There is no definitive answer to which is the best PAT tester, and with numerous models on the market, the bottom line is that you choose the PAT tester that best suits your needs. To help navigate the PAT testing equipment market, consider the following questions:
How often will you be PAT testing? Where? Will you test 110v and/or 240v equipment? How many appliances are you likely to test? What’s your budget range?
How often will you be PAT testing?
If your PAT testing activities are basic and few and far between (less than 500), then forking out for a top of the range bells and whistles model is probably not the best choice for you, however if you are undertaking regular PAT testing, it does makes sense to choose a reliable quality entry level product that covers your regular requirements. Over 500 tests? then a professional instrument should be considered, as the initial outlay is offset by its durability.
Where will you be PAT testing?
If you’re out on site carrying out regular PAT test’s then a sturdy robust reliable model is clearly an advantage, whereas if you’re more likely to be doing bench testing in the workshop then that may be a different matter.
Are you more likely to PAT test on 110v or 240v equipment?
Having 110v/240v PAT testing capability is clearly an advantage, but not all PAT testers have the capability to do both load tests, so if you need this feature, make sure your chosen tester has it before you buy!
How many appliances are you likely to test?
How many portable appliances you are likely to test will impact on your choice of instrument. If you’re responsible for multiple appliances over several sites, and your testing activities occur regularly, you may choose a PAT tester that can download test data via a USB port onto a computer database for ease of tracking. Similarly, models are available with software that will produce labels, certificates and all manner of information, as well as test limits and sequences that can be formatted to your specifications. Some testers have QWERTY keyboards which makes it easier to enter data into the test instrument, and if you’re doing a lot of testing at the same site a bar code scanning feature can be a great time saver too.
A top of the range PAT tester with all the features may cost you thousands, but there is no need to spend that much on an instrument for features you’ll never use. As with other electronic items, the cheapest is not always the best buy, reliability often coming second to price. So shop around, don’t assume your local electrical wholesaler has the best deal on PAT testers, check out what’s on line, check out the manufacturers sites, ask your mates in the trade.
Ok so with the above questions in mind, just what types/models of instrument are on the PAT tester market?
Manufacturers like Megger, Martindale, Seaward and Kewtech are well established on the test instrument market and produce quality PAT testing equipment. There are a number of other manufacturers producing perfectly serviceable instruments to choose from too. Buy a test instrument within your budget range that covers your basic PAT testing requirements (Earth Resistance, Insulation Resistance, Earth Leakage /Touch Current, Load Test, RCD Trip Time) and if your budget allows for a more expensive model with more features, then there are plenty on the market to choose from.
Types of PAT Tester:
Pass Fail Testers
Steer clear from these. To do the PAT job properly you’ll need to interpret actual readings and these instruments don’t show them so you’ll still have to measure the earth continuity resistance value with another test instrument to meet the IET Code of Practice recommendations!
Manual PAT Testers
These PAT testers require the user to manually record test results and appliance details. Usually featuring separate tests for extension leads and appliance Classes 1 and 2, the pass limits are usually fixed so some manual interpretation of test results will be needed.
Downloadable PAT Testers
These PAT testers feature a much wider range of tests and data download capability i.e. appliance details and test results. Their range of test sequences and individual test capabilities make the test results easier to evaluate and the benefits of this type of tester are clear: time savings and data traceability of test results, however, they do come at an increased cost.
Battery Operated PAT Testers
The convenience of battery operation is offset by limited functionality. Such PAT testers cannot perform a load test, a high current earth test or measure earth leakage, however, some models do feature a 230v supply option which would allow such tests to be performed.