Choosing the Right Multifunction Testers

Chances are that if you’re looking to pick up a new multifunction tester for the very first time, you’ll probably find yourself a bit overwhelmed by the scope of the options on the market. There are literally hundreds of brands offering thousands of different multifunction testers for every purpose under the sun and of course, all will be gunning for your business with the same enthusiasm.

Well, the one piece of immediate good news is that just as long as you stick with a brand you can trust, it’s pretty difficult to go wrong. Examples like Megger PAT Testers and others like the Fluke 1651 multifunction tester have been industry standard for such a long time for a very good reason – they’re as good as it gets. That being said however, there are various other considerations to keep in mind and if you address them all before hitting the stores, chances are you’ll find the job of picking up an installation tester or appliance tester much easier.

Initial Considerations

Right off the bat, you can make life considerably simpler by looking at a few of the basics in terms of what you need and what you can stretch to. For example, begin by outlining the following:

  • How much money you can spend comfortably
  • The environment in which the Tester is to be used
  • How many portable appliance tests are to be carried out per day/week
  • How results and reports are to be made
  • Whether the tester is to be used for a major industrial installation or lighter use

The simple fact of the matter is that if an electrician is only likely to be using a PAT Tester sporadically and far from on a frequent basis, there’s really no point in forking out for an industrial-scale heavy-duty piece of kit when a low-priced Megger PAT Tester aimed at exactly such use would do fine. And likewise, if industrial use is on the cards, then there’s no sense in going for bargain-basement lines that only stand to make life more difficult in the long-run.

Recording of Results

There are two types of testers to choose from – those being the downloadable variety and those to the contrary. Downloadable testers allow their users to record the results of their tests automatically and in some instances produce immediate reports. The alternative is to complete a manual log-book of all tests carried out, which is perfectly simple for light use environments but a complete and utter nightmare for those carrying out hundreds of tests across multiple sites.

As such, the Seaward Primetest 50 for example would not be the better option for heavy-duty use, but would be a perfect choice for lighter demands – the Seaward Supernova Plus being an example to the contrary.

Basic Pass or Fail Testers

Speaking of the Primetest 50, this is also an example of a simple Pass or Fail PAT Tester which delivers exactly what is says on the tin. These are the most basic types of PAT Testers which rather than deliver a thousand and one details for analysis simply let the user know whether the test carried out is a pass or a fail. The bonus is of course that these kinds of testers are extremely easy to use and are largely fool-proof, though on the downside they are extremely limited in terms of their application and are not useful for heavy-industrial environments.

Battery or Mains

Battery powered PAT Testers are actually pretty new to the market and offer their own various benefits and drawbacks. The biggest benefit is of course the fact that they don’t need to be connected to a mains outlet and have a much faster startup time. However, the batteries will not last forever and running out of juice at an inopportune moment can be quite the headache. What’s more, battery-powered units generally aren’t as capable in terms of wide-scale and industrial usage as say the Seaward Supernova Elite. Again, it all depends on how, when, where and how frequently the tester is to be used.

Other Considerations

There are dozens of other considerations that may come to mind, but generally speaking the above points will cover the basics and set you on your way. You might want to think about whether you want to extend your services and competency enormously by using a Thermal Imaging Camera – technology that has become comprehensively affordable and accessible over recent years like never before. And then of course there’s scope for the future – you might only be testing a few domestic appliances today, but are you expecting to branch out over the coming months?

The initial point remains the most valid of all – opt for a brand and model with a long-standing reputation like the Seaward Supernova Plus or the Primetest range and it’s largely impossible to go wrong.


By James Walsh

Francesca Holmes is a former electrical engineering lecturer who now runs an online training academy for aspiring electricians. She tutors on the use of various industry-standard devices including the Seaward Supernova Elite range and dozens of leading Megger Testers.