How to Use a Multimeter to Test Outlets

testing home outletThe multiple outlets within a home are all expected to be working on a consistent basis, yet there are inevitable times that the process goes awry. The problem could be obvious, but without using a multimeter when you’re testing home outlets, you can often be at a loss at discovering the origin of the problem.

The hope in such cases is that the issue is just momentary in nature, but using that device can help determine if you need electrical outlet repair performed by a residential electrician. Yet some people can be intimidated when it comes to using it, even though the process is simple in nature.


Using a multimeter for an outlet that’s not working might help discover that the simple lack of power could be related to either wiring that’s been reversed or whether the proper grounding for an outlet has been performed. The result could be detected beforehand in a residential electrical inspection by an electrician in Arlington, but before taking that step, make sure to:

Making Adjustments

Prior to choosing the AC function on the multimeter, the meter should be set to measure voltage. One easy way to avoid the inadvertent mistake of selecting DC is by noting that the latter function will have a line that’s both solid and dashed. In contrast, the AC function should be represented by a wavy line.

Location, Location, Location

Knowing the lay of the land when you test outlets are absolutely essential, since the end result of ignoring this aspect can be a disaster and the need to contact a residential electrician. In this case, the three outlet slots are represented by the right being hot, the left being neutral and the half-circle is for grounding.

Testing Priorities

Of course, when you test outlets, there’s always the danger of receiving an electrical shock. To avoid that scenario, leave one hand free and grip both meter probes in the same hand. However, make sure not to have the probe’s metal parts touch or a short-circuit is likely, which means contracts an electrician in Arlington for electrical outlet repair.

A Key Connection

The two leads need to be connected when testing home outlets, with the red going into the connector that either resembles a horseshoe or has a plus sign attached. The black connector will either be found by spotting a minus sign or the word “COM,” with both of these performed during any residential electrical inspection.

Checking for Proper Voltage

Once the connectors are ready, insert the black lead into the larger vertical slot and the red into the smaller one. Using the multimeter should show the proper voltage of 110-120 volts, but if it doesn’t, there’s likely a wiring issue involved.

Making a Grounding Check

A check of the grounding begins by removing the black lead and inserting it into the slot for the ground outlet. Those same voltage numbers should also be seen and if they’re not, there’s a problem connected to the grounding.

Issues with Wiring

The final component of testing home outlets with a multimeter, especially with major appliances, involves checking to see if wiring concerns are at the heart of the problem. Keeping the black lead in the ground outlet, insert the red lead into the neutral slot. If a number comes up, a wiring issue exists, while the absence of one point to a lack of grounding.

Doing the Right Thing

J&B Electrical Appliance knows that not everyone wants to tackle this matter, which is why we can offer a qualified electrician in Arlington and the surrounding suburbs who’s been properly trained to test home outlets. In addition, our licensed technician can perform electrical outlet repair, replacement or upgrades, while also being qualified to perform a residential electrical inspection.

So whether you need to test outlets or maybe need to address something a little more complicated, make sure to contact us at J&B Electrical. We’re ready to make sure that the residential electrician you have working for you will be sure to always do things right the first time. Just contact us at 817-266-5499 or fill out our online form.

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