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Tips For Testing Your Wiring For Damage

by Sylvia Miller

If you've got a short in your household wiring, it's going to interrupt the electricity flow to the appliance or outlet that the damaged wires are connected to. Wire damage and shorts can occur for many reasons, even in new wiring. Wires could have been damaged at the factory or broken due to poor handling by the retailer. Existing wiring is vulnerable to shorts and damage from rodents and other hazards. Before you install any new wiring or add any outlets to your house, you'll want to test the wiring to be sure that there are no shorts. Here are some tips to help you do it safely.

Testing New Wires

Before you install new wiring in your house, you can save yourself a lot of potential frustration and problems by testing the wires before the installation. This will help to ensure that your wiring wasn't damaged in manufacturing or during shipping. You'll need a multimeter to do this.

Set the multimeter to the ohms measurements. Turn the calibration dial until the display shows zero. Touch one of the leads to each end of the wiring. Make sure the leads touch bare wire. If no wire is exposed, push the tip of the lead into the open end of the insulation until it touches wire. Make sure you don't touch the leads with your bare hands, though.

Once the leads are both contacting bare wire, check the resistance reading on the multimeter. It should show a positive reading. If it's showing an infinite reading, that indicates a short in the wiring somewhere. You'll need to swap the wire out before you do the installation.

Testing Existing Wires

Testing the existing wiring is important if you suspect that your wires have been chewed, cut or otherwise damaged. Set your multimeter to AC volts. That's the reading you'll need for household electrical wiring. Put your voltage range setting on the 120 volt option for household current.

Pull the electrical outlet from the wall by removing the face plate from the receptacle. That exposes the entire unit behind it, making it easier to pull it forward out of the wall. Be careful not to pull too far, though, or you might pull the wires out.

Connect the black lead on the multimeter to the round port used for the ground on the receptacle. Place the red lead on the hot port on the same receptacle. It's usually the smaller port, making it easy to identify. Make sure both leads are physically touching the metal contacts of each port.

The multimeter should show you a voltage reading. If it doesn't, that means you've got a break in the wire somewhere. You'll have to trace the wire back from the outlet to its source to find the break.

It's often easiest to work with a licensed electrician to find the source of the damage or to install new wiring. Talk with a local electrician like one from Meserve Electric about your project today.