The Best Non-Contact Voltage Tester (2022)

The research

  • Why you should trust us
  • Who this is for
  • How we picked and tested
  • Our pick: Klein NCVT-3
  • Flaws but not dealbreakers
  • Runner-up: Milwaukee 2203-20 Voltage Detector with LED
  • The competition
  • Footnotes

Why you should trust us

I’ve been writing about and reviewing tools since 2007, with articles appearing in Fine Homebuilding, This Old House, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, and Tools of the Trade. I also spent 10 years in the trades as a carpenter, foreman, and job site supervisor working on multimillion-dollar residential projects. In 2011, I also gutted my 100-year-old farmhouse, which required a whole new electrical system.

For more information on non-contact voltage testers, I spoke with someone who uses them every day: Mark Tierney of Tierney Electrical out of Hopkinton, Massachusetts. Tierney has 20 years of experience and has run his own company since 2010.

Who this is for

A non-contact voltage tester detects electricity in a wire or outlet, just by getting near it.1 It is the size and shape of a fat Sharpie and the detection occurs at the probe tip, which, in many cases, is designed to be pushed into an outlet. Because electrical shocks are unpleasant at best and extremely harmful at worst, this tool is useful for even the lightest electrical work, like troubleshooting a thermostat or installing a dimmer switch.

Obviously, it’s a good tool for the DIY electrician, but even someone with zero electrical inclination can benefit from owning one. I commonly use one as the first stage of troubleshooting before calling a professional electrician.

A non-contact tester can also help map out your existing electrical system. I have yet to live in a house that has had anything close to a properly labeled panel, and if you have an old house or apartment, there is a strong chance that your electrical panel is mislabeled as well. It’s a time-consuming process to sort this out, but it’s possible. Shut down all of the breakers but one, then go around the house checking to see what’s live. Once you figure that out, label the breaker, and move on to the next one.

How we picked and tested

Most non-contact testers register only standard voltage. After reading what we could on the subject, we decided that a dual-range voltage tester would be better for the home toolbox. It still works the same for standard voltage, and there is the added benefit of low-voltage detection, which is useful for doorbells, thermostats, some AV equipment, irrigation, and some landscape lighting. Both dual- and single-voltage models fall primarily in the $15 to $25 range, so a dual-range unit makes sense as a one-stop tool for the non-specialist; it’s better to have the capability and not use it, than to need it and not have it.

(Video) Top 6 Best Non Contact Voltage Testers Review in 2022 - Which One Should You Buy?

The Best Non-Contact Voltage Tester (1)

In deciding which models to test, we researched units at Amazon, Home Depot, and Lowes. We also keyed in on reputable manufacturers of electrical tools. From that, we narrowed our list down to seven.

We ran a few tests to determine the overall usefulness and sensitivity of each tester. First, I shut off a single breaker at my electrical box and tried to discover which of the 35 wires coming out of it was the dead one. After that, I took a dead wire and saw how close I could get the tool to a live wire and still have the tester read negative. In addition to those structured tests, I used the testers as I wired some outlets, and installed some dimmer switches, a cooktop, a ceiling fan, and a few pendant lights.

Our pick: Klein NCVT-3

Our pick

Klein NCVT-3

The Klein detects standard and low voltage and is equipped with a handy flashlight—a nice touch for a tool you may need when the lights go out.

Buying Options

$49* from Amazon
Buy from Home Depot

May be out of stock

*At the time of publishing, the price was $24.

After researching the topic, talking to an electrician, and spending hours testing seven leading models, we recommend the Klein NCVT-3. The NCVT-3 has a very intuitive indicator light, a nice on/off button, and an onboard LED that works like a little flashlight. This is a great feature, seeing as the lights may not be working too well when you’re checking wires for voltage. It is also compatible with tamper-resistant outlets, now required by code. The NCVT-3 has a battery life indicator and a durable body that protects its sensitive electronics from a fall of up to 6½ feet.

(Video) Comparing popular NCVT's on Wet Romex

Most of all, the NCVT-3 is very easy to use. It’s a dual-range unit, so it can detect standard voltage (outlets, regular wiring) as well as low voltage (doorbells, thermostats, irrigation wiring). Most testers detect only standard voltage. Unlike most other dual-range models, it switches between the ranges automatically without the use of a fussy sensitivity dial. An LED bar graph at the side of the tool indicates which voltage you’re dealing with. A low voltage detection lights up the lower two orange lights and standard voltage lights up one or more of the upper three red lights. Many companies sell separate high- and low-voltage detectors, but for the non-specialist, it makes sense to have them in a single tool, particularly if it works as easily as the Klein.

The LED flashlight is a high point of the NCVT-3. In my own basement, the wires are stapled to the ceiling above the fluorescent lights, so even with the lights on, it’s hard to work with the wires. Of the two models with an onboard flashlight, the NCVT-3’s is the only one that can be operated independently from the testing function, which is really nice. When the tester is activated, a series of beeps and blinking lights occur and it’s nice to be able to sidestep that if you’re just trying to use the flashlight. Our runner-up selection, the Milwaukee 2203-20 Voltage Detector with LED also has a flashlight function, but it comes on only when the tester is activated, so no matter what, you have to listen to the beeps and there is no way to shut the flashlight off, even if you’re working in a well-lit room. The NCVT-3 LED is also brighter than the Milwaukee.

The Best Non-Contact Voltage Tester (3)

The NCVT-3 also has a very durable feel to it. According to the manufacturer, it can withstand a fall of 6½ feet, so if you get a case of the dropsies, this model will give you a shot at survival. In addition, the buttons are all sealed and the cap of the battery compartment is gasketed, so the NCVT-3 can handle a little rain and dampness. Klein has a video of the tool where it looks like it’s under a steadily dripping faucet.

When we asked electrician Mark Tierney if there were any manufacturers he would recommend to a homeowner, he told us that the “the one that has been the most reliable is the Klein.” He also likes the models that come with the LEDs, saying that for a homeowner, “they would get two great features in one tool.”

For battery life, Klein says that the two AAA batteries will provide 15 hours of continuous tester use and six hours of continuous flashlight use. This is plenty for the occasional user, and like we said, it’s nice that there is a battery indicator light, so that you’ll know when it is getting low.

And we’re not the only ones that like the NCVT-3. Clint DeBoer, writing at ProToolReviews, says that the tool “is as close to a no-brainer as you can get if you even occasionally do electrical work.” He concludes his review with, “This is a well-designed tool that does what it’s supposed to and does it well. Pick one up. You won’t regret it.”

The NCVT-3 also gets generally positive owner reviews at Amazon and Home Depot. Most of the negatives at Amazon are from people who like the tool but are disappointed that it cannot be inserted into an outlet. As we described above, this is not an issue because it can still detect the current, only displaying it as low voltage (and making it compatible with code-required tamper-resistant outlets). To truly confirm standard voltage on an outlet, it’s easy enough to unscrew the cover plate and place the tip of the tool at the side of the outlet where the wires are.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

The NCVT-3 is unique because it cannot be inserted into an outlet. At first glance, this may seem like a problem, seeing as most other non-contact testers read power from an outlet only by being inserted into one of the openings. The reality is that because it can read low voltage, the NCVT-3 can still pick up the current from the outside of the outlet, which is essential when dealing with the tamper-resistant outletsnow required by electrical code. To insert a plug in one of these outlets requires equal pressure on both prong openings (it’s a safety issue for children). With these outlets, a traditional non-contact voltage tester doesn’t always work because it can read only standard voltage. As Bruce Kuhn, Klein’s director of product development, test and measurements products, told us, “If you make a tester like this sensitive enough to detect voltage on the ‘outside’ of a tamper-resistant outlet, it will be too sensitive in a crowded electrical box that contains several hot wires.”2 Because the NCVT-3 is designed to detect standard and low voltage, it picks up the standard voltage when placed at the openings of a live tamper-resistant outlet, but from a distance, displaying it as low voltage, still confirming that the outlet is live.

The NCVT-3 has the control buttons on the side, which is something Tierney told us to watch for. He warned that models with a side button easily turn on when they’re in a pocket, which is not only annoying, but also speeds up battery drain. One redeeming difference with the NCVT-3 is that the buttons are flush with the surface; most buttons like this stick out from the side of the tool and it’s easy for them to accidentally be activated. I spent a day with the NCVT-3 in my pocket, and it didn’t turn on once.

(Video) Best Non Contact Voltage Tester 2022

The Best Non-Contact Voltage Tester (4)

The NCVT-3 also has no mute option, but it’s quieter than other testers we looked at.

Runner-up: Milwaukee 2203-20 Voltage Detector with LED

Also great

Milwaukee 2203-20 10-1000V Dual Range Voltage Detector

Runner-up

This dual-voltage tester is similar to our pick in the most important ways, but some of its minor details are a bit more annoying.

Buying Options

$33* from Home Depot

May be out of stock

*At the time of publishing, the price was $25.

If the Klein is not available, we recommend the Milwaukee 2203-20 Voltage Detector with LED. It has many of the same features as the Klein NCVT-3, but the flashlight isn’t as bright and can’t be used independently of the tester. It also makes an incredibly loud beep (no mute option). This could be beneficial on a noisy job site, but after I spent 45 minutes checking wires in my basement, the volume was enough to drive me a little nutty.

Still, the Milwaukee can detect the low and standard voltage, and there is no manual toggle between them, so it’s as simple to use as the NCVT-3.

(Video) The Tool I Get The Most Negative Feedback On And Still Use Weekly

The competition

In 2019, we noticed that Klein now has the NCVT-4IR. It looks to be the same as our pick, but also includes an infrared thermometer function. We don’t feel this is worth the added cost for regular home use.

We also noticed models from companies like Meterk, ToHayie, Taiss, and SOCLL. These are generic tools from little-known companies. We feel much safer recommending a tester from a proven manufacturer of electrical diagnostic equipment.

We tested the Klein NCVT-2, which is very similar to the NCVT-3. It’s also a dual-range model that automatically detects between the two ranges, but it doesn’t have the LED; the on/off button is proud of the case (so it is likely to turn on in a pocket); and the case doesn’t have as durable a feel.

The Best Non-Contact Voltage Tester (6)

The Greenlee GT-16and Sperry VD6505, which we also looked at, use a dial to select the sensitivity between low and standard voltage. During our testing, we found that when there were multiple wires in the area, those models would pick up the signal from other wires, making it difficult to know when we had the sensitivity dialed down enough to detect only the wire we wanted. It was tough to get the hang of the sensitivity dial and much preferred the simpler interface of the Milwaukee and Kleins.

The Greenlee TR-12Ahas a two-prong design, made specifically for use with tamper-resistant outlets, but it reads only standard voltage and not low voltage, so we feel the NCVT-3 is more useful.

The Klein NCVT-1detects only standard voltage. I’ve owned one for years and have always found it to be accurate and reliable, but it makes sense to get a model that can detect low voltage as well.

Footnotes

    FAQs

    Are non contact voltage testers accurate? ›

    These devices are not 100% accurate, but they do a pretty good job. You simply hold the tip near a suspected circuit, and it'll tell you if there's current or not.

    Which voltage tester is best? ›

    Best Voltage Testers in 2022: Reviews
    • Fluke 1AC-A1-II Non-Contact Voltage Tester. ...
    • Neoteck Non-Contact Voltage Tester. ...
    • KAIWEETS HT100 Non-Contact Voltage Tester. ...
    • Eoutil Non-Contact Voltage Tester. ...
    • Gardner Bender GTK-2 Non-Contact Voltage Tester. ...
    • Auroland Non-Contact Voltage Tester. ...
    • Southwire 40150N Non-Contact Voltage Tester.
    2 Feb 2022

    What voltage tester do electricians use? ›

    Neon Voltage Tester

    This device does not use a battery, making it a dependable tool. It is also inexpensive. To use a neon voltage tester, simply touch one tester probe to a hot wire, screw terminal, or outlet slot. Touch the other probe to a neutral or ground contact.

    How do you check if a wire is live without a tester? ›

    We can also use it to find hot wire.
    1. Get a voltage detector screwdriver. ...
    2. Turn on the screwdriver by pressing the power button.
    3. Touch the probe of the screwdriver to the wire.
    4. If the detector lights up, then there is electricity running through the screwdriver.

    Are voltage pens accurate? ›

    Volt Stick (sometimes also referred to as a volt pen, voltage indicator or wand) is a non-contact tester pen which provides simple, accurate testing for the presence of voltage, without the complications of more detailed multimeters, clamp meters etc.

    Do non contact voltage testers work through walls? ›

    They're called "non-contact", but that means no electrical contact (i.e. they don't have to touch the bare wire). You'll just about have to touch the tool to the insulation of a wire for them to work properly, so it's not likely you'll be detecting wiring within any type of wall with one of these tools.

    Do you need a non contact voltage tester? ›

    A non-contact voltage tester is the quickest and simplest way to safely check for electrical current in a wire, outlet, switch, or old lamp that has mysteriously stopped working. It's a useful tool that every electrician carries.

    How do you tell if current is going through a wire? ›

    A voltage tester is the safest way to test for a live electrical wire with there being many testers. The main ones are non-contact voltage testers and digital multimeters and are used to detect current flows. Voltage testers are not expensive and can be purchased from local hardware stores.

    Do non contact voltage testers work on DC? ›

    Limitations on non-contact voltage testers

    The testers cannot work with DC voltages since the capacitors and transformers do not work with DC. The non contact voltage testers have limitations and do not actually measure the amount of voltage present.

    What is the best Fluke voltage tester? ›

    Read on to learn how to shop wisely and find out why the following tools are among the best voltage testers you can buy.
    • BEST OVERALL: Fluke 1AC-A1-II VoltAlert Non-Contact Voltage Tester.
    • BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Sperry Instruments STK001 Non-Contact Voltage Tester.
    • BEST FOR PROS: Fluke T6-1000 PRO Electrical Tester.
    6 Oct 2021

    Is there a DC non contact tester? ›

    The Fire Rescue DC50 and the multi-setting DC80 are the only true non-contact testers of Direct Current on the market today.

    What can you use a non-contact voltage tester for? ›

    A non-contact voltage tester or detector is an electrical tester that helps to detect the presence of voltage. Voltage presence is useful information to have when troubleshooting or working on a failed asset.

    Can you use a voltage tester on wires? ›

    A contactless voltage tester is shaped like a pen or marker, and it can indicate whether a wire or outlet has voltage feeding it. They're quick and easy to use, and they can help an electrician or homeowner locate live circuits.

    How do I make sure my electricity is off? ›

    How to Check that the Power is Off | Electricity - YouTube

    Which wire is live? ›

    In a plug, the live wire (brown) and the neutral wire (blue) are the two wires that form the complete circuit with a household appliance. The earth wire (green and yellow) does not normally form part of the circuit and is included as a safety wire.

    How do you test if a wire is live with a multimeter? ›

    Place the red (positive) probe on one wire and the black (negative) probe on ground. Once you position your probes, you check the multimeter for a reading. If the multimeter presents a reading of 120V (with wires for lighting) or 240V (with outlets for large appliances), then that wire is hot or live.

    Which black wire is hot? ›

    Hot wire is identified by its black casing. This is the main color of hot wire for most homes. However, other hot wires can red, blue, or yellow, although these colors can indicate a different function besides powering an outlet.

    What is an electrical sniffer? ›

    These devices detect the presence of voltage without direct contact with the wire. One style (Greenlee 1010 or Fluke 1ACA1) looks like a pen and you touch the tip to a possible power source such as a wire or outlet and if the tip glows red, you know there is some level of voltage present.

    Are voltage tester pens safe? ›

    The fake pen and gum toys contain a circuit that boosts the voltage of the button cells to something high enough to give you a shock. The circuit delivers a very low current—at least one hopes it does—so it is safe, but noticeable.

    How do you use a simple voltage tester? ›

    To use a voltage tester, touch one probe to one wire or connection and the other probe to the opposite wire or connection. If the component is receiving electricity, the light in the housing will glow. If the light doesn't glow, the trouble is at this point.

    What is the best tester Electric for current? ›

    Test Power Safely With The Best Voltage Testers
    • 1 KAIWEETS Voltage Tester.
    • 2 Neoteck Voltage Tester.
    • 3 AstroAI Voltage Tester.
    • 4 Sperry Instruments Voltage Tester.
    • 5 EOUTIL Voltage Tester.
    • 6 Fluke Voltage Tester.
    • 7 Klein Tools Voltage Tester.
    6 Jul 2022

    What is the difference between Fluke 1AC and 2ac? ›

    A: The 2ac is the newer model with an "always on" function. It has a button that is used only to ensure that it still has battery power. The 1ac is the older one that can be turned on or off. They both test for voltage presence the same way, but the 1ac has an audible alert function which the 2ac does not have.

    What can you use a non contact voltage tester for? ›

    A non-contact voltage tester or detector is an electrical tester that helps to detect the presence of voltage. Voltage presence is useful information to have when troubleshooting or working on a failed asset.

    Is there a DC non contact tester? ›

    The Fire Rescue DC50 and the multi-setting DC80 are the only true non-contact testers of Direct Current on the market today.

    How do I know if my low voltage wire is live? ›

    How to Test if an Electrical Wire is Live
    1. A voltage tester is the safest way to test for a live electrical wire with there being many testers. ...
    2. This type of voltage tester is an extremely safe option to test for a live electrical wire. ...
    3. Digital multimeters are used to measure amps, voltage and resistance levels.
    21 Aug 2020

    How do you test if a wire is live? ›

    One of the easiest ways to know if a wire is live is to use a voltage checker or a current checker. These are simple devices that you can touch to any wire, and it will tell you if there is electricity running through it.

    What is a good voltage pen? ›

    For a reliable, value-minded voltage tester, the STK001 Non-Contact Voltage Tester from Sperry Instruments is worth a look. This pen tester comes with a plug-in outlet tester, allowing you to test wires and outlets with one kit. The pen tester detects voltage between 50 and 1,000 volts.

    How do you use a fluke non-contact voltage tester? ›

    The portable 1AC II non-contact voltage tester from Fluke are easy to use – just touch the tip to a terminal strip, outlet, or supply cord. When the tip glows red and the unit beeps, you know there's voltage present.

    How do you use Fluke VoltAlert 1AC A? ›

    Fluke 1AC II VoltAlert - Non Contact Tester - YouTube

    What is difference between 1AC 2AC and 3AC? ›

    The 1AC is the most expensive and the one with the most amenities, the 2AC has less amenities, and is cheaper, while the 3AC has the least amenities, and is the cheapest. The Indian Railway system is a complicated network of stations and tracks.

    Do you need a non contact voltage tester? ›

    A non-contact voltage tester is the quickest and simplest way to safely check for electrical current in a wire, outlet, switch, or old lamp that has mysteriously stopped working. It's a useful tool that every electrician carries.

    How do I test an electrical outlet for a short? ›

    Set a multimeter to measure voltage. Insert a probe into each slot and read the line voltage measurement. A properly working outlet gives a reading of 110 to 120 volts. If there is no reading, check the wiring and the outlet.

    Do non contact voltage testers work on DC? ›

    Limitations on non-contact voltage testers

    The testers cannot work with DC voltages since the capacitors and transformers do not work with DC. The non contact voltage testers have limitations and do not actually measure the amount of voltage present.

    Can NCV detect DC voltage? ›

    NCV (Non-Contact voltage) meter could detect both AC & DC! Furthermore, it can detect static electricity.

    What is a DC detector? ›

    This sensor can be used to troubleshoot any DC circuit with voltage ranging from 6-50 volts DC. It features an audio and visual alert and a sharp, rust-proof, stainless steel tip that works great for penetrating insulated wires.

    Videos

    1. Top 10 Best Voltage Tester for Electricians
    (Work Gearz)
    2. Best Non-Contact Voltage Detector - Fluke, Wiha, LaserLiner, Parkside, Emos
    (AllHandmade)
    3. 🇺🇸 Voltage Detectors ( Which Brand You Trust )
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    4. Common Safety Issue | Non-Contact Voltage Testers
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    5. How to Use a Non-Contact Voltage Tester
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    6. Best Non Contact Voltage Testers in 2022 [Top 5 Review] AC Voltage Detector Live/Null Wire Judgment
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