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Finding A Suitable Replacement for My ST-1D


hausdok
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Hi All,

My venerable old SureTest ST-1D is beginning to really show it's age. The plastic cover for the LED cracked and flaked off long ago, just about all of the printing is worn off and it looks like it's been sent through a rock polisher a few times. I'm afraid it's not going to be very much longer before I have to retire her.

On a quest for a new tester, I checked out the Ideal site today to survey the new models and found that, in addition to the SureTest 61-164 and 61-165, which are the testers that I guess Ideal came up with to replace the ST-1D, I found a smaller, less expensive model called the SureTest Mini Arc Branch Circuit Tester - the 61-059.

Looking at this smaller tester and checking its features, I'm not so sure that I really need to invest in something like the 61-164 or 61-165 to do what we do. After all, as all of us SureTest owners know, some of the features we have available to us on these testers were, for our purposes, superfluous and almost never, if ever, got used.

Looking at the 61-059, it looks like it's small enough that it can probably fit into a hard shell digital camera case, it's not much more than half the price of the ST-1D equivalents, it can determine proper polarity and grounding, can be used to test GFCI's and AFCI's and even to determined whether there is a shared neutral on an AFCI - something that can cause them to trip. On the con side, it doesn't display voltage - although it will identify an over-voltage condition, voltage drop under 15 or 20-amp loads, voltage ground to neutral, ground impedance or identify false grounds.

Most of these others I'm rarely concerned with anyway but the ability to spot false grounds did come in pretty handy. I'm wondering how many of you out there are already using the Mini-Arc Circuit Tester after having used the larger more complicated SureTest devices, and how well you like it it. Comments anyone?

SureTest Models 61-164 & 61-165

Click to View

tn_20101111155224_SureTest165.jpg

Features

•Arc Fault Tester

•Tests AFCIs for proper operation

•Tests for shared neutrals

•High accuracies

•Measures voltage drop under full load (12A, 15A, 20A load tests)

•True RMS

•Line Voltage

•Peak Voltage

•Frequency

•Ground to neutral voltage

•Ground Impedance

•Hot and neutral conductor impedances

•Identifies proper wiring in 3-wire receptacles

•Identifies false (bootleg) grounds

•Tests GFCIs and EPDs for proper operation

•Conducts testing without disturbing sensitive loads

•Verified isolated grounds (with 61-176 adapter)

Ideal Electrical Tester 61-059

Click to View

tn_20101111155625_Ideal059.jpg

Features

•Tests AFCIs for proper operation

•Tests GFCIs for proper operation

•Tests for shared neutrals

•Verifies wiring configuration

•Compact size fits comfortably in pocket

•1-year warranty

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I am not an electrical guru by any stretch. I have read around the web that each AFCI breaker manufacturer uses a different wave pattern or other magic electrical term to check for arc faults. Therefore no single AFCI tester will work with all AFCI breakers.

Can't find any specific reference at this time but I will rummage around for one.

Conversely all GFCI trip when detecting a leak of 4-6 milliamp. Since there is a standard, GFCI testers can be universal.

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MO - I have both the 61-165 and the 61-059. They both work well. I had the 61-165 upgraded just before that offer from Ideal expired.

Fundamentally rely on the GFCI and AFCI test buttons.

Albeit ... I had one GFCI today that would trip with the tester from the Hall Bath (GFCI control was in Master Bath) and the 2nd receptacle in the Master Bath. It would not trip with the tester when plugged directly into the receptacle. It would also trip with the Set/Re-Set buttons on the GFCI ... except that the electricity was still "live" on that receptacle.

Seems to me that this time the test buttons on the GFCI receptacle were not giving me the expected results.

GFCI receptacle noted to be replaced.

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I own a couple of Sure-Test tools, including their very first model. I found them always a bit too quirky, and I greatly prefer the TASCO Inspector III:

http://www.tasco-usa.com/inspectorIII.htm

I have done two extensive "before and after" mappings of very large houses with this tool, each involving over 200 receptacles per house. The tool was invaluable, and on one house we were able to salvage a system that might otherwise have required a complete rewire and repairs in the high six figures. This tool can tell the difference in quality obtained from a pre-twist splice made and one made by letting the wire nut twist the wires together. I have used it in other forensic work, and it is highly accurate and very reliable. I could seldom get the same result twice with a SureTest, and would never dream of going back to one of those.

The specs and instructions for the Amprobe INSP-3 look remarkably similar, though I have never seen one of those.

Douglas Hansen

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Hi Guys,

Thanks for the input. This has given me a lot to think about. Sure wish I could get these manufacturers to agree to a comparison test for a couple of weeks.

Douglas, that's the first I'd seen of the Inspector III. I'd seen the Inspector II but I'd never gotten to play with one. Have you?

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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I own a couple of Sure-Test tools, including their very first model. I found them always a bit too quirky, and I greatly prefer the TASCO Inspector III:

http://www.tasco-usa.com/inspectorIII.htm

I have done two extensive "before and after" mappings of very large houses with this tool, each involving over 200 receptacles per house. The tool was invaluable, and on one house we were able to salvage a system that might otherwise have required a complete rewire and repairs in the high six figures. This tool can tell the difference in quality obtained from a pre-twist splice made and one made by letting the wire nut twist the wires together. I have used it in other forensic work, and it is highly accurate and very reliable. I could seldom get the same result twice with a SureTest, and would never dream of going back to one of those.

The specs and instructions for the Amprobe INSP-3 look remarkably similar, though I have never seen one of those.

Douglas Hansen

Curious....How would you judge the ability of the Inspector III to reveal bootleg grounds, if it does that at all?

Marc

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I don't think the TASCO is designed to detect bootleg grounds, though it does give a very precise (hundredth's of an ohm) readout of ground impedance.

I understand the importance of discovering that condition in a home inspection. When I was a home inspector, I found it could always be deduced from other indications. If the wiring in the panel was two-wire rag-wrap Romex, and the receptacles tested as having proper grounding, then something wasn't making sense and I would start taking off cover plates to get a closer look. In the type of work I do today the "false ground" problem is never the issue.

The TASCO indicates voltage drop overall, as well as individually - the amount on the hot conductor and the amount on the neutral. It indicates true RMS voltage, and more amazingly, it indicates the available short circuit current, both on a hot-to-neutral fault and a hot-to-ground fault. The numbers are very accurate.

Douglas Hansen

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