Worried About Electrical Shorts? Tips For Testing Your Wiring

A short in a household electrical wire will interrupt the flow of power to the outlet or appliance attached to the damaged wire. Damage can occur in many different ways. The wire may be broken at the factory, or it could have broken due to poor handling before you bought it. In other cases, damage occurs after you've had it installed for some time, most often due to rodents or other issues. If you're having trouble with your home's wiring or power supplies, it may be due to a short in the wiring. Here's a look at the steps you should take to do so safely.

Testing Existing Outlets

  1. Invest in a multimeter from your local hardware store or electrical supply provider. This will allow you to evaluate the current.
  2. Set the multimeter to the AC volt setting, as that's what's needed for household electrical currents. Put the voltage range setting at 120 volts for household voltage.
  3. Remove your electrical outlet receptacle from the wall by pulling the face plate off the receptacle and then pulling it slightly forward. Then, touch the black multimeter lead to the round ground port on the receptacle.
  4. Touch the red lead on the multimeter to the hot port on the receptacle. If you can't tell which port is which, the smaller port is usually the hot port on an outlet. Make sure the leads are touching the metal contacts in the receptacle ports.
  5. Check the reading on the multimeter. If it's showing no voltage, that's an indication that there's a short in the wiring before the receptacle.

Testing New Wiring

  1. Before installing new wiring in your house, make sure the wires weren't damaged in production or shipping. Set your multimeter to ohms, then turn the calibration dial until the display is zero.
  2. Touch one lead to each end of the wire. If there isn't any exposed wire, push the tip of the lead into the wire insulation so that you make contact with the wiring itself. Don't touch the leads with your hands, though.
  3. Check the resistance on the meter. If it shows a positive reading, that's a sign that the wire is fine for use. If it's an infinite reading, that means there's a short in that wire.

If you're not comfortable testing the wiring on your own or doing any of the necessary electrical work in your home, talk with a residential electrician for support. He or she can help you determine which wires may be damaged, if any.