How to Use a Digital Multimeter to Test AC Voltage

Written by laura munion
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Digital multimeters can test for many different conditions, such as resistance, amps, and voltage. AC voltage can be checked with a digital multimeter, and the steps vary depending on your type of meter.

You will have either an auto-range or manual range meter. Auto-range multimeters have fewer settings on the dial to choose from. The AC voltage setting may look like V(AC) or V~. The tilde symbol may be used or it may be a picture of a sine wave.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Digital multimeter with leads
  • AC circuit or appliance

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  1. 1

    Turn on the multimeter and set it to AC voltage.

  2. 2

    Place the black lead to the neutral of the circuit. You can also touch the black lead to a grounded section of the device or circuit, but if possible touch it to neutral.

  3. 3

    Place the red lead to the hot wire of a device or circuit.

  4. 4

    Read the AC voltage output on the screen of your digital multimeter. The output may vary a little, within a small range of numbers (the reading may fluctuate from 300 to 310 millivolts, for example).

Tips and warnings

  • Take regular electrical safety precautions to avoid injury.
  • With a manual range multimeter, set the meter at the highest setting for AC voltage, then move down to smaller ranges until you get a reading. Some meters will give you an overload message if you choose the wrong range.
  • If the device doesn't have an overload warning, it might sustain damage or be destroyed when the wrong range is selected.

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