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How to Test Wall Outlet with Multimeter (5 Easy Steps)

Wall outlets can face several different issues during their lifetime. These issues might occur because of the bad wiring process. For instance, wall outlets might not get power. Or the outlet’s ground connection can be incorrect. Or you might be using a reversed-wired wall outlet.

Whatever the issue, you can identify them all just by using a digital multimeter.

In general, to test a wall outlet with a multimeter:

  • Understand the three slots on the outlet.
  • Set the multimeter to AC Volts settings.
  • Check the main electrical panel.
  • Carry out the voltage tests.
  • Check for reversed wiring.

Find out more about this topic from the below article.

5 Easy Steps for Testing Wall Outlet with Multimeter

Step 1 – Understand the 3 Outlet Slots

outlet's neutral, hot, and ground wire placement
Video | AMRE Supply

Before starting the actual testing process, understanding the basics of the wall outlet is crucial.

First, take a good look at the wall outlet. Most wall outlets have three different slots. These three slots represent the outlet’s hot, neutral, and ground connection.

But which one is which?

Identifying the three slots is not difficult. Just examine the above image and read the below bullet points.

  • The small slots located on the right side of the above image are the hot wire connection.
  • The large slots on the left represent the neutral connection.
  • The bottom slot is for ground connection.

Step 2 – Set the Multimeter

setting up the multimeter before testing a wall outlet
Video | AMRE Supply

In this demonstration, you are testing three different voltages.

Set the digital multimeter to AC Volts settings.

Here are a few simple steps.

  1. Turn the dial to the AC Volts markings.
  2. Connect the black probe to the COM port.
  3. Connect the red probe to the VΩ port.
  4. Switch on the multimeter.

Step 3 – Check the Main Panel

After setting up the multimeter, go to your main electrical panel and check the main breaker. The main breaker and the outlet’s circuit breaker should be turned ON. Otherwise, the outlet will not get power to it. And the whole testing process will be useless.

Step 4 – Carry Out the Voltage Test

Hot and Neutral Testing

11.83 reading on the multimeter during an wall outlet testing
Video | AMRE Supply

First, insert the black probe into the large outlet slot. Then insert the red probe into the small outlet slot. Now check the multimeter reading. If the outlet works properly, the multimeter should display a reading of 110-120V. If not, the outlet is not working properly.

Safety Tips

Tip 1. Remember to hold the two probes from the insulated handles. It will reduce the risk of you being electrocuted.

Tip 2. Always insert the black probe first. If you insert the red probe first, the black probe will get energized, and it could be an invitation for an electric shock.

Hot and Ground Testing

Now test the hot and ground connection. First, insert the black probe into the ground slot (bottom one). Then, insert the red probe into the vertical slit slot. The multimeter should display a reading between 110V and 120V.

Step 5 – Check the Outlet for Reversed Wiring

Apart from the above two tests, you can carry out one more voltage test for your wall outlet. This test will tell you whether your outlet is running on reversed wiring.

Neutral and Ground Testing

0.1 reading on multimeter when testing a wall outlet
Video | AMRE Supply

First, insert the black probe into the large outlet slot. Then, insert the red probe into the ground slot. The multimeter shouldn’t display any significant reading.

However, the outlet wiring is reversed if the multimeter shows a 110-120V reading.

Video References

AMRE Supply

Homebuyer’s School

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About Alex Robertson

AvatarCertifications: B.M.E.
Education: University Of Denver - Mechanical Engineering
Lives In: Denver Colorado

Hi, I’m Alex! I’m a co-founder, content strategist, and writer and a close friend of our co-owner, Sam Orlovsky. I received my Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering (B.M.E.) degree from Denver, where we studied together. My passion for technical and creative writing has led me to help Sam with this project.

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