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Non-Contact Voltage Detector Uses and Buying Guide

Santronics Ultimate AC Voltage Detector

Hand Tools

Non-Contact Voltage Detector Uses and Buying Guide

Non-Contact Voltage Detector Uses and Buying Guide

A non-contact voltage detector is a simple, safe, and relatively affordable device to detect the presence of voltage.

This is one of the easiest tools to use. Simply touch a cord or insert the tip into an outlet. The tip of the detector will light up if power is present, while some models also have an audible alarm as a secondary indicator. These are very safe and useful tools to address any home electrical project.

Replacing or testing a switch or receptacle: I’ve been guilty of using a small appliance or portable fan as my power indicator to confirm that I’ve turned off the appropriate power breaker. Not 100% safe. These voltage detectors have a tip that fits inside the receptacle to properly detect power and are 100% safe.

Open ended wires: If you ever locate or discover open-ended wires, you want to know if power is present before addressing.

Power strip troubleshooting: A power strip may have one or more outlets that are not working. You can test if the power strip itself is receiving power or an individual outlet is not transferring power.

Broken wire: Go along a cord or wire path and see where the power is disrupted. When testing power cords keep in mind that the internal wires are wound together in a spiral. You may have to move the detector around or along the cord to find the live internal wire. Also, non-contact voltage detectors do have sensitivity variations between brands and models.

Spiral Wound Electrical Wires

Terms and Descriptions

Voltage Rating: Depending on the voltage range you want to detect, be sure to choose a detector or possibly multiple detectors that suit your needs. Some voltage detector models come with dual-range, so you can detect low and high voltage.

A typical single household circuit ranges from 110-240 VAC. The difference between a 600 or 1000 VAC detector will most likely not be an issue for homeowners. The high ratings are for professionals that want to read full voltage coming into circuit panels, etc. Again not something typical of a homeowner that is not experienced, trained, or properly licensed to work with.

Low voltage wires, e.g. thermostat or doorbell, are typically rated for 24 VAC and lower.

Automotive electrical systems range from 12-16 VDC.

CAT III: Refers to measurements on hard-wired equipment in fixed installations, distribution boards, and circuit breakers. Other examples are wiring, including cables, bus bars, junction boxes, switches, and socket outlets in the fixed installation.

CAT IV: Rated test instruments are designed for testing on the primary supply source, which also includes 120V or 240V overhead or underground lines that power detached buildings or underground lines that power well pumps. The CAT IV rating covers the highest and most dangerous level of transient over-voltage.

WARNING: Electrical Hazard. US household outlets range from 120-240VAC and can cause serious injury or death. Turn off power at the breaker panel when working. Contact a certified Electrician or HVAC tech if unsure of your DIY capabilities.

Comparison Guide

All non-contact voltage detectors have an LED indicator light and replaceable batteries.

Some models come equipped with an audible alarm as well, which may have a silence option.

Product availability and specs may change. Please check a manufacturers website for the latest information.
Manufacturer
& Model
Voltage
Range
CAT
Rating
Audible
Indicator
Work
Light
Power
Switch
Battery
Type
Extech DV40 + IR Thermometer 50 – 1000VAC CAT III – 1000V 3 x LR44
Extech 40130 100 – 600VAC CAT III – 600V 2 x AAA
Extech DV20 100 – 600VAC CAT III – 600V 2 x AAA
Extech DV24 50 – 1000VAC CAT IV – 1000V 2 x AAA
Extech DV25 Dual-Range 24 – 1000VAC CAT IV – 1000V 2 x AAA
Extech DV26 100 – 1000VAC CAT III – 1000VAC,
CAT IV – 600VAC
2 x AAA
Extech DV30 Adjustable Sensitivity 12 – 600VAC CAT III – 600V 4 x LR44
Extech DVA30 + Current 12 – 600VAC,
200mA to 1000A
CAT III – 600V 4 x LR44
Fluke 2AC VoltAlert™ 90 – 1000VAC CAT IV – 1000V 2 x AAA
Fluke 1AC-II A1 VoltAlert™ 90 – 1000VAC CAT IV – 1000V 2 x AAA
Fluke 1AC II A2 VoltAlert™ 90 – 1000VAC CAT IV – 1000V 2 x AAA
Fluke 1LAC II A VoltAlertT™ 20 – 90VAC CAT IV – 1000V 2 x AAA
Fluke 1AC II E1 VoltAlertT™ 200 – 1000VAC CAT IV – 1000V 2 x AAA
Fluke LVD2 Volt Light – Dual Sensitivity 90 – 600VAC CAT IV – 600V 1 x AAA
GreenLee GT-12A 50 – 1000VAC CAT IV – 1000V 2 x AAA
GreenLee TR-12A 50 – 1000VAC CAT IV – 1000V 2 x AAA
GreenLee GT-16 Adjustable 5 – 1000VAC CAT IV – 1000V 1 x AAA
Klein NCVT-1 50 – 1000VAC CAT IV – 1000V 2 x AAA
Klein NCVT-2 12 – 1000VAC CAT IV – 1000V 2 x AAA
Klein NCVT-3 w/ LED Bar Graph 12 – 1000VAC CAT IV – 1000V 2 x AAA
Milwaukee 2202-20 50 – 1000VAC CAT IV – 1000V 2 x AAA
Milwaukee 2200-20 50 – 1000VAC CAT IV – 1000V 2 x AAA
Milwaukee 2203-20 Dual-Range 10 – 49VAC,
50 – 1000VAC
CAT IV – 1000V 2 x AAA
Santronics Ultimate AC 50 – 1000VAC CAT IV – 1000V 2 x AAA
Santronics AC 50 – 1000VAC CAT IV – 1000V 2 x AAA
Santronics Low AC 24 – 90VAC CAT IV – 1000V 2 x AAA
Santronics DC 6 – 50VDC N/A
Sperry VD6504 50 – 1000VAC CAT III – 1000V,
CAT IV – 600V
1 x AAA
Sperry VD6505 – Adjustable 12 – 1000VAC CAT III – 1000V,
CAT IV – 600V
1 x AAA
Manufacturer
& Model
Voltage
Range
CAT
Rating
Audible
Indicator
Work
Light
Power
Switch
Battery
type

Non-contact voltage detectors comparison guide

Final Thoughts

Please view all the brands and models we put together in the buying guide to learn the features and what may work best for your needs. We personally tested and compared a few brands, including: Milwaukee, Klein, Santronics, Fluke, and there were notable differences.

  • Each varied on the audible sound levels. I would like to see manufacturers list this in their specs as it is important to some) and frequency of the beep, which could get annoying or welcomed, depending on the person.
  • Some models have no work light, while the Milwaukee units have a very bright light.
  • Static electricity is read by all the units, however will only causes flashes of light and single chirps instead of steady light and steady audible alarms for true voltage. The Santronics is the only brand without an audible off switch, but doesn’t create an audible sound for static electricity, which is a nice feature.
  • We found brands like Milwaukee, Klein, and Fluke are very sensitive. The Santronics had to be much closer, if not touching a wire that was open or has sheathing, before the indicators would activate. Though all brands and models tested had to make contact with the exterior of a cord before detecting voltage.

Note: A response from the Santronic said, “Our voltage testers are manufactured, printed, and packaged in the US.”

All products listed in this buying guide were chosen by DIY House Help based on independent research and analysis performed by our editors. However, not all products listed in this buying guide have been purchased and independently tested by our staff. When a retailer is listed, this is purely a suggestion for the convenience of our readers, but we are not obligated to endorse specific retailers. However, some of the links we provide throughout the site may earn us an affiliate commission when you decide to purchase.
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