Portable Appliance Tester Buying Guide

The most important stuff

  • Decide on how much you want to spend on a portable appliance tester. The truth is, how much you spend should reflect on how you plan on testing and tagging. The more you spend – the more you’ll get. Perhaps you’re testing irregularly, or maybe you’re doing it as a full time job. This means you need to be realistic about what your money will get you.
  • Capturing data quickly is important for people testing regularly. There’s no question about it - data capture is one of the most important parts of the job. This means if you’re testing in high volume, the information you collect can then be used when re-testing, making it a major time-saver. On the flip side, if you’re not doing many tests, paying extra for a test and tag machine with data capture isn’t going to be a deal breaker.  
  • Think about the number of tests you’ll be performing. Make sure you buy an appliance tester that will fulfil your testing requirements. So if you’re doing test and tag as a business, you’ll inevitably be conducting a lot of tests and require RCD testing and 3 phase compatibility.  In this case, investing in test and tag equipment with those extra features will save you time and money in the long-run.

Basic appliance tester

$600 - $1000 

What you'll typically get: Mains powered, basic test features, no data capture

Wavecom TNT -el Appliance Tester

Image: Wavecom TNT -el

Who it’s for: Anyone who wants an appliance tester that will just get the job done, which is usually for people who don’t do a lot of testing.

Key Features: Mains powered tester. You'll most likely need to log data by hand. Able to conduct your basic tests, such as Class I and II and extension leads. You won't be able to do RCD testing.

Most popular: Primetest 125 EL, Wavecom TNT -el and Kyoristu 6201A

Mid-range appliance tester

$1000 - $2500

What you'll typically get: Battery operation, RCD testing, Internal memory

 Metrel DeltaPAT 3309 Appliance Tester

Image: Metrel DeltaPAT 3309 BT

Who it’s for: People who want to step up from a basic tester and perform a wider range of testing at a faster speed.

Key features: Conducts all of your regular testing, plus additional tests such as RCD testing. More likely to have greater than 10 AMP operation and be 3 phase compatible. Tester will be battery powered, so it’ll offer great portability and save you time finding power sockets.

Most popular: DeltaPAT 3309 BT, PAC3760 DL, Wavecom TNT RCD and Primetest Pro.

High-end appliance tester

Over $2500

What you'll typically get: Print tags on the spot, quick re-testing

 Optima II Kit

Image: ProTag Elite Kit

Who it’s for: People who are testing and tagging in high volume and require a complete solution to quicken their testing times. Ideal for test and tag businesses.

Key features: Often come with a printer and scanner, which offers re-testing and data capture in a quick and painless way. The ability to generate reports and automate your testing through software. 

Most popular: TnP-500, Delta Pro Print Pack and Primetest Elite

Key Features

Leakage Current
This is mandatory test on appliances with internal switches or micro switches and requires the appliance to be energised. As not all portable appliance testers contain this feature, you’ll want to have it added if you’re offering test and tag as a service. 

Battery Power
Having a battery powered tester will give you greater portability and make it easier to test hard to access areas. Without it, you’ll need to constantly find mains power to do your testing – something that is not particularly ideal for certain environments.

RCD Testing
Commonly known as a safety switch, portable RCD’s (Residual Current Device) does require regular testing. This is not a standard feature that will come with all testers, so this choice will be based solely on whether you are planning on testing RCD’s.

Internal Memory
By having internal memory functionality you’ll be able to store test results directly onto your tester, which will then enable you to upload your results to a PC via the supplied software. This is a major time-saving option that is highly recommended for high-volume testing. Once you’re at the point of testing 100’s of appliances daily, you’ll be glad you decided on getting this feature. 

250V Insulation
This is specifically used for sensitive electronic equipment, whereby running the 500V insulation test may potentially cause damage. It’ll also give you the ability to test power boards and surge protected devices. On that same note, if you’re running a test and tag business – this is a highly recommended feature that’ll give you additional testing options. Although some testers don't have this option, a Leakage Current test will also be adequate.

3 Phase Testing
This usually requires purchasing a standalone adapter to test 3 phase appliances and extension leads. Depending on which single phase tester you’re using you may be able to purchase an adapter that will connect to your existing machine otherwise you can purchase a standalone adapter that works independently of your single phase tester. When deciding on which 3 phase adapter to go for its essential to know which items you’ll be testing, as each adapter serves a different purpose.

Internal Isolation Transformer
An internal isolation transformer is an important feature when testing portable RCD’s. It stops the trip current used to trigger the PRCD from continuing onto the main switch board thus mitigating disruption when the power is turned back on. Many of the current units have this feature built in but older machines may not and may require purchasing an external isolation transformer that sits between the PRCD and the wall outlet.

Customisable Test Sequence
Some of the current range of testers on the market allow you to customise the test sequence for when testing single phase appliances. As an example this feature allows you to run a longer leakage test for items that take time to start or you can perform multiple earth bond tests when testing a power board before moving onto the insulation and polarity tests. Units that have the ability to customise the tests allow you to make your machine work as per your requirements while still complying to the AS/NZS:3760 test and tag standard.

Tag Printer/Scanner Compatible
Some of the appliance testers on the market allow you to connect barcode scanners and printers to help speed up the testing and retesting of appliances. This ability to print tags means less manual handwriting which dramatically increases the testing and tagging speed thus benefiting your customers and clients.