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How to test an electrical outlet with a multimeter? Guide Of 2023

Electrical outlets are everywhere in our homes and offices, providing us with the means to plug in our appliances and devices. But what happens when an outlet goes bad? How can you tell if an outlet is no longer functioning properly? This guide is specifically covering only AC (alternating current) Outlets. So, if you don't know how to test an electrical outlet with a multimeter then this testing guide is no less than a life hack for you.

You can not eliminate electrical problems but rectify or repair them. But to test any electrical appliance or outlets you need a good quality multimeter.


Why choose a multimeter?

A multimeter is an electrical testing tool that is used to measure voltage, current, and resistance. It can also be used to test for continuity. You can use a digital multimeter or an analog multimeter but digital multimeters are always preferable due to their ease of use.

How to test an electrical outlet with a multimeter

Outlets are usually wired in one of two ways, in a series or in a parallel circuit. In a series circuit, each outlet is connected to the next outlet in the circuit. In a parallel circuit, each outlet is connected to a different circuit.

If you have an outlet that is not working, you can only test it by multimeter safely. Now you have understood what a multimeter is now let's have a look at outlets. You can also visit my list of best multimeters for electrical and electronics work.


What are the different types of outlets, and what function do they serve?

Outlets basically act as an On/off switch between the appliances and the power source like a plug. The outlet is either hardwired or plugged into an electrical source.

There are two types of outlets:

1. Standard Outlets

2. GFCI Outlets

1-Standard outlets

It is the most common type of outlet. They are usually found in homes and are used to plug-in appliances such as lamps, TVs, and computers.

2-GFCI outlets

They are typically found in areas where there is a risk of water exposure, such as kitchens and bathrooms. These outlets have a built-in circuit breaker that trips when it detects a ground fault. This protects against electrical shocks.

Now that you know the different types of outlets, let's move on and learn how to test an outlet with a multimeter.


How to Test an Outlet With a Multimeter?

There are two ways to test an outlet: with the multimeter in the resistance mode or with the multimeter in the continuity mode.

How to Test an Outlet With a Multimeter

Continuity Test of an outlet with a multimeter

Caution: This test is possible only in when the power source is "cut-off" or the supply is in "open" condition. Because, if the power is "ON" then it might create a short circuit.

Step by step Guide

  • First of all, you need to identify the "Hot" wire, which is usually black. The "Neutral" wire is usually white. And the "Ground" wire is usually green.
  • To test the "Hot" wire, set your multimeter to the continuity mode.
  • Now insert the Red lead probe of multimeter into one right hollow (can be live or neutral, not a big deal)slot.
  • Take the black test lead and insert it into the left side slot of the outlet (can be live or neutral, not a big deal).
  • Now turn on the switch, If the multimeter beeps, then the outlet is wired correctly. If not, then the outlet is wired incorrectly and needs to be replaced.

Voltage Test of an outlet with a multimeter- A Step by Step Outlet testing guide

voltage testing of 110v outlets
  • For this test, you need a power supply that is turned on.
  • First, set your multimeter to the voltage mode. Make sure you have selected the AC voltage measurement. You can select it just by pressing the AC/DC button or rotating the knob to 600VAC.
  • Now insert the Red probe of the multimeter into one right slot (should be live).
  • Take the black lead and insert it into the left side slot of the outlet (should be neutral).
  • Now turn on the switch. The multimeter should read around 120 volts. If not, then the outlet is wired incorrectly and needs to be replaced. Now I hope you are 100% clear on how to test an electrical outlet with a multimeter.

This is how you can test an electrical outlet with a multimeter. Make sure you follow all the safety precautions while testing any electrical appliance or outlets. Do not forget to turn off the power supply before starting any tests. I make the list of best budgets multimeter.


Safety Guide

Safety should be your top priority when knowing how to test an electrical outlet with a multimeter.

  • First of all, make sure the power is turned off before starting any repairs or replacements.
  • Use a multimeter to test the outlet before touching it. This will ensure that there is no power running through the outlet.
  • The meter probes must be in the right multimeter jack, otherwise, you can destroy them.
  • Wear rubber gloves and avoid standing in water while working with electricity.
  • Do not work alone. Always have someone with you in case of an emergency.
  • Do not use any damaged tools or appliances. Make sure all the tools are well insulated
  • Always follow the manufacturer's instructions when using a multimeter or any other electrical testing device.

Final Verdict

If you're still with me then now you might have a clear idea of how to test an electrical outlet with a multimeter. Make sure you follow all the safety precautions while testing any electrical appliance or outlets. All you need is a good-quality multimeter. If you don't have any multimeter yet then don't worry you can visit my list of best multimeters for DIY Projects.

However, if you want to check amps then you should visit my guide about checking amps with a multimeter. Hopefully, this guide might be helpful for you.

FAQs- Frequently Asked Questions

Can you test a light socket with a multimeter?

You can easily test a light socket with a multimeter. All you need is a little guidance and a good quality multimeter. I have made a detailed guide on how to test the light switch/socket with a multimeter.

How to test a 120V outlet with a digital multimeter?

120V outlet testing is pretty easy. All you need to do is set your multimeter to the voltage mode and insert the probes into the slots. If the reading is around 120 volts then the outlet is fine otherwise it needs to be replaced.

How do you test if an outlet is live?

You can easily test if an outlet is live with a multimeter. All you need to do is set your multimeter to the continuity mode and insert the probes into the slots. If the multimeter beeps then the outlet is live otherwise it's not.

How do you test if an outlet is grounded?

To test if an outlet is properly grounded or not, you need a three-pronged outlets tester. All you need to do is insert the test probes of the tester into the outlet and if all the lights are lit up then the outlet is grounded otherwise it's not.

Is a 110 outlet the same as a 120 outlet?

Yes, a 110 outlet is the same as a 120 outlet. The only difference is in the voltage. 110 outlets have a lower voltage while 120 outlets have a higher voltage. However, it's quite similar to testing a 110V or 120V outlet. The only difference will be in the reading.

Can you measure voltage without a multimeter?

No, without a multimeter line voltage measurement is quite not possible. However, you can check if there is any voltage in a properly functioning outlet using a non-contact voltage detector or test lamps. If you want to know more about non-contact voltage testers then click here! These NCV testers have voltage detector lights which help in detecting live wires.

Do hot and neutral wires both have voltages?

No, the voltages are only present in the hot wires. The neutral wires don't have any voltages.

Why does the receptacle's center screw need to be connected to the grounding system?

The receptacle's center screw needs to be connected to the grounding system because it provides a path for the current to flow in case of a short circuit. This will protect you from electrocution.

How do you know if an outlet is 20 or 30 amps?

The best way to know if an outlet is 20 or 30 amps is by checking the circuit breaker. If the circuit breaker is 20 amps then the outlet will be 20 amps as well. Moreover, you can also check on the side of the outlet there is also clearly mentioned the current rating of outlet.