Things You'll Need
Phillips or slotted screwdriver with insulated handle
Rubber floor mat
Electric service providers supply 240 volts of electricity to your home, but this does not mean the voltage remains constant. The voltage can fluctuate between 210 and 250 volts from time to time, depending on how the loads flow through the provider's power stations and switching facilities. If the lights in your home dim and brighten noticeably several times throughout the day, you need to check the current voltage coming into your home. Anything other than normal fluctuation could damage appliances and electronic devices.
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Open the door to your main breaker panel. Locate the main breaker at the top of the panel. The number stamped on the switch represents the amperage of the breaker. Common amperages of main breakers are 100, 125, 150 and 200.
Switch off the main breaker to stop the flow of electricity to the breakers and your home. Remove the screws holding the cover to the breaker panel, using an insulated screwdriver. This exposes all the wiring inside the panel and all the breakers.
Take safety precautions before you test the voltage. Don safety glasses, rubber gloves and rubber-soled shoes. Stand on a rubber mat placed on the floor beneath the breaker panel.
Locate the main wires feeding the breaker panel from the meter. Two wires feed the panel and connect to two silver lugs directly above the main breaker. One wire connects to the main lug of the neutral bar off to the side of the panel box.
Set the dial on a multimeter electrical tester to 250 AC to test the current voltage coming into your house. Turn on the main breaker to the panel.
Touch one tester probe to one of the silver lugs above the main breaker and the other tester probe to the remaining silver lug above the breaker. The multimeter tester should register a voltage between 210 and 250 volts. Contact your service provider and an electrician for any voltage reading lower or higher than normal fluctuation.
Turn off the main breaker after you finish testing and replace the cover on the breaker panel. Turn on the main breaker to restore electricity to the entire panel and the house.
You must test the voltage while the panel is live. Contact a licensed electrician if you are uncomfortable with live electrical currents. Do not touch any of the wires with anything other than the tester probes while your panel box is live. Do not test your voltage with standing water anywhere near your breaker panel.
- The Circuit Detective: Home Electrical Troubleshooting Background
- InspectAPedia: Basic Electrical Safety Equipment and Procedures for Electrical Inspectors and Home Inspectors
- InspectAPedia: How to Estimate the Electrical Service Ampacity and Voltage Entering a Building
- “Popular Mechanics Complete Home How-To”; Albert Jackson and David Day; 2004
- HammerZone.com; Installing a Circuit Breaker; Bruce W. Maki; March 2000
- Reliant Energy: Power Quality Equipment: Transient Voltage Surge Suppressors
Cecilia Harsch has been writing professionally since 2009. She writes mainly home improvement, health and travel articles for various online publications. She has several years of experience in the home-improvement industry, focusing on gardening, and a background in group exercise instruction. Harsch received her Certified Nurses Assistant license in 2004. She attended Tarrant County College and studied English composition.