Voltage detector/ touching receptacle plates

I did an electrical only home inspection, I started at the main panel
and worked my way to the inside of the house…I used my Ideal Sure Test
Arc tester for the 3 prong receptacles…everything tested ok, the meter
gave me the correct wiring lights.

I touched my voltage detector on receptacle covers, on some it went off.
Is that just the sensitivity of the meter ? Nobody in the house said they
got shocked on turning on switches or plugging in devices

Nachi Member

Were they plastic covers?

yes, they were plastic

I use 50v+ voltage detectors. Many sparkies say this is wrong, since it’s too sensitive. Sometimes they are right, especially testing which traveler is hot.

The point? I use a CONTACT voltage tester, like 2 bucks at HD. It’s a small screwdriver with button batteries and a neon bulb. I use use it (one handed) in panels to check if a breaker is truely off/open before pulling wires. (heard stores about broken breakers). If curious about metal parts(mounting screws,etc) you can tap them with this.

I can’t find the one I use, but found this example: http://www.smarthome.com/90504.html


Ive got several tickers, one is a Greenlee that is very sensitive. I can set it off with just my finger and static elec. I also have a couple of GB tickers that are not so sensitive, costs only about $10. All else fails use a multi-meter on those plates that are questionable.

The mounting screws for the cover go into the switch (or outlet) metal frame which is part of the ground path. I’m not surprised that your non-contact went off in some cases.

In some of the old 2-prong outlets, you can check to see if the outlet is still grounded by checking if there is a voltage drop between the hot lead and the center screw.


I’m assuming that the handle is insultated, so if that “screw driver” tip actually comes in contact with the live wire you’re not getting a shock?

It seems kind of counter intuitive to stick a screw driver into an outlet. :wink:

The handle is insulated(just because it’s plastic) but the metal clip isn’t. For it to work, you need to hold it touching the metal clip to provide a potential difference.

I could sell you my highly technical paperclip voltage detector, for say $20? :wink:


P.S. For sparkies, the tiny screwdriver of this contact voltage detector works well for disengage backstabbed devices. So no more awl in the hand problems. :smiley:

Don’t you have to lick your fingers first when using the paperclip devices to get “conclusive” indications?:wink:

Careful, my trade secrets are PATIENTED!

I hear the NACHI ticker is pretty good…it wont go OFF unless it is truly current…now who do I know that sells those little things…hmmmmm