Electrical tools are designed to help protect you against electric shock while allowing you to work faster and make better, more secure connections. If you have several electrical projects around your home, a good set of basic electrical tools is a sound, cost-effective investment that can make your electrical projects easier and safer. This buying guide will introduce you to common electrical tools and help you identify the tools you need for a few everyday residential electrical projects.
Essential Electrical Tools
Rubber-gripped screwdrivers – Rubber-gripped or insulated screwdrivers belong in every electrician’s tool belt. Never use screwdrivers with plastic handles only, as they can crack, creating a shock hazard. Use screwdrivers with electrical insulations rated for protection against shock from energized sources with voltage up to 1,000 volts.
Wire Testers – Wire testers tell you if the power is off to a particular wire and are essential safety tools for any electrical project. There are a variety of testers for use for different applications.
Wire cutters are sized to cut different gauges of cable and wire.
Wire strippers are similar to wire cutters with the addition of a center notch, which makes it easier to cut and strip various gauges of wire insulation without cutting the wire itself.
Wire stripper/cutters take some practice to use effectively, but once mastered, make stripping insulation from wire and cutting wire faster.
Fish Tape makes pulling wires through conduit or running cable behind walls easier.
Wire-bending screwdriver – A metal stud on wire-bending screwdrivers provides a convenient and easy way to bend, loop and connect solid wire when installing outlets and switches.
Cordless screwdriver – A battery-operated screwdriver allows you to make electrical connections faster.
Automatic strippers – Easily strip coaxial wire in one step with automatic strippers.
Adjustable wrench – A wrench with an adjustable head designed to accommodate various sizes of nuts and bolts.
Drywall saw – A coarse-bladed handsaw used to cut openings for fixtures in drywall. Most have a chisel point, so you won’t need to drill a pilot hole.
Stud finder/laser level – Locates framing members and studs in finished walls.
Rotary screwdriver – Ideal for installing long threaded screws in light fixtures and switch plates.
Stapler – A stapling tool designed to accommodate various lengths of staples is useful for attaching electrical cable to studs or joists.
Cable ripper – Removes sheathing from nonmetallic cable.
Utility knife – A utility knife with interchangeable razor blades makes it easier to strip the sheath off of cable.
Flashlight – When you work on an electrical project, you may have to turn the power off completely or work behind a wall in the dark. A flashlight can be an essential tool in those instances.
Electrical tape – Use black tape to insulate and secure wiring connections. Use different colored tape to mark and identify wires. Professional electrical tape is thicker, longer lasting and adheres better than less-expensive tape.
Electrician’s tool pouch – A tool pouch will keep your tools within easy reach.
Have these safety items on hand and be sure to use them when working with electricity.
Electrician’s gloves are insulated and can protect you from 1,000 to 20,000 volts, depending on the gloves you buy.
Safety glasses should always be worn when doing electrical work to keep a spark or bit of clipped wire from burning or scratching your eye.
Extension cords with GFCI protection can be a lifesaver when no GFCI protected outlet is available. A 12-gauge heavy-duty extension cord is the minimum you should use to ensure your high-voltage tools get the power they need, which also helps to prolong their life and avoid fire hazards.
Ladders should be non-conductive wood or fiberglass, which will help protect you from electric shock. Never use a ladder made of aluminum, which is an electric conductor, when working with electricity.
Rubber-soled shoes will also help protect you from shock.
Tools for Four Common Electrical Projects
Refer to the table below for tools that are typically used for four common electrical projects. Be sure to refer to equipment manufacturers’ instructions or your project guide for a list of the specific tools you may need.