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Speaking of outlets, it’s often nice to test whether they’re live. The $25 Milwaukee 2201-20 will do that, and also give you an LED flashlight (“3x brighter than the competition”!?). This 3.5″ long, non-contact tester operates from a single AAA cell, has a voltage range from 90V to 600V (CAT III), and turns on/off via a rear push-button switch.

For $30, an alternative is the Greenlee TK-30 kit that has a DM-20 DMM (which includes a voltage test for 1.5V and 9V batteries under load), a GT-11 non-contact voltage detector (CAT III, 1000V; uses two AAA batteries) with LED and audible alarm, a GT-10 outlet tester, and a carrying case.

Have you had experience with either one, or with some alternative? Do you prefer a small solo voltage detector, or a kit in a case with voltage detector, DMM, and outlet checker?

Milwaukee [Manufacturer’s Site]
Greenlee [Manufacturer’s Site]
Milwaukee Street Pricing [Google Products]
Greenlee Street Pricing [Google Products]

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12 Responses to Voltage Detectors

  1. Eric says:

    I have used voltage detectors for almost 10 years now, ever since a professional grocery-store equipment mechanic insisted I use one before I ever touched a piece of machinery (I was his boss at the time). They have become standard equipment in my tool kits, because unless I can see the plug is NOT plugged in, I can’t be certain there is no juice flowing. It has helped me troubleshoot electrical circuits, bad switches, and bad light fixtures.
    I currently have the Greenlee that I bought by itself, although I also have the Greenless outlet checker (also bought by itself). This is because I have a nice Fluke DMM and no need to by an additional DMM. And I only need 1 outlet checker, although I have several voltage testers.

  2. Shopmonger says:

    I would agree with Eric, a must for all electrical jobs….

    To answer the question at the end of the post….

    A small one is handy, that way it is always with you…..
    Pocket sized is a good thing…

    Shopmonger

  3. Ben says:

    I carry one of these on me at all times when I am working. It has taken the place of the mini-mag flashlight in my belt holster. As a theatrical electrician, I find that it has a multitude of uses. Great for quick idiot-check troubleshooting before I go to my workbox or toolbag for one of the meters. The one I carry is the Fluke 1AC-A, which retails for about $20. I prefer it for the electronic push-button power switch and audible/silent modes. Other detectors had a sliding switch built into the pocket clip which I found to be cumbersome. Recently, I picked up a newer Fluke model that can actually find and trace wires in walls and changes color the closer you get to the wire. But I think its too small to carry with me at all times.

  4. JKB says:

    I have the Greenlee kit. I found the voltage detector to be weak. I gave it away because I had another that had a sensitivity adjustment. The DMM is okay but suffers from a lack of an auto-off and I have a bad habit of not switching it to off. Which leads to needing a battery the next time I want to use it.

    I used the contactless voltage detector to great advantage when correcting some wiring in the attic. It was useful to confirm I had the right wire. It also helped me locate some dead wires that I re-used. Still nothing beats the actual in-contact testing before assuming the wires dead.

    One caveat – be careful around florescent lights. They give voltage indications if near your tester by a few feet. I had a CFL in my worklight to keep the heat down. I was plagued with sporadic hot indications on the dead wire I’d traced. Obviously this led to a lot of up and down on my part to try to confirm, plus frustration. I finally realized that I was picking up the CFL, which was confirmed by turning off the light and letting the voltage drain out.

  5. Scott says:

    Inductive testers are a good guess. But before I touch anything, its going to have to get in touch with a known-good DVM or other contact style device.

  6. heywood says:

    induction testers are all right, a good solution is the new tester from fluke, the t+/t+ pro. It includes a low-impedance solenoid tester, voltage meter, ohmmeter and inductance tester. The only thing it lacks is amperage readings but that is not saying much as it is not that tester’s market anyway.

  7. Lupo says:

    As an electrician for 8 years I’ve demanded that all my apprentices keep an Inductive Tester or “volt ticker” on them at all times. I’ve even gone so far as to duct tape it to a guys hand once and call it his “6th finger.”

    Nothing beats a true RMS meter but a ticker should be an essential tool for anyone working around electricity. Fluke products are consistently high quality but I find the greenlee price/quality point the best bet.

  8. Toolhearty says:

    Seriously, if you do any amount of electrical work and don’t have an inductive tester, get one. It’s cheap insurance.

    If I have to poke around inside an electrical enclosure, I always use the tester to verify that power has been disconnected (breakers are not always labeled properly).

  9. Toolhearty says:

    I should add that, just last week, I had to troubleshoot a new installation motor controller that was in one of those enclosures with a mechanical interlock such that one has to flip a disconnect switch for the 480V, 3-phase in before one can open the box.

    Logically, one would expect that the 480V would stop at the disconnect switch. Bzzzzzt, wrong. Before poking around, I used my handy inductive tester and found that the everything inside the box was still energized. Turns out that the idiot that wired the controller at the factory had bypassed the disconnect switch and the electricians hadn’t noticed when they connected the power. If nothing else, the tester saved me the cost of one melted screwdriver and one pair of undershorts.

  10. Zathrus says:

    @Toolhearty:

    Holy crap.

    I think that would’ve wound up being a bit more than a melted screwdriver and shorts…

    Heck, I might’ve still needed some new shorts. And then a few drinks after appropriately yelling about the knuckledragger that wired that thing.

  11. Stephen says:

    I have the Greenlee and use it for initial troubleshooting – when I go to work on something – I still have a contact sensor.

    The best use of all for the Greenlee non-contact comes at Christmas time… Checking every bulb to see if its burnt is a pain – I have had great luck in just seeing where the voltage stops.

  12. Scott says:

    I had a Greenlee and the cap / switch broke after about a week. I replaced it with a Fluke pen style like the Greenlee. It’s on / off button is much better for rough conditions such as in my tool pouch. A non-contact voltage tester (Ticker) is good for ensuring there is or isn’t AC voltage present, but beyond that you really need something else such as a solenoid tester or a multimeter. Being an electrician I carry at least a Ticker and a solenoid type tester.

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