How to Safely Test for Live Electrical Current

When working on electrical fittings, such as installing a new light fitting or wiring a plug, it’s important to know if there is a live electrical current passing through the wires. There are several ways to test for this, from handheld appliances to a simple visual check.

In this article, we’re going to look at some of the easiest ways to safely test for live electrical current in the UK.

DISCLAIMER: Please note that, while all of these methods are safe, there is always an element of risk when dealing with electrical wires. If you are at all unsure about what you’re doing, be certain to hire an experienced and qualified electrician to handle things. This is always the safest option of all.

How to Test for Live Electrical Current UK

Use a multimeter

Digital multimeters are handy tools for testing the live electrical current in your wires. They are used to measure voltage, amps, and resistance levels, with most multimeters having a built-in knob that lets you switch between different readings. If you’re testing a live wire, you’ll need to have it set for reading voltage levels.

Multimeters have two probes, which need to be attached to the live and neutral wires. Before doing so, make sure that the power is fully switched off. If the wire is still live, the reading on the screen should indicate this.

Use an electric tester screwdriver

As the name suggests, an electric tester screwdriver is a screwdriver with a voltage tester built in. It’s the perfect device for checking whether a wire or appliance has electricity running through it. It’s simple to use—just touch the tip of the screwdriver to the wire or appliance that you’re testing. If the handle lights up, you know you’ve found a live wire.

Use the colour standard

Electrical wiring in the UK follows a strict colour standard that all manufacturers and installers have to comply with. In theory, this makes it simple to determine a live wire by its colour. These are the current wiring colours in the UK, which have been standard since 2006:

Earth: green and yellow
Live: brown
Neutral: blue

Most wiring will adhere to the current colour standards. In the unlikely event that your property has not been rewired since 2006, some of the wiring might be different colours. The old colour standard was as follows:

Earth: green and yellow, or bare with no sleeve
Live: red
Neutral: black

All wire colouring should be treated with a degree of suspicion, after all, it may have been labelled incorrectly or been rewired since manufacture. Therefore we always advise testing with a more reliable method.

Ways to Test for an Electrical Current: Final thoughts

Working with live electrical wires carries a certain amount of risk, particularly if you’re not familiar with domestic wiring conventions. If you’re ever in doubt, we recommend hiring a trusted local electrician to handle the job for you. For residents of Leicestershire, Derbyshire, and Staffordshire, that means contacting A&J Bartlett. Working from our Ashby-De-La-Zouch office, we provide vital electrician services across a 30-mile radius, taking in much of the East Midlands.

Call the team today on 01530 441 878 or send an email to to see what we can do for you.

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