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ProGrade, Certified Electrical Contractor
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 393
Experience:  28+ years exp. - installation, troubleshooting, & repair of commercial, & residential electrical systems.
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How to tell if a outlet is powered?

Customer Question

How to tell if a outlet is powered?
Submitted: 1 month ago.
Category: Electrical
Expert:  ProGrade replied 1 month ago.

Hi Steve, welcome to

The safe method is with an electrical test meter. Without a meter, it is possible to have power on the hot line and a bad neutral so if you plug a load into it the load would not work. However under these circumstances the outlet would still be electrically hot and dangerous.

Even a neon 3-prong outlet tester is better than not testing at all. A test meter is the preferred method.

Let me know if you have any other questions, thank you

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
I don't have a tester. Can a put a screw driver on the hot wire?
Expert:  ProGrade replied 1 month ago.

I do not recommend that unless you know the circuit is off. What are you trying to do?

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
I'm trying to replace a bad GFI outlet. The red light is on and does not work. The tester switch is broken and stuck. The external outlet is is on the same 2 X 4 beam that the adjoining bedroom receptacle is on. I have the breaker off that controls the bedroom circuit breaker and it does not work now
Expert:  ProGrade replied 1 month ago.

OK, if the red light on the GFI went off when you turned the breaker off, the circuit is dead and safe to work on.

Be certain not to get wires mixed up.

Let me know if you have any other questions

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
I thought the red light came on because there was a problem with the receptacle. When the outlet is working properly, is the light on or off? Are you saying that if the outlet is unpowered, the light will go out?
Expert:  ProGrade replied 1 month ago.

That is correct, if the red light is on when power is applied it should go off if you turn the breaker off.

It's difficult to tell how the light works...with some manufacturers the light remains on, with others the light only comes on if there is an issue or if the outlet is tripped

Expert:  ProGrade replied 1 month ago.

If there is any doubt about having the correct breaker off turn the main breaker off to ensure safety

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Expert:  ProGrade replied 1 month ago.

It is very important that you get the wiring right the first time. Since you do not have a meter, there isn't a way to troubleshoot it if it is not correct. Remove one wire at a time and place it in the proper terminal on the new device will help

Expert:  ProGrade replied 1 month ago.

Just checking in Steve, how did it go?

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