How To Test An Outlet With Multimeter

Owning a home comes with a lot of responsibility. Troubleshooting your electrical system is not one of the responsibilities that most homeowners think about. Anytime you are dealing with a major system within your home, there are professionals to hire to assist. If you notice that your outlets are not working properly, you will want to call on a licensed electrician. However, while you wait, it is possible for the homeowner to troubleshoot what the issues might be. Using a multimeter allows the homeowner to complete this do-it-yourself project. Wondering how to test an outlet with a multimeter? Turn off the power and use the black and red electrical probes to determine if the outlet wiring is good.

Let’s take a look below at some more details regarding a multimeter and how it is used.

What Is A Multimeter?

Digital multimeters are necessary to determine the voltage, current, and resistance within the electrical system. Additionally, it can be used to test the diodes and continuity of the electrical wiring. In most cases, the multimeter is easy to read, as it has a digital screen. These instruments are great for troubleshooting any electrical problems. Indentifying dead outlets, broken outlets, and loose connections is necessary to keep your home safe.

What Will It Tell Us?

Using a multimeter to test your outlet wiring will determine a few things. Let’s take a look below at what the multimeter will tell you.

  • Whether or not the wiring in the outlet has been done correctly. It can tell you if the outlet wiring is reversed.
  • Whether or not the outlet has the proper power getting to it.
  • Whether or not the outlet has been properly grounded.

Keep in mind that this information is achieved by measuring the voltage, ohms, and amps of the outlet wiring. If you can understand what the multimeter is telling you, then you will understand how the outlet is functioning. Knowing how the outlet is functioning determines if you need a replacement or additional repairs to the outlet.

Electrical outlet found in a home.

How Do I Test The Outlet?

Just like any project, there are recommended steps with regard to how to test your outlet with a multimeter. Let’s take a look below at the recommended steps to safely test your outlets with a multimeter.

  • Turn off the power – Flip the switch on the circuit breaker to shut down the electrical system.
  • Remove the cover plate – Now, take off the cover plate for the outlet. Do not touch the wires.
  • Use the multimeter – Take your multimeter and insert a probe to test the outlet for electrical continuity that goes between the hot and neutral wires. Since the power is off, the reading should be zero if the outlet is wired correctly.
  • Test again – Continue testing the wires for continuity by checking the ground wire and the hot wires. This reading will also be zero if the outlet is wired correctly.
  • Last test – Taking the same steps, test the ground wire and the neutral wire to ensure that they also are wired correctly.

Let’s review. There are digital and analog multimeters. Either type will have red lead and black lead. These two probes are attached to the multimeter to measure voltage, amps, and ohms. Set your multimeter to measure 110 to 120 volts. Also, choose the outlet slot to test by inserting the red lead into one slot and the black lead into the other slot. Consequently, holding both meter probes in place will provide you with a reading of 110 to 120 volts or zero if the power is off.

Other Recommended Maintenance

Now that you know how to test an outlet with a multimeter, you can read up on how to test a GFCI outlet. This is important as both types of outlets should be tested to ensure their safety.

Next, other areas that your multimeter can test are the amps in the outlet. Knowing how many amps the outlet is putting out allows you to determine if it is enough for the appliance that you are about to plug into that outlet. Also, before you plug in your new refrigerator, be sure to read up on how many amps a refrigerator uses. Knowing this allows you to determine if you need to upgrade the outlet that you are going to plug into.

Lastly, as you mess around with your electrical outlets to determine what is working and what isn’t, you might end up sending an electrical surge or tripping a breaker that will shut down your HVAC system. Consequently, if this occurs, it is possible that your Trane thermostat will need a reset. Make sure you read up on how to reset your Trane thermostat after any changes to your electrical system.

Always use an electrical contractor to assist with testing your electrical outlets.

When Do I Call A Professional?

Dealing with your electrical system and specifically the outlets that are connected to your system should be done by an electrician. Hiring a professional licensed electrician will save you time and money. Also, it will protect you and your family from electrocution or shock due to an electrical accident. Additionally, reach out to your local home inspection team. Before you go placing a multimeter into your outlets, the home inspection team can determine if this is safe to do. Also, they can determine how old your electrical system is and what materials were used. Consequently, they can also provide you with a reputable licensed electrician in your local area.


Understanding what it takes to work on your electrical system is key. You don’t want to put your family or your safety at risk. Also, you want to avoid an accidental electrical fire that could cost you your investment. Consequently, calling on a licensed electrician to test your electrical outlets with a multimeter is likely the best scenario. Also, be sure to reach out to your local home inspection team before attempting anything on your electrical system. Call on House Inspection Associates to conduct a full home inspection in the Virginia, D.C., and Maryland areas.

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