outlet, check your result on your meter. Be sure if it is an outlet that attached to a power switch, that the power switch is turned on, or you'll get an open circuit reading. If the circuit is complete, meaning the signal goes completely through the lines and back back again properly, you should see a reading of 0. If you get an infinity reading, then your circuit is open or broken and on an outlet. This could cause electrical short circuits and even a house electrical fire if there are live wires in the walls. You will want to then take the next step in finding the break in your circuit, which could simply be a broken connection wire.