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Discover Some Electrical Repair Tips From Our Certified Electrician!

2) How do I check to see if a plug or switch is receiving power?  


It’s difficult to determine whether  a specific piece of electrical equipment has failed, or if there’s a problem with the actual  electrical  system itself.  While the best option is to always call a professional electrician to help troubleshoot your system, you can also troubleshoot the circuitry yourself.


If you are questioning whether a 110v  plug is functioning properly or not,  the best tool to use is a basic “plug tester”. It can be purchased at your local hardware store for about $20. These testers indicate the current state of the wiring method for a 110v receptacle , also commonly referred to as a “plug”.  If you have a loose, (or open),  grounded (neutral) or ungrounded (hot) conductor  - it will indicate as such. You will quickly know if a receptacle is wired correctly without ever needing to opening the receptacle’s box.


You will also need to purchase a voltage tester to determine whether the circuit itself is closed (receiving power) or open (not receiving power). To test for voltage, place each lead of the voltage tester into one of the three entrance holes of the receptacle. If the receptacle is a 110v, the tester should read 110v when both ends of the leads are placed in the varying elongated holes. The circular hole is the ground, and the two long slat holes represent the common conductors (neutral) and uncommonconductors (hot).  The longest slat is the neutral and the shorter slat is the  hot.  The  tester should read 110v between the hot to neutral, hot to ground, and neutral to ground.


If any of these combinations reads much less than 110v-120v, then further troubleshooting should be done to determine if there is a voltage leak (**is this a common term - voltage leak?**) in your system. It could be as simple as a faulty plug, or as indepth as a damaged transformer from your power company, or a damaged conductor sheath. If voltage is higher than 125v, immediate attention should be given to discover the cause of voltage increase. This is a less common problem and usually stems from one of two things. Either the power company is having issues with their equipment, or somehow, two hot conductors are completing a circuit (a completed path of travel for currency from the main service panel, back to the panel itself), rather than a hot and a neutral.


If your receptacle is a 240v plug (consisting of two uncommon conductors from the same panel), then you will  want two hot conductors landed on the terminal leads (point of termination) indicated as the proper terminals. There are many types of  240v receptacle configurations. Some have as few as three connections, while others have as many as four connections. It all depends on what type of equipment you are powering. A circuit can actually be completed with two ungrounded (or hot) conductors. The alternating current will complete a path of travel by returning on another leg (phase) of power originating from the same source. These sine waves (alternating current flow) also have an effect on the polarity (direction/timing of a sine waves travel) of system.  A 240v receptacle with three wire openings simply indicates that there are two hots and a ground. You will normally find these type of plugs used for motors.


***This is beginning to be a long answer to a short question.  Your purpose, I think, is to educate and incentivize to have them hire you. - just an observation. nothing needed to change.***  


Motors generally do not use neutral conductors. A 240v plug with four wires indicates that there are two hots, neutral, and a ground. This type of configuration is usually used for equipment that may have a motor, but may also have components that require a neutral. All of these receptacles can be tested by using a voltage tester to determine if power is  being received. The voltage between the two hots should register between 220v-240v. All other options should read 115v-120v. Once again, if the voltage is higher or lower than the range of 215v-245v between the hots, or 110v-125v between the neutral/hot/ground, immediate attention should be given to determining the cause of voltage loss or gain.


Determining if a switch has lost power requires more technical knowledge and should be done by a professional. If a problem requires you to actually open an electrical box or panel, a licensed electrician should always be used. To test a switch for voltage, you must first take the switch plate cover (cover that surrounds a switch) off. On a standard switch there should be two brass screws on the left side of the device, and one green screw on the bottom of the device. These two brass screws simply are braking the hot conductor (stopping). You’ll notice, there is NO NEUTRAL. The neutral is usually tucked away in the back of the box. NEVER TERMINATE A NEUTRAL CONDUCTOR TO A SWITCH! This will result in a direct short (a new path of travel competes to complete the natrual/intended  path of a currents travel, ending in an electrical power failure). You will cause the system to “buck phases” ( two current carrying conductors colliding)if you do. Remember,a switch is simply braking a hot. It prohibits  or permits electricity from traveling to a device.


Traveling conductors are often referred to as a “switch leg” or “traveler”. In a new construction (in the process of erection)*** not sure about this wording*** setting, where the wires have already been pulled (installed), but the switch has not yet been mounted, the switch leg is usually marked by being curled at the end of the cable.  ***you may consider shortening this sentence*** Often the white conductor will be used as the traveler, but make no mistake, it is NOT a neutral. It is simply carrying the power to the device being switched. If there are two,or more, white conductors in a switch box, make sure your are wiring the switch leg to the switch, and not the neutral.


If you are  simply testing for the voltage at a switch that has already been installed, then you should be able to touch both leads (metal points) of your voltage tester to the two brass screws on the side of the switch, simultaneously. Your voltage tester will indicate whether you are receiving power or not. Next, place one lead on the grounding conductor (ground), and then test it against both brass screws in  succession of each other. It is always best practice to test all voltages against the ground. This ensures that you have not lost connection to the ground.