Your old electrical wiring

I just finished reading “Your Old Wiring,” by David Shapiro, a master electrician. It was an excellent book. Reading about electricity normally puts me to sleep even faster than Ms Margarita and Dr Cuervo’s magic elixir :margarit: (Sorry, Paul and Joe.). This book, however, held me spell-bound like only Stephen King, Dennis Lahane, and Dan Brown have been able to do of late.

I specifically found Shapiro’s opinions and recommendations based on his own experience to be refreshing. The book is very much written in the first person and is extraordinary in discussing electricity while emphasizing safety, safety, safety. Here’s three snippets that I found interesting (good thing I have VRS):


and this one, really important:

Are you saying “WE” put you to sleep RRAY…well you OBVIOUSLY have not attended one of my classes…lol…guess you are TOO far away to attend…lol…

Anyway…I don’t agree on the Tickers…I find them a VERY nice addition to the HI’s bag…I have never run into a situation were as the HI side of me pops out…the ticker does what it is intended to do…give notice of voltage present…nothing more…nothing less…

anyway…I dont want to BORE you with my banter…thehehe…but I disagree with the TICKER comment…the man OBVIOULSY had a few of those margarita’s while typing the document…:slight_smile:

I should also say that the book was published in 2001. Perhaps an additional five years of technology has resulted in better tic tracers?

Naw…he was still drinkin the margarita’s heavy when it was written…:)…don’t bail him out now Certified Master MD…:slight_smile:

Russel, I have used tic tracers (non contact voltage tester) for at least 15 years. They are VERY useful as long as you don’t expect more from them than they can deliver. It tells you if a potential exists but that’s all. It is a safety instrument that can inform the user of “live” wires. What concerns do you or the author have?

I have a Greenlee tic but I would probably be dead if I really trusted it. I have had hot wires it didn’t “see”. I always like to test something that I know is hot, then the one in question and back again before I trust it and I will still short a wire to the box before I grab it.

lol…lets not get carried away now…lol…Nothing is going to take place of a GOOD Volt Meter…lol…but a ticker has it’s place…lol…where do I use my ticker the most when i do use it…

1.) Nice to check polarity on old 2 prong sockets
2.) Nice to check wires in an attic or crawl that seem to just end NO WHERE and you want to see if they are live…works fine for that…
3.) Nice to use when touching the outside metal of an old fixture to see if quite possibly the old frayed wire is touching the case…since no ground is present…it can become energized…see that a few times…
4.) Nice to touch against a metal enclosure just in case…versus using your hand ( backside of it if you DO )

But…Put my First Born or Only Born up against it 100% of the time…nope …lol…not that comfortable with it…but since I am not DRINKING to day and was last night…yeah I got that same pair of kleins with the NOTCH in them…lol…

I use a tick tracer, most times I confirm it is working by using it on wires I know to be live.

Circuit tester I have found to be pretty much accurate as well.

Guess I am an idiot bugeye!

Then only problem I have with the circuit testers that we use is that you can fool them. If you take a 2 wire circuit and bootleg the ground to the box it will fool the average circuit tester, that being the $10.00 variety.
The more expensive ones, I don’t know.

Ahh…Larry we are taking about a non-contact ticker and not a voltage plug in tester…;)…No tricking involved in a non-contact…it only does one thing…detect voltage usually in a rather wide range.

I am wondering if the author is referring to the cheap $4 receptacle tester instead of the SureTest or other upscaled testers. If so then I agree. I have personally found his statements to be true concerning it telling only part of the story or telling it incorrectly. I have thrown away all my old $4 testers years ago. As someone alluded to, they are ALL only tools with some limitations and should be used only for the purposes intended. I carry two different tic tracers, one is significantly more sensitive than the other. (the greenlee is the most sensitive one I have) the other is a GB. I use them a lot especially in attics and crawlspaces when I run upon a loose and/or dangling conductor. Find that most are in fact “hot” and left to bite unsuspecting repairman.
Many times (years ago) the cheap receptacle tester would indicate everything was “hunky-dorrie” when the better tester would find improper or unsafe wiring. That’s my story and Im sticking to it.

Any plug in tester can be tricked, even in a fatal way. It can only report what it sees and it only sees what in in that receptacle. We have talked here a number of times about the bootleg ground coupled with a polarity reversal. The $300 Suretest will lie as well as the $4 Kmart special unless you are actually in the box with the neutral/ground connection. If someone is extending 2 wire Romex or K&T and you don’t actually test the box they hit, everything else will test OK.

Without removing the receptacle from the box there is nothing that a receptacle tester won’t tell you that a VOM will and try to trip a GFCI with a VOM.

The way I test my non-contact tester is to rub it across my shirt. The static electricity will light it up (I don’t like the ones that beep, people seem to think it’s their phone ringing).

There is nothing a plug in tester will tell you that a wiggy won’t, and a wiggy will trip a GFCI just fine. Plus it will work in a lamp socket.

And the proximity tester is great to use in conjunction with a voltage tester. Don’t forget, if the neutral/ground is lost a voltage tester will indicate zero but a proximity tester will still light up.


When I do a class my main concern for the HI’s is exactly what you stated in your last line, a proximity tester will still light up.

While I do not think HI’s need to invest in a “Wiggy” however I am not giving MINE away…lol…they in my opinion are better served investing in a good quality device like a SureTest.

While all things can be fooled ( Ask the IRS ) my main concept for a "Ticker" is to detect ANY voltage that the HI may come in contact with....examples....

Going into a crawl with wires hanging…be careful and make sure you check them…ticker is fine for this…if you are inspecting and metal DUCT is also all over the place…check the duct with the ticker…if you are working in a old house with 2 prong plugs…want a quick check for polarity…the ticker can do that fine…obviously no GROUND is present anyway so the Suretest is useless in some areas in regards to that…

I guess I am just spoiled, I have a nice digital volt meter, a standard wiggy, a SureTest and well…many other little gadgits…but I like my ticker…

Was doing a service call the other day on an OLD house…old metal ceiling lights…long been destroyed…my helper was going up the METAL ladder to replace the fixture…he touched the base and got shocked…I heard him and walked in…stuck my trusty TICKER up to the light housing and sure enough…voltage on the metal housing…he could have SAVED himself a pair of underwear if he got a ticker…for $ 15.00 dollars…just a nice little thing to have…dont bet the FARM on it…but it is reliable enough for basic use.

Oh, Paul, I was liking your post until I got to this part:

I’m not sure I want to trust something that is “reliable enough.” That sounds like one’s playing with the odds. I want something that is reliable, like Ms Margarita and Dr Cuervo. Now they are reliable! :slight_smile:

lol…reliable enough to say in 100 our of 100 of MY tests ( I am not a approved testing lab disclaimer ) that my ticker detects normal nominal voltage when touched to a known LIVE wire…reliable enough for me.