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  1. #1
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    Default 3-light circuit tester

    This is just FYI as I know some of us use the cheap tester "me included".

    Just discovered that if outlet has 240 volts between Hot and Neutral, the standard 3-light tester indicates "HOT/NEUTRAL REVERSE".

    Eaven though the cheap tester does not detect boot-leg grounds, or measure voltages, the inbuilt hard surface detector, works perfectly! When the tester detects it is over a hard surface (tile floor) it jumps out of your hand and scatters lenses across the room.

    I will be checking any HOT/NEU Reverse with a VOM from now on.

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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    Quote Originally Posted by Vern Heiler View Post
    I will be checking any HOT/NEU Reverse with a VOM from now on.
    I have this for checking outlets, I also have my sure test, but nothing beats this for simplicity (except maybe the first one I made with analog meters instead of digital meters - but it was bulkier to carry and use).

    It read Hot-Neutral, Hot-Ground, Neutral-Ground all at the same time.

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  3. #3
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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    Quote Originally Posted by Vern Heiler View Post
    This is just FYI as I know some of us use the cheap tester "me included".

    Just discovered that if outlet has 240 volts between Hot and Neutral, the standard 3-light tester indicates "HOT/NEUTRAL REVERSE".

    Eaven though the cheap tester does not detect boot-leg grounds, or measure voltages, the inbuilt hard surface detector, works perfectly! When the tester detects it is over a hard surface (tile floor) it jumps out of your hand and scatters lenses across the room.

    I will be checking any HOT/NEU Reverse with a VOM from now on.
    Maybe we have different el cheapo testers, but it seems to me all three lights would illuminate on mine if there was 240V hot to neutral.

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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    Quote Originally Posted by John Allingham View Post
    Maybe we have different el cheapo testers, but it seems to me all three lights would illuminate on mine if there was 240V hot to neutral.
    I am going to check with another tester as soon as I get home from beach. At inspection on the 31st I found that the tester I have been using gave itermittent "open ground" indication.

    Thanks for the schmatic and possible indication. I'll let you know any results.


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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    My favorite tester is the inexpensive 2 lead neon light tester and a volt sniffer. I also use a Sure-Test if I have a concern or question. For grins I also use a multi-meter from time to time.

    It is hard to fool that little neon light tester and a volt sniffer.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    Well John, here it is. Neighbor has not had "Sparky" fix the mis-wired outlet yet so I did some more testing.

    Tester made by Commercial Electric would light all three but only if held with the ground pin as far out of the socket as possible. This tester also had to be tapped to get all of the lights on. This is the tester I found to give false open ground indications on the 31st.

    Tester made by Sperry gave an "ALL OK" indication. This tester also gave me an "OPEN GND" indication on another outlet known to be "HOT/NEU-REVERSE". I did find the reason for this ones faulty indications after performing your test.

    The CE tester has an additional resister that I have not figured out yet, and probably will not. This testers neon elements are further apart than the ones in the Sperry tester, don't know how much this has to do with not detecting 240v, but Sperry lights are brighter anyway.

    When I opened the Sperry tester I found the neon bulb (red) broken. I don't know if it broke during one of the many drop test I perform or if it has been broken since new? Brand new Sperry tester functioned as you expected, all 3 light on when 240v at the outlet.

    The problem I see now, is I need to make a confidence test outlet with 240v on it. I think wiring a dryer plug to a 120 outlet will do as I can remove it and lock it away after I have tested the tester.

    Scott, the only problems I have with two prong tester is very awkward to use and it does not tell you if the outlet is secure. Most of the outlets I write-up are loose in the wall.

    I hope this info saves someone an embarrassing or dangerous situation.

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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    Quote Originally Posted by Vern Heiler View Post
    Scott, the only problems I have with two prong tester is very awkward to use and it does not tell you if the outlet is secure. Most of the outlets I write-up are loose in the wall.

    I hope this info saves someone an embarrassing or dangerous situation.
    Well, that is true. But you will not get false readings with the two prong tester. Radio Shack sells one that is easy to use. The enclosure for the bulb holds the two leads along each side. It is the perfect distance for a typical outlet, and if needed you just unsnap them for 220 outlets, etc. As for testing to see if the outlet is secure, why not use the 3 light tester for that? Sure it is an extra step, but it would work and might only add another 10 seconds per outlet.

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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    Quote Originally Posted by Vern Heiler View Post
    if outlet has 240 volts between Hot and Neutral,
    Quote Originally Posted by Vern Heiler View Post
    when 240v at the outlet.
    How do you know there is 240 volts on that receptacle outlet?

    I would not rely on any indications obtained from a piece of equipment used on voltages it is not designed or intended to be used on.

    Plugging one of those into 240 volts could well damage something, making the equipment non-functioning in its intended function.

    Besides, we have always said that those three-light testers make ... good night lights ... not much else, they they are good for that.

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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    How do you know there is 240 volts on that receptacle outlet?

    I would not rely on any indications obtained from a piece of equipment used on voltages it is not designed or intended to be used on.

    Plugging one of those into 240 volts could well damage something, making the equipment non-functioning in its intended function.

    Besides, we have always said that those three-light testers make ... good night lights ... not much else, they they are good for that.
    Jerry, I know there is 240 at the outlet because I measured it with a VOM. I measured it because neighbor said his cabinet installers battery charger let all the smoke out of it.

    I think of myself as something of a realest. Risk managment is a fact of life in all aspects, including HI. If I can be reasonably sure the outlet is functioning as intended with a cheapo 3-light teaster, that is what I am going to use. In all of the cases where a defect was observed, I recommend further investigation and repair by a licensed electician. Some of the indications from a faulty 3-light tester may not have been correct (hot/neut reverse as open gnd) but were still written up as faulty.

    While Scotts method of using both testers is admireable, I find it an unacceptable use of time. 80 to 120 outlets per inspection time 10 sec. additional time. Besides I drop the 3-light tester enough already!

    With a known defiency of the 3-light tester and a confidence test (240 across Neut and Hot) I feel more assured the customer is getting a full inspection. Home grown confidence tester lights all 3 indicators and does not damage the tester, at least not the Sperry model.

    As I said, most of the write-ups are for loose outlets. At a guess, 1-2% of the outlets I have tested show other problems, loose runs 15-20%. I will now verify the other indications with a VOM for some period of time until I have regained confidence in the 3-light.


  10. #10
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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    If you want to start going beyond the scope of a HI and do more definitive testing on outlets during an inspection then you will need a DMM or analog if you are a Simpson fan like me and a Megger.

    Otherwise, report what you find on your 3 light tester and move on to the next receptacle.


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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    Quote Originally Posted by Vern Heiler View Post
    I find it an unacceptable use of time. 80 to 120 outlets per inspection time 10 sec. additional time.
    .

    Which is why I made my three meter testers.

    First I made one with three analog meters, those el cheapo $10-15 meters from the big box stores. Worked great (except it was a bit bulky). No need to read the exact voltage, it is easy enough to quickly see the difference between 120 volts hot-neutral and hot-ground and basically 0 volts neutral-ground, and just as easily and quickly to see reverse polarity in 120 volts neutral to ground and 0 volts hot-ground.

    My second one was made from three Radio Shack auto-ranging digital meters, takes a second to read the auto-range scale for the 120 milli-volts neutral-ground (instead of showing 0.120 volts).

    Still, the triple-meters-in-one-meter work great ... plug it in and read the voltage, move on to the next receptacle outlet ... works as fast as using the three-light testers with better results and no false readings - the readings are what they are.

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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Remas View Post
    If you want to start going beyond the scope of a HI and do more definitive testing on outlets during an inspection then you will need a DMM or analog if you are a Simpson fan like me and a Megger.

    Otherwise, report what you find on your 3 light tester and move on to the next receptacle.
    Jeff, the only place I ever used a Megger was on micro-wave radio. I can't think of a single place I could use one in a home inspection!


  13. #13
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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    Megohmeters are great for post lightning strikes to check the condition of the wires. Also great after a wiring rough in to check and make sure there are no compromised wires that were pinched, especially by staples.

    Probably the number one use is for checking motors.

    I use them for all of the above plus electric radiant heat installations before and after the tile guy sets the tile on top of the wires.

    Lots of uses for a megger.


  14. #14
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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    I swear by my Fluke 117/322 digital meters, Ideal 61-165 Sure test , Klein "Wiggy" and Extrech Non-contact current detector. I had a "melt down of a 3way cheap teaster, Caused me to spend about $600 on good equipment/



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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Remas View Post
    Megohmeters are great for post lightning strikes to check the condition of the wires.
    .

    A megger will provide a 'failed' indication, however, I would NOT trust a megger for a 'non-failed' indication.

    There could be damage which is not picked up by the megger.

    The NM cable shown in the photo suffered a lightning strike (one of many NM cables damaged in the house) where the strike went from the roof to a truss plate, down the truss vertical, out the bottom truss plate, to the ground in this NM cable, the insulation on the hot and neutral were not damaged (other NM cables had damaged insulation), through the ground to the panel enclosure, from the enclosure to the cover back to the enclosure, to ground through the feeder ground.

    I have used a megger on occasion in the past and treat it as a medical test, if it shows a failure, believe it, if it shows all is okay, don't believe it.

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  16. #16
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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    Home store three light tester or 400 dollar tester, any can and will give a false test. You won't know if it is a false test unles you test with multiple meters.

    Personaly I carry 2 three light testers with me and have an expensive tester in my bag. The expensive tester does not come out unless I find a concern that calls for it. If I get anything other than a normal test with the three light I plug the other one in. Same test results, move on.

    I guess the question is. Are some of you folks doing an electrical evaluation as an electrician does or are you doing an electrical evaluation like a home inspector does?


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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Menelly View Post
    I guess the question is. Are some of you folks doing an electrical evaluation as an electrician does or are you doing an electrical evaluation like a home inspector does?
    .

    "or are you doing an electrical evaluation like a home inspector does?"

    "or are you doing an electrical evaluation like a home inspector SHOULD?"

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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    [quote=Ted Menelly;67246]If I get anything other than a normal test with the three light I plug the other one in. Same test results, move on.
    quote]

    This is the cautionary point of my original post... if the (RED) fault indication light does not work, you can have a problem with a correct two light displayed. Only happens if you have voltage on both Hot and Neutral. As far as I know, the only time I have had this happen was at my neighbors. Condition displayed as Hot/Neu Reverse with the (YELLO) neutral llight not working. I would not have seen a problem at all if (RED) light was bad.

    I think having a light test, just like when you start your car, is needed. Any tester, including 3 meters, can have this problem.


  19. #19
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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    I have this for checking outlets, I also have my sure test, but nothing beats this for simplicity (except maybe the first one I made with analog meters instead of digital meters - but it was bulkier to carry and use).

    It read Hot-Neutral, Hot-Ground, Neutral-Ground all at the same time.

    You got a patent on that thing Jerry?


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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    A piece of advice from wc Jerry, "throw away those fishing lures" aka 3-lite testers. They're inaccurate and can be dangerous. I''ve had one blow up while using it. "Night light" I hadn't heard, but agree it would be also another use for it other than what they're sold for.

    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    Quote Originally Posted by Shannon Guinn View Post
    You got a patent on that thing Jerry?
    .
    Not yet, pending.

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  22. #22
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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    I'm trying to get the county to buy me an AFCI tester. But I guess it'll be like all my other equipment that I have, I play Santa Claus to myself. Oh well, I guess if I ever leave this place I can take my toys with me (even code books, these guys are kind of cheap). But in all fairness, they did get me the 2008 NEC and NECH on disk (love the search feature). But to chime in on the above posters comment about how the electrical inspections are to be performed. As a previous EC myself, after the job was complete I would ask the foreman if everything was good to go (by the way, I never took off my toolbelt, even after I started my own company although from time to time I would have to you know, get materials, meet with new clients, bid jobs etc. but made a point to be on every job that we did) anyway I would ask the foreman if everything was good, he would say yeah (most of the time) and then we would all (including helpers) walk the job from top to bottom. I would let the helpers go first then the more experienced guys and finally myself. When we got to the end I would ask if anyone had found anything they thought was not code compliant. This was an excellent way for the greener guys to start getting some of the codes in their head (if you could find one who expressed interest in the trade) I would encourage anyone I could to get codebooks and educate themselves as much as possible by stressing that the more valuable they became to me the more valuable they became to themselves. Basically I still inspect the same way, start at the top and work my way to the bottom of a structure, study as much as I can, keep up with new technologies, and try to find time to read and sometimes post on forums such as this (one of my personal favorites by the way). To me, electrical may quite possibly be the most important area of inspections. Don't get me wrong, I'm a firm believer that ALL inspections are necessary, it's just that if I can help make a difference that will actually save a life, man that's the top of the world to me.


    By the way, sorry for hijacking this thread a bit. I'm a passionate guy.


  23. #23
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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    Quote Originally Posted by Shannon Guinn View Post
    I'm trying to get the county to buy me an AFCI tester.
    .

    Shannon,

    Don't waste your money on one, one does not exit, though many do. (Now figure that one out. )

    Every AFCI breaker comes with a built-in tester, and it is the only tester for that breaker.

    There are some AFCI "indicators" which may, or may not, trip the AFCI when its "Test" button is pushed.

    The noise signal the AFCI circuit in the AFCI breaker is looking for is proprietary to that manufacturer. Each manufacturer has their own noise signal the computer in their AFCI breakers are looking for.

    The so-called AFCI testers have tried to replicate that as best they can, but those "indicators" will not trip (not an a regular basis such that you could rely on them for "testing" the AFCI function) all the time. You could end up reporting many "failures" in which nothing was wrong.

    But in all fairness, they did get me the 2008 NEC and NECH on disk (love the search feature).
    When talking to NFPA a couple of months ago, it is likely that the next edition of the NEC, the 2011 edition, *WILL NOT BE AVAILABLE ON CD*. They are seriously considering making you pay for an on-line subscription - no CD. Can you imagine having to pay for that *FOREVER* if you want to keep having it available, let alone have to have an internet connection to be able to use it.

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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    I attended an educational session at the ASHI National Conference a few years ago called: "Three Prong Testers Are Great Big Liars". The presenter had made several hard-wired electrical boards which clearly showed that the 3-prong testers were giving the wrong result under many circumstances. His suggestion was to get the Ideal Suretest #61-155 (now replaced by the 61-165) for about $300.00. This one gave correct readings for all the situations which he had hard-wired. It is bulkier than the 3-prong testers, but I now feel more secure about getting true readings when testing receptacles


  25. #25
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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    .



    When talking to NFPA a couple of months ago, it is likely that the next edition of the NEC, the 2011 edition, *WILL NOT BE AVAILABLE ON CD*. They are seriously considering making you pay for an on-line subscription - no CD. Can you imagine having to pay for that *FOREVER* if you want to keep having it available, let alone have to have an internet connection to be able to use it.

    WHAT!?! If that turns out to be true, I will personally I will personally go throw rocks at NFPA headquarters!


  26. #26
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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    .
    Not yet, pending.
    JP, or should I say Leonardo?

    Well, what next. Designing websites at age 10, rebuilding XKEs at age 18, inventing circuit testers at age . . .

    I sure hope you don't get called on the legal carpet over a reading taken with that Rube Goldberg device. Sure is flashy though.

    Now if you can just slim it down to fit into a Blackberry case and get it to grind espresson beans all will be well.

    Aaron


  27. #27
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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester


  28. #28
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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    Quote Originally Posted by Vern Heiler View Post
    This is just FYI as I know some of us use the cheap tester "me included".

    Just discovered that if outlet has 240 volts between Hot and Neutral, the standard 3-light tester indicates "HOT/NEUTRAL REVERSE".

    Eaven though the cheap tester does not detect boot-leg grounds, or measure voltages, the inbuilt hard surface detector, works perfectly! When the tester detects it is over a hard surface (tile floor) it jumps out of your hand and scatters lenses across the room.

    I will be checking any HOT/NEU Reverse with a VOM from now on.
    Vern:

    I use this for 220-volt receptacles:

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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    Quote Originally Posted by A.D. Miller View Post
    Nah, mine would have the the two clips connected end to end so you could just stick the new one into the bottom of the empty one and feed directly up into the Taser, saving the time to remove the empty clip.

    Better yet, make the clips 'feed through' the gun and make the clips 3 twice as long, that way, the clip self-feeds it way up and out, ready for another double clip.

    Better yet, make it so that the ejecting wire holders, and then the ejecting clip itself, become projectiles firing toward the target.

    Waste not, want not.

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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    Quote Originally Posted by A.D. Miller View Post
    Vern:

    I use this for 220-volt receptacles:

    Aaron,

    An electrical contractor I worked with many moons ago actually used his fingers as a 120 volt tester in light sockets. He'd first lick his finger to get it wet enough to make good contact, then stick his finger in and move it around, saying "Yeah, I think I feel it, this one is 'on'." Me, that 120 volts came out and met me half-way, laughing at me as it did.

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  31. #31
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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Aaron,

    An electrical contractor I worked with many moons ago actually used his fingers as a 120 volt tester in light sockets. He'd first lick his finger to get it wet enough to make good contact, then stick his finger in and move it around, saying "Yeah, I think I feel it, this one is 'on'." Me, that 120 volts came out and met me half-way, laughing at me as it did.
    JP: This guy?

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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    Quote Originally Posted by A.D. Miller View Post
    Vern:

    I use this for 220-volt receptacles:
    Is that what gives ya'll that "Texas walk"?


  33. #33
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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Beliveau View Post
    I attended an educational session at the ASHI National Conference a few years ago called: "Three Prong Testers Are Great Big Liars". The presenter had made several hard-wired electrical boards which clearly showed that the 3-prong testers were giving the wrong result under many circumstances. His suggestion was to get the Ideal Suretest #61-155 (now replaced by the 61-165) for about $300.00. This one gave correct readings for all the situations which he had hard-wired. It is bulkier than the 3-prong testers, but I now feel more secure about getting true readings when testing receptacles
    Douglas Hansen (Code Check) put that program together.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
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  34. #34
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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Beliveau View Post
    I attended an educational session at the ASHI National Conference a few years ago called: "Three Prong Testers Are Great Big Liars". The presenter had made several hard-wired electrical boards which clearly showed that the 3-prong testers were giving the wrong result under many circumstances. His suggestion was to get the Ideal Suretest #61-155 (now replaced by the 61-165) for about $300.00. This one gave correct readings for all the situations which he had hard-wired. It is bulkier than the 3-prong testers, but I now feel more secure about getting true readings when testing receptacles
    How did the 3-light testers get the coveted UL label?


  35. #35
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    Default Re: 3-light circuit tester

    Quote Originally Posted by Vern Heiler View Post
    How did the 3-light testers get the coveted UL label?
    Might be the same way that FPE got theirs!

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
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