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Electrical Tools Buying Guide

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Always turn off the electricity before working on switches or receptacles.
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Most electrical wiring jobs are relatively easy to handle, using just a few inexpensive tools.

If you have the skills and interest in doing your own electrical repairs, here are the tools you’ll need for most any job:

Non-Contact Voltage Tester

A non-contact voltage tester allows you to determine whether wires or electrical devices are electrically charged—without having to open up or disconnect wires. The type shown is designed to detect standard voltage in electrical cables, cords, lighting fixtures, switches, outlets, circuit breakers, and wires. It will also detect an electrical charge in low voltage equipment such as security, communications, entertainment, and garden irrigation systems. Browse voltage testers on Amazon.

non-contact-voltage-tester-klein-toolsKlein Tools

Non-contact voltage tester checks for both low- and standard-voltage electrical charge.

Electrical Outlet Tester

Simple and inexpensive, an electrical outlet tester just plugs into a conventional outlet to tell you whether the circuit is “hot” (charged) and properly grounded.

electrical-outlet-testerSperry

Electrical outlet tester simply plugs into an electrical receptacle to tell you if it’s live.

Continuity Tester

A small, battery-operated continuity tester costs less than $10. It can be used to determine whether wiring is broken or electrical circuits are complete. You can buy a continuity tester on Amazon.

continuity testerPerformance Tool

Inexpensive continuity tester quickly lets you know if a wire is broken or disconnected.

Lineman’s Pliers

A pair of lineman’s pliers is the best tool to use for cutting heavy wire or cable and twisting wire ends together. To twist two wires together, hold them side by side with one hand, their stripped ends aligned, and point the blunt end of the pliers in line with them, clamp down, and twist in a clockwise direction.

Lineman's pliersIrwin

Lineman’s pliers are excellent for cutting cables and wires and twisting wire ends.

Long-Nose Pliers

Long-nose pliers are great for bending small loops at wire ends or for cutting off wires (most include a wire-cutting section). Use the pointed end of the pliers to form a smooth, 3/4 circle at a wire’s end, designed to circle around a screw terminal (always hook the wire onto the terminal with the end of the bend sweeping clockwise from the wire).

Long-nose pliers get into tight places and help with wire connections.

Multimeter

You’ll want to have a multimeter on hand for making a variety of continuity checks, checking voltage, and other similar tasks. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for a thorough understanding of techniques. Multimeters, which do the job of ohm meters, volt meters, and related tools, are sold at consumer-electronics stores for under $20. You can buy a multimeter here.

MultimeterInnova

Multimeter helps with all types of electrical troubleshooting.

Electrican’s Screwdrivers

You’ll want an assortment of electrician’s screwdrivers with insulated rubber grips. Be sure to get both flat-bladed and Phillips-head drivers.

electrician screwdriversTitan

Screwdrivers with rubber grips help protect you from shocks when working with electricity.

Wire Stripper

Most electrical wires run inside a sheath of insulation—a plastic, rubber, or paper coating that prevents bare conductors from shorting against each other or shocking you. When splicing wires or connecting them to devices, you must remove the insulation, a relatively simple job when you have an inexpensive wire stripper. The stripper should be set so that it cuts the insulation but doesn’t nick the wire (use the slot that matches the wire conductor’s size).

wire stripperIrwin

Wire stripper makes quick work of removing insulation and clipping wires.

About Don Vandervort
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Don Vandervort has developed his expertise for more than 30 years, as Building Editor for Sunset Books, Senior Editor at Home Magazine, author of more than 30 home improvement books, and writer of countless magazine articles. He appeared for 3 seasons on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert for several years. Don founded HomeTips in 1996.

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