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If you’re like us, you’ve probably got three or four cheap-ass AC voltage testers laying around your toolbox(es) waiting for the day you need to change a switch or install an outlet. But think about this for a sec: When you’re going to bet your ass (or hand, as the case may be) on a tool, do you want the $0.50 special or a brand you recognize?

Often this is no choice at all because we simply can’t afford the high-buck brand-name tool. But now you have no excuse: We found this Fluke tester at Amazon (and elsewhere) for just $23. Sure, that’s about $22.50 more than you paid for your crappy model, but consider that this one — if it’s anything like the other Fluke gear we own — will last forever, and probably actually work.

And that one-time $22.50 outlay seems even more sensible when you’re thinking “is that light off because there’s no voltage or because the tester’s broken?”

1AC-II VoltAlert [Fluke]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]

 

21 Responses to Fluke’s Non-Contact AC Voltage Tester

  1. David Bryan says:

    Don’t bet your ass, hand, head, life, health or safety on this one either.

  2. bemis says:

    You guys do know that you can rub the tester against your shirt to make it beep to see if it’s working, right? Or just put it against a known good power source?

    $22.50 isn’t much to spend, but at the same time buying 2 testers (even @ $22.50/ea) and using both as a check against the other is not exactly a problem either.

  3. Sam says:

    I used to carry 2 of these, a Fluke and a Greenlee. Why 2? The older Fluke only lights up; it doesn’t make any sound.

    There are situations where you can’t see the connection you’re testing (for example, if you have to go flip breakers to find which one controls a given outlet). The audio alert on the Greenlee is plenty loud to be heard a few rooms away if things are quiet. And in direct sunlight it can be difficult to see whether the bulb is lit.

    Alternately, there are times when either things are noisy (busy construction site), or when it’s important to be quiet (backstage in a theater). So a visual-only one has its place too.

    Of course, that’s why they developed these with switchable sound.

  4. stephen says:

    I prefer the Gardner Bender. I lights and beeps when you push the pocket clip, so you know that the battery is working. These are good to use to find a spark plug that is not firing also (a lot cheaper than buying an OTC tester)

  5. Toolaremia says:

    @David: Nobody with experience and training who does electric work (or any other dangerous work) bets their life on any one single safety device. After you’ve turned off the breaker, locked it out, posted a notice, checked that other things on the circuit indeed don’t work, this is one last check to make sure the wire you are about to touch is indeed not live. Nobody that does any electric work should be without one in my opinion. I’m guessing that was your point?

  6. Toolaremia says:

    Chuck, you can *always* afford a safety device. I haven’t met one yet that was worth more than my life. 🙂

  7. David Bryan says:

    Toolaremia, that’s part of it. I use these all the time, but I’m aware of their limitations, and what I’m really getting at is that those limitations don’t go away when you get a nicer one. And how many people who buy a device like this to use at home are going to be going by lockout-and-tag procedures?

  8. fred says:

    Just a thought that no tool is a substitute for proper training and adherance to proper procedures. To be sure, tools (including proper PPE) is important – but construction trades have inherent risks – whether they are the potential hazards of electrocution, falls from elevation, gas explosion, confined space entry or anything else – training is a must. We would never enter a confined space (e.g. cesspool) without first testing the atmosphere – and without first testing the test instrument that we test with. The same seems prudent when dealing with electrical work. We leave the actual electrical work to our licensed subs – but do use these testers extensively for quick checks during demolition work. Not surprisingly we have soemtimes found live wiring even when we thought to have the proper breakers thrown. With old work – you can never tell – so a double check is well wort the time it takes.

  9. Ben Granucci says:

    I carry one of these on me at all times while I’m at work. I look at is less as a safety item (though I do regularly use it to double check), and more as a first line of troubleshooting. Sometimes, the only reason something isn’t working is because there is a high-impedance air-gap somewhere upstream.

  10. browndog77 says:

    Many years ago, an old-timer taught me, as a final test for line voltage, to ground the conductor(s) in question to a known ground. I always do this and it paid off in spades one day. I was replacing an electric oven which was installed under a cooktop. I put my circuit locator on one of the 2 hot legs and the neutral, and threw the breaker indicated by the locator. Sure enough, the digital display on the oven went blank. Then I did the old mans test on both legs, and the other leg was still hot! A huge arc ensued, and the housewife sitting next to me flew out of her chair screaming. When the house was wired, the workers ran 2 identical 2 pole 30A circuits, and crossed the wires on the breakers. They got lucky(?) and split the busses correctly, so everything worked fine until I got there! I will never forget that old-timers words!

  11. mr. man says:

    Can’t count the number of times I’ve been trouble shooting a piece of our equipment when the voice at the other end of the phone says:
    “I’ve always wanted to learn how to use one of these”

    I think to myself: step away from the machine….

  12. David Bryan says:

    Browndog, if you’d just checked both wires first with a volt-tick, or a meter, or a test light, or a wiggy, wouldn’t you have caught that one anyway? I don’t recommend that anybody else do it, but I’d test for 120 volts to ground with my fingers before I’d arc-test it.

  13. steve says:

    Don’t bother spending that much. Save yourself $5 and go to Home Depot. They have a GreenLee one for $15. I have this one.

    They are as good as they get. Professionals use them. You can even see Mike Holmes use one on like every episode of Holmes on Holmes.

    You can even get the Klien version off HomeDepot.com (maybe in the stores too) for only $15. Klien is the tool brand favored by just about every electrician in America.

  14. cousinit says:

    My son who works in construction as an electrician went through all the safety.Turned off the breaker,locked out the circuit,posted a notice,and checked that other things didn’t work.What didn’t work was a worker from a different trade.He activated the circuit while my son was working on it.He got a shock and had to be restrained from going after the other worker. The moral:all it takes is one a__ hole to destroy all safety.

  15. Bob says:

    cousinit,

    How did the other worker activate a locked out circuit? Bolt-cutter your son’s lock?

    If so, that’s why rifles have scopes.

  16. Brett from Utah says:

    I have by neccessity the privelege of working on live circuits in my job, I also use a tracer like this everyday, and have several brands and models…the pictured Fluke model is my least favorite- I like the Greenlee for how simple and accurately it works, but it doesn’t hold up long being dropped or roughly treated- I use this Fluke most because it does take a beating better, but I spend a lot of time on ladders and lifts, I like the Klien but haven’t any long term experience, so time will tell…I want to absolutely reiterate the importance of not relying on any single method of ensuring a circuit is safe before working on it. All of the guys on my crew, a mix of electricians and technicians carry Fluke multimeters and some version of this tracer, and anyone who relies on this tool ( derisively called a “tech-meter” by the more experienced guys) is quickly upbraided for it..It CAN tell you if there is juice on the line- but don’t rely on it, and you can’t troubleshoot anything more complex than a lightbulb with this tool so never use it for diagnosis- as with most tools its a damn fine piece of the puzzle, but not alone-and it won’t solve all your problems or fix anything….be careful!…

  17. Brau says:

    @ Toolaremia: Too true. You can’t check and recheck too much. Personally I’d like a pen sized device I can clip to the wire to alert me if there’s any change.

    I’ve had a 220V/40A circuit turned back on before I even got a chance to begin working on it. A trainee had wired the wrong cable into a breaker meaning a cable I thought was unterminated at the mains end, was potentially live. No problem right? … The mains are off. Not 3 minutes after I ensured they were off, a construction worker waltzed into the electrical room, pushed all blockages and signs out of the way, and flipped the mains on. Just as I began to manipulate (move) the cable, it went off like a gun. It sprayed molten copper and soot all over the wall about 2″ from my face. The poor guy was white when he heard the bang, my yelling, and saw the result. He did it out of habit, having foggily done the same thing every day for the last couple of weeks as part of getting the worksite up and running each morning – an honest but potentially deadly mistake, so now I take the main breakers out in situations where traffic can’t be controlled.

    A clip-on device might have given me some notice of the status change *before* I reached out to grab it.

  18. Andrew says:

    I had a greenlee tester for years until one day it stopped working accurately. I decided to go with the fluke as a replacement.

    Unlike Sam’s version of the Fluke testor my lights up and makes a sound. It also flashes periodically when it is turned on so you know it is on and working.

    I like the Fluke more than the Greenlee enough to spend the extra five bucks.

  19. Toolhearty says:

    I use the GB tester and it works well enough. It gives extraneous beeps/flashes, but it consistently identifies live circuits.

    These stories of having someone energize equipment being worked on are somewhat disturbing. We take lock-out/tag-out seriously where I work, and removing someone else’s lock requires suit approval. Also, a tag has the same weight as a lock, ignore one and you’re gone.

  20. Corey says:

    I prefer the greenlee as well, but as Brett from Utah says, it’s durability seems lack-luster. I’ve gone through 2 in the last year, they just seem to stop working, or make sickly noises before kicking it. biggest complaint= on/off button is also the battery cap and has a tendency to pop off 🙁

  21. HammerDrill says:

    I purchased the low voltage model of this for work on low voltage HVAC controls (i.e. your thermostat, zone valves, zone panels al (24V)). I am not happy at all with it. It does not sense voltage at all in this range.Does anybody have experience with the Greenlee GT-15 version for this sort of application? I

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