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What's the difference between an insulation and continuity meter and a Portable Appliance Tester?

Although essentially both are capable of checking earth continuity, insulation and polarity, the differences are vast.

An insulation and continuity meter is a manual instrument which uses a probe and a crocodile clip. Various measurements are made using the instrument and the user interprets those results to decide if the appliance meets the safety requirements of the AS/NZS3760:2010. It can only measure continuity and insulation.

A Portable Appliance Tester is an automatic instrument which carries out a series of tests according to the equipment type. The Portable Appliance Tester automatically interprets those results a provides a PASS or FAIL result based on the measurements made.

A Portable Appliance Tester has a socket in which to plug the appliance under test. It additionally uses an earth probe or crocodile clip on the chassis of the appliance.

A Portable Appliance Tester should at least be able to check:

Earth Continuity
Current leakage (during a powered run test)

Ideally, they should also be able to check that the appliance under test is in the 'on' position. However, some more expensive recording testers don't have this facility.

I didn't learn about current leakage testing on my course - what does it involve?

Performing a current leakage test using a Portable Appliance tester is almost an identical process to performing an insulation test. However the test voltages, current and measurements made by the appliance tester are different. The test presents more risk to the user due to the moving parts of the appliance and the higher currents involved. The AS/NZS Standard defines the level of knowledge and skill required as 'competent'. During a current leakage test the appliance tester provides mains power to the appliance. Particular care should be taken when current leakage testing Class II appliances where exposed metal parts maybe live and no earth path is present.

Do I need values in addition to a PASS/FAIL result?

Not according to state regulation or the AS/NZS3760. However some institutions and businesses require for values to be recorded for internal reasons. For more information see the AS/NZS3760 or see Best Practices Guide to Testing and Tagging  Most appliance testers now provide values in addition to PASS/FAIL results.

Which appliance testers meet the AS/NZS3760:2010?

All of the appliance testers currently available from Test and Tag Supplies can be used to test in accordance with the AS/NZS3760:2010 and check if the appliances tested meet this standard. However it is the user of the equipment that must use the equipment in accordance with this standard for the tests to be carried out correctly. It is important to note that not all testers can perform all of the tests listed in the standard. For example, not all testers can perform current leakage testing (Seaward 125) and not all testers have integrated RCD testing.

I tested a class II appliance and didn't attach the earth lead - I still got a PASS result - why?

When measuring the insulation of a class II appliance, the insulation between the internal active components of the appliance and the exterior of the appliance is tested. This insulation must be sufficiently high for a PASS result to be acheived.

During this test, if the earth probe is not touching the appliance - perhaps a distance away from the appliance - or not even plugged in to the appliance tester, most appliance testers will still generate a PASS result!

This is because if the probe is not even touching the appliance, there is of course there a very high level of insulation - air is an excellent insulator.

The Trio SmartCal SafeTcheck is the only appliance tester which will not let a test be carried out incorrectly in this manner. It uses a conductive cloak and sophisticated circuitry to help ensure that the probe is close enough to the appliance to measure breakdown in resistance - should there be any. This is one of the reasons why many hire companies choose to test their appliances with the SafeTcheck.

Remember! For Class II appliances No Probe  =  No test performed

Which appliance testers can safely test IT equipment ?

All appliance testers with the basic functions described on this web site can test computers safely, providing they are used correctly by a competent person in accordance with their instructions.

Which appliance tester is the fastest to use ?

Most appliance testers will perform a complete test sequence in under 10 seconds. However, whether an appliance tester takes 2 seconds or 20 seconds to complete the sequence, the time taken to perform the electrical test is completely irrelevant.

It is the visual inspection before the test which may take several minutes if performed correctly. Also the recording of the test details may take several minutes depending on the method used.

I need a battery operated appliance tester - which models run off batteries??


In most instances the thought of a battery operated appliance tester is much more attractive than the practical benefits of a battery operated tester. And more recently many appliance testers are battery operated. But battery operation is not always as bigger benefit and users might think.

Firstly, finding an appliance where there is no power point is unlikely - a bit like finding a car without fuel.

Secondly, for many appliances, a current leakage test is required. For this a mains power supply is always required.

Battery operated testers however are useful in the following circumstances:

  • When current leakage testing is not required and
  • If the appliances are in difficult to reach locations and portability is key
  • When the appliance tester is being used to record non-electrical test data (such as the Seaward PT300 or Primetest Elite)

I need my tester to be able to test RCD's / Safety Switches - which units have built in RCD testers?

Many appliance testers now have the capability to trip time test RCD's. Popular models include the Seaward PAC3760DL and Metrel 3309 and the Trio SmartCal SafeTcheck which also includes an integrated isolation transformer.

I want a portable appliance tester which records results, downloads to a PC, prints a test tag and outputs a report - which unit shall I buy?

Many appliance testers have the capability to record test data and some can output to a label printer. However, you need to be prepared to spend in excess of $2000.00 to obtain this functionality. If you have less than around 500 appliances, it might be better to consider alternative methods of recording and creating test tags.

It's also important to remember that not all appliance testers record data the same way. Some appliance testers record internally and some record to external devices like tablets. Many now communicate with printers and scanning devices via Bluetooth, whilst others use wired connections. Additionally not all 'recognise' a previously tested appliance when retesting - with some, re-entry of data is required when retesting.


Why are appliance testers relatively expensive ?

In comparison to consumer goods, such as CD players, appliance testers are quite expensive. However, they are relatively low in cost in terms of professional electrical test equipment.

The cost reflects the accuracy of the instrument, the quality of the instrument and of the relatively small numbers manufactured when compared with consumer goods. In terms of test equipment, appliance testers are not expensive items.

Will an appliance tester be able to identify a faulty electrical appliance?

t necessarily. An appliance tester checks key indicators of the electrical safety of an appliance. A visual inspection must also be carried out on the appliance before any electrical test takes place. An appliance can still be faulty, but PASS an electrical safety test.

Do I need to get my Portable Appliance Tester checked regularly or calibrated?

Yes, otherwise the results it's providing might be incorrect.

Regular calibration of test equipment is the responsibility of the user, or owner of the equipment and is essential to ensure the correct operation of the test equipment. The calibration should be performed by a calibration agency to traceable standards.

Getting your appliance tester calibrated should be considered as routine as servicing your car.

The cost of calibration is an ongoing annual cost which should be considered when purchasing an appliance tester.

Who will calibrate my appliance tester ?

There are many electrical equipment calibration agencies across Australia who may provide Portable Appliance Tester calibration services. Most will be able to verify that the appliance tester is working within the manufacturers tolerances, providing a calibration certificate.

However, only the authorised repair agents for the particular brand of appliance tester purchased will be able to adjust, or repair the appliance tester if the values it is providing are found to be incorrect.

Some appliance testers produce a warning screen when calibration is due. Generally, this can only be reset by the authorised repair agent.

Help -> For details on who can calibrate your appliance tester contact us.

How much does calibration cost ?

Costs for calibration through authorised repair agents vary from $95.00 + GST up to $275.00 + GST depending on the make and model of your appliance tester.

When I buy an appliance tester will it come with a calibration certificate?

Most appliance testers and professional test equipment items are supplied with a certificate of calibration from the manufacturer (or sometimes certificate of conformity). This basically states that the instrument was tested at the factory to traceable standards, and found to meet the manufacturers operating specifications.

All of the testers sold by Test and Tag Supplies are supplied with certificates of this nature.

However, it is the responsibility of the user or owner of the test equipment to ensure that the equipment is working to the correct specifications and checked regularly.

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