How to Test the Amperage of an Outlet

How to Test the Amperage of an Outlet

Figuring out your home electricity system can be confusing, especially if you’re trying to figure out how much electrical current, or amperage, runs through a specific outlet. While individual circuits are labeled with their amp limit, it may help to check the individual amperage of different devices so you know how much your outlet can handle. Before you dive into this project, think about your personal comfort levels when it comes to your home’s electricity. Working with wiring can be dangerous if you don’t have a lot of experience, so you may want to contact a professional for help.

Method 1 of 2:
Checking an Outlet Circuit

1
Turn off your circuit breaker completely. Find where the circuit breaker is in your home. You may need to remove a few screws so you can access the individual circuits. For your own safety, flip your circuits to the “off” position so you don’t risk giving yourself a shock. [1] X Research source If you know which circuit you’ll be working with, just turn off that specific circuit instead. Most of the wiring for your home is managed and controlled through a large metal box, or circuit breaker. This box may be in your basement or some other part of your home. If you aren’t completely sure, double-check your home’s schematics for guidance.
2
Identify how many amps can run through your circuit. Look at the individual circuits in the breaker box and search for a label. Note that most home circuits are labelled with “15” or “20,” since that’s the traditional electrical current level that’s safe to travel through most circuits. Take note of how much power your circuits can handle before you get started, so you have an idea of what you’re working with. [2] X Research source For instance, a 20-amp circuit can handle more electricity than a 15-amp circuit. Some wiring systems may include both 15-amp and 20-amp circuits.
3
Check which circuits line up with specific outlets. Look at the inner door of your circuit breaker and see if there’s a chart that specifies which circuits go with which outlets. If there is no guide, use a circuit breaker finder. Plug 1 part of the circuit breaker finder into the outlet you’d like to test, then drag the other part down the circuit breaker. Once you hear a beep, you’ll know which breaker corresponds with the outlet. [3] X Research source You can purchase a circuit breaker finder at your local home improvement store.
4
Attach an ammeter or multimeter clamp to the designated circuit wire. Find a multimeter (device that measures multiple settings) or ammeter (device that specifically measures amperage) with a claw-like clamp that can clip onto things. Take this clamp and attach it to the wire coming out of the designated circuit that you’d like to test. [4] X Research source Double-check that you’re attaching the multimeter or ammeter to the correct wire, or else your readings may be off. You can attach your multimeter or ammeter to the circuit wire while your circuit breaker, but this is very risky if you’re inexperienced.
5
Set your device to the “amp” setting. Check that your multimeter or ammeter is set to amps, which will be marked by an “A,” or something similar. If your device isn’t set to the correct setting, the readings won’t be very helpful. [5] X Research source
6
Switch the outlet circuit on so power is flowing. Flip the switch connected to your designated outlet so power flows through the wire and through your multimeter or ammeter. You may see the reading on your device alter slightly after you turn on the circuit breaker, which is normal. [6] X Research source If you don’t feel comfortable working with live electricity at its source, call an electrician or repair professional for help.
7
Connect a surge protecting strip into the outlet that you’re testing. Find the outlet that you’d like to test and plug a surge protecting power strip into the socket. This strip will help you measure the amperage of multiple devices, and will also protect your devices from electrical surges. [7] X Research source If you’re only testing 1 item, you may not need to worry about using a power strip. You can find power strips at most places that sell electronics.
8
Plug 1 item into the power strip and see how many amps it draws. Check the multimeter or ammeter to see what the reading is. Keep in mind that certain devices will require more amperage than others. [8] X Research source For instance, a garbage disposal may only register as 4 amps, while a heat gun set to high may register as 12 amps.
9
Add an additional item to the power strip and watch the amp level. Check the multimeter or ammeter and see what the reading is. Keep your circuit’s total amp level in mind as you add different appliances so you don’t overload your circuit. [9] X Research source For example, you likely wouldn’t be able to plug your microwave, refrigerator, and dishwasher all into the same outlet.

Warning: While circuits have an amperage limit of 15 and 20 amps, you should only operate them at 80% capacity. With this in mind, a 15-amp circuit should only use 12 amps, while a 20-amp circuit can use up to 16 amps.[10] X Research source

10
Disconnect the ammeter once you’ve finished testing. Unclip the device from the circuit wire so you can get your circuit breaker back to the way it was before. Store it someplace nearby in case you want to test any of your circuits again.
11
Contact an electrician if there are any issues with your outlet amperage. Call a professional if anything seems weird or finicky with your wiring. Don’t try to fix it yourself—wiring systems are really dangerous, and you can get hurt if you don’t know what you’re doing. [11] X Research source
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Method 2 of 2:
Examining Individual Devices with a Power Meter

1
Look at your circuit breaker to see how many amps your outlet can handle. Check the inside of your circuit breaker to see what number is used to label the different switches. Note that most home circuits can handle up to 15 or 20 amps. [12] X Research source These labels give you a rough idea of how much electricity your outlets can handle.
2
Connect your power meter into the designated outlet. Note that power meters plug into wall sockets like any other electronic device. This meter provides a baseline measurement that can check an item’s voltage, amperage, and more. [13] X Research source You can purchase power meters online, or at your local home improvement store.
3
Turn off the designated circuit that you’re testing. As an extra precaution, flip the switch on the circuit that corresponds to your outlet. If you aren’t sure which circuit to flip, use a circuit breaker finder to match up the proper circuit switch with your outlet. [14] X Research source Circuit breaker finders are available online or in most home improvement stores.
4
Plug an electrical device into the power meter. Find the socket opening along the bottom of the power meter and plug your item in. For a more exact reading, plug the device directly into the power meter instead of using a power strip. [15] X Research source
5
Power on your desired circuit to check the readings. Flip the switch on your circuit so power is flowing through your outlet. This helps your power meter give a more accurate reading.
6
Press the “amp” button to see how much power the device requires. Find a small button along the front of your power meter labeled as “amp.” Tap this to get an exact reading on your individual electronics, whether it’s a laptop or a lamp. [16] X Research source Items that don’t use a ton of electricity, like a lamp, likely won’t generate a high amperage. Keep your circuit’s total amperage in mind as you test different devices! You don’t want to go over the circuit’s limit.
7
Call an electrician if your outlet isn’t working properly. Reach out to a professional if anything seems wonky in your wiring system. While it may be tempting to fix the issue yourself, it’s important to remember that electrical work is risky and dangerous, especially if you’re inexperienced. [17] X Research source
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Method 1 of 2:
Checking an Outlet Circuit

1
Turn off your circuit breaker completely. Find where the circuit breaker is in your home. You may need to remove a few screws so you can access the individual circuits. For your own safety, flip your circuits to the “off” position so you don’t risk giving yourself a shock. [1] X Research source If you know which circuit you’ll be working with, just turn off that specific circuit instead. Most of the wiring for your home is managed and controlled through a large metal box, or circuit breaker. This box may be in your basement or some other part of your home. If you aren’t completely sure, double-check your home’s schematics for guidance.
2
Identify how many amps can run through your circuit. Look at the individual circuits in the breaker box and search for a label. Note that most home circuits are labelled with “15” or “20,” since that’s the traditional electrical current level that’s safe to travel through most circuits. Take note of how much power your circuits can handle before you get started, so you have an idea of what you’re working with. [2] X Research source For instance, a 20-amp circuit can handle more electricity than a 15-amp circuit. Some wiring systems may include both 15-amp and 20-amp circuits.
3
Check which circuits line up with specific outlets. Look at the inner door of your circuit breaker and see if there’s a chart that specifies which circuits go with which outlets. If there is no guide, use a circuit breaker finder. Plug 1 part of the circuit breaker finder into the outlet you’d like to test, then drag the other part down the circuit breaker. Once you hear a beep, you’ll know which breaker corresponds with the outlet. [3] X Research source You can purchase a circuit breaker finder at your local home improvement store.
4
Attach an ammeter or multimeter clamp to the designated circuit wire. Find a multimeter (device that measures multiple settings) or ammeter (device that specifically measures amperage) with a claw-like clamp that can clip onto things. Take this clamp and attach it to the wire coming out of the designated circuit that you’d like to test. [4] X Research source Double-check that you’re attaching the multimeter or ammeter to the correct wire, or else your readings may be off. You can attach your multimeter or ammeter to the circuit wire while your circuit breaker, but this is very risky if you’re inexperienced.
5
Set your device to the “amp” setting. Check that your multimeter or ammeter is set to amps, which will be marked by an “A,” or something similar. If your device isn’t set to the correct setting, the readings won’t be very helpful. [5] X Research source
6
Switch the outlet circuit on so power is flowing. Flip the switch connected to your designated outlet so power flows through the wire and through your multimeter or ammeter. You may see the reading on your device alter slightly after you turn on the circuit breaker, which is normal. [6] X Research source If you don’t feel comfortable working with live electricity at its source, call an electrician or repair professional for help.
7
Connect a surge protecting strip into the outlet that you’re testing. Find the outlet that you’d like to test and plug a surge protecting power strip into the socket. This strip will help you measure the amperage of multiple devices, and will also protect your devices from electrical surges. [7] X Research source If you’re only testing 1 item, you may not need to worry about using a power strip. You can find power strips at most places that sell electronics.
8
Plug 1 item into the power strip and see how many amps it draws. Check the multimeter or ammeter to see what the reading is. Keep in mind that certain devices will require more amperage than others. [8] X Research source For instance, a garbage disposal may only register as 4 amps, while a heat gun set to high may register as 12 amps.
9
Add an additional item to the power strip and watch the amp level. Check the multimeter or ammeter and see what the reading is. Keep your circuit’s total amp level in mind as you add different appliances so you don’t overload your circuit. [9] X Research source For example, you likely wouldn’t be able to plug your microwave, refrigerator, and dishwasher all into the same outlet.

Warning: While circuits have an amperage limit of 15 and 20 amps, you should only operate them at 80% capacity. With this in mind, a 15-amp circuit should only use 12 amps, while a 20-amp circuit can use up to 16 amps.[10] X Research source

10
Disconnect the ammeter once you’ve finished testing. Unclip the device from the circuit wire so you can get your circuit breaker back to the way it was before. Store it someplace nearby in case you want to test any of your circuits again.
11
Contact an electrician if there are any issues with your outlet amperage. Call a professional if anything seems weird or finicky with your wiring. Don’t try to fix it yourself—wiring systems are really dangerous, and you can get hurt if you don’t know what you’re doing. [11] X Research source
Advertisement

Method 2 of 2:
Examining Individual Devices with a Power Meter

1
Look at your circuit breaker to see how many amps your outlet can handle. Check the inside of your circuit breaker to see what number is used to label the different switches. Note that most home circuits can handle up to 15 or 20 amps. [12] X Research source These labels give you a rough idea of how much electricity your outlets can handle.
2
Connect your power meter into the designated outlet. Note that power meters plug into wall sockets like any other electronic device. This meter provides a baseline measurement that can check an item’s voltage, amperage, and more. [13] X Research source You can purchase power meters online, or at your local home improvement store.
3
Turn off the designated circuit that you’re testing. As an extra precaution, flip the switch on the circuit that corresponds to your outlet. If you aren’t sure which circuit to flip, use a circuit breaker finder to match up the proper circuit switch with your outlet. [14] X Research source Circuit breaker finders are available online or in most home improvement stores.
4
Plug an electrical device into the power meter. Find the socket opening along the bottom of the power meter and plug your item in. For a more exact reading, plug the device directly into the power meter instead of using a power strip. [15] X Research source
5
Power on your desired circuit to check the readings. Flip the switch on your circuit so power is flowing through your outlet. This helps your power meter give a more accurate reading.
6
Press the “amp” button to see how much power the device requires. Find a small button along the front of your power meter labeled as “amp.” Tap this to get an exact reading on your individual electronics, whether it’s a laptop or a lamp. [16] X Research source Items that don’t use a ton of electricity, like a lamp, likely won’t generate a high amperage. Keep your circuit’s total amperage in mind as you test different devices! You don’t want to go over the circuit’s limit.
7
Call an electrician if your outlet isn’t working properly. Reach out to a professional if anything seems wonky in your wiring system. While it may be tempting to fix the issue yourself, it’s important to remember that electrical work is risky and dangerous, especially if you’re inexperienced. [17] X Research source
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