Nifty $5 power outlet tester

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Looks like a piece from my space costume. How’d you get it?


For $5, I’d be rather surprised if it delivered accurate data on your outlets. And even more surprised if it continues to work one day past its warrantee period.


And they appear to be out. Apparently, they will email me when they are back in stock. YMMV.

These devices have been around forever and are really simple. They check for a specific set of faults (mostly things not wired to the correct terminals on the outlet) but they don’t tell you about the quality of any of those connections or if there’s any nearly failed connection that’s heating up in your wall.


Seems like most other outlet testers (many shown as “Customers who viewed this item also viewed” links). This one seems to have one extra line on its legend of light patterns, “Live/Neutral Reverse,” which the others don’t have. However, one wonders if that light pattern is possible on the others.

If you need one of these, you can find them online, or at your home improvement big box, or at Wally World, Target, etc. The magic words are “outlet tester”. The one fairly useful thing they do is tell you if you have a crappy ground connection, which is fairly rampant in the US (and probably elsewhere).

They also serve a purpose if someone who is not particularly great with tools tells you that they just replaced an electrical outlet.

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The inconsistent use of abbreviations on the UI bugs me (rev / reverse, neu / neutral, gnd / ground).


what is indicated if it bursts into flames?


I have a generic tester (looks a lot like the Klein Tools RT210 that appears in the “also viewed” section); I forget where I got it - possibly Harbor Freight. I know I didn’t pay more than $5 for it, and it’s worked like a champ for at least ten years.

To the commenter who hinted that these don’t give you useful information: we all make mistakes, and mine alerted me when I’d accidentally swapped hot and neutral on a replacement plug. I also (possibly irrationally) feel more reassured by an external GFCI test than by the built-in test button on the outlet.

The one thing mine DOESN’T have that this one does: a picture illustrating “OPEN HOT”.
I kid, I kid.


In my day, that’s what apprentices were for.


The one important thing it won’t tell you is if you have a reverse polarity bootleg ground. That is where someone bonded ground to neutral at an outlet (bootleg ground) and reversed polarity. Results in a hot chassis of any device where chassis is bonded to ground. It’s killed people.

Can’t test for it with a 3light though. But you should have a NCVT in your bag too and that’ll tell you if ground is hot.

My dad has been working with your wiring.


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