Outlet Testers Are Not Always Correct

Outlet Testers Are Not Always Correct

If you have been in the market as a home buyer in Miami or Broward area then you have probably realized that it’s been tough to find a home since the pandemic started. Many homeowners have decided to stay in their current homes and renovate them. Doing renovations vs spending the money and time moving can be a great option for many. Just ensure you are choosing a licensed contractor and we suggest having a 3rd party home inspector inspect the work after completion or during the project.

What we have found recently is many of the electrical work that has been done during the remodel was incorrect leaving homeowners not knowing they have electrical hazards throughout their home. There are some old homes in South Florida and the cloth wiring in these homes does not allow for proper grounding. There may be brand new electrical panels installed but still tied into the old wiring in the home. The outlets will have false grounds on them.

If you are purchasing a home that has had renovations, be sure to ask your inspector if they use a circuit analyzer to detect false grounds.

If your inspector is only using a normal outlet tester then you should be aware that they have limitations and will not detect all incorrect wiring.

Outlet Tester Outlet Testers Are Not Always Correct 1

Outlet Testers Are Not Always Correct:

Receptacle circuit testers have some limitations. They may indicate incorrect wiring, but cannot be relied upon to indicate correct wiring.”Some manufacturers even admit the inaccuracy of the product, printing a disclaimer on the package to caution you of its limitations.

What are false grounds?

A false ground or bootleg ground involves using a jumper wire to connect the ground screw and the neutral screw on a receptacle. False grounds disguise an ungrounded two-wire electrical circuit and make it appear to be a grounded circuit. Check out the video below explaining why outlet testers are not always correct.

Using a circuit analyzer is a better option than the outlet testers such as the one below. The one below is a SureTest Circuit Analyzer. They can be considered a little pricey compared to an $8 outlet tester but the results of their readings are worth the $300 ticket price or you can remove every outlet cover as a weekend project to check.

Circuit Analyzer

About this item

  • LOOK BEHIND WALLS: SureTests “look behind walls” to identify wiring problems that lead to shock hazards, electrical fires, or equipment issues. Personal shock hazards stem from poor grounding, false grounds, and/or no ground fault protection.
  • EASY-TO-USE CIRCUIT ANALYSIS: Checks for various wiring conditions (correct wiring, polarity reversal, no ground). Gives access to measurements of line voltage, voltage drop under a full load condition, ground-neutral voltage, and line impedances.


Many inspectors rely on a three-light tester for verifying that a receptacle is correctly wired. Unfortunately, there is a way to trick a three-light tester into confirming that a receptacle is grounded when it actually is not. It is termed a false ground, although electricians routinely call it a “bootleg ground” or “cheated ground.” When upgrading to a three-slot receptacle in a two-wire system without a ground wire, if you use a short “jumper” wire to connect the ground screw at the side of the receptacle to the adjacent neutral screw, the connection will deceive a three-light tester. This is because the tester can recognize that the new ground slot will accept the flow of electricity, but cannot determine if the ground and neutral are traveling along the same path.

If you have additional questions and want to get in contact with GGR Home Inspections please send us a note, text, or call.