We all realize electricity can be dangerous, but did you know that people have been killed by as little as 100VAC? To help keep electrical workers safe, Milwaukee-based Gardner Bender recently introduced a line of 13 professional-grade hand tools that enable users to detect AC voltage without contacting live wires.

Dubbed “Circuit Alert,” the product line includes three models of wire strippers, pliers, and screwdrivers, plus two work lights, an electrician's knife, and a standalone voltage sensor. Each tool also features an interchangeable snap-in sensor that the company says is ergonomically integrated into its design. For added safety, the sensors include an audible alarm as well as a visual alert.

“Because safety and productivity are key issues in the industry, it made sense to combine some of our professional-grade electricians' tools with a voltage tester,” says Derek Erickson, Gardner Bender product manager, hand tools. “The tools are designed with the user in mind, making electrical work quicker, easier, and safer because users can perform multiple tasks with one tool.”

Constructed of ArmorEdge stainless steel, nick-resistant blades, the wire strippers allow users to strip and loop 10 AWG through 18 AWG solid or stranded cable, crimp terminals, and cut and rethread bolts. Additional features include a knurled plier's nose, looping stations, and dual-grip positions.

Highlights of the pliers, which are available in linesmen, long-nose, and side-cutter styles, include a built-in hammer head surface, terminal crimping station, cross-knurled jaws, diagonal cutting head, and forged steel construction. Featuring an over-molded comfort grip, the pliers can cut wire and cable, crimp terminals, and hammer staples.

“The new work lights include a tripod base and a rotating hang hook to provide illumination in any direction,” says Patrick Radle, new product development leader at Gardner Bender.

Available in 3-in-1, 6-in-1, and 10-in-1 models, the product line's screwdrivers also include an over-molded comfort grip as well as the ability to drive both screws and Hex-Lok connectors.

“The ability to separate the screwdriver's circuit tester combined with the number of tip options, like Phillips, flat and square drive, is really convenient,” says Danny Shaw, owner of Theater and Lighting powered by Shaw, a systems integration company located in Clark, N.J.

According to Gardner Bender, the electrician's knife is the only product currently available to also offer wire stripping and cable ripping.

“Customers have been impressed with the NM cable ripper on the electrician's knife,” confirms Radle. “The knife includes a new way to handle Romex cable preparation by ripping the jacket, cutting off the jacket tail, and stripping the individual connectors.”

An upgrade to an earlier generation of Circuit Alert tools introduced in 2005, Radle says one of the challenges faced in fabricating these products was incorporating the tester into so many different tools while meeting the needs and requests from users, such as a momentary button, a compact design, and consistent detection sensitivity.

“We met that challenge by designing the voltage tester as a detachable module that would fit into a wide variety of tool shapes,” he says.

In addition, the company says the voltage tester filters out unwanted alerts from nearby equipment such as fluorescent lighting and TV screens. It also has a brighter visible alert, and the audible alert is louder.

For Shaw, the tools are all about efficiency and speed. “I've found that when it comes to service calls, the Circuit Alert screwdriver allows me to carry fewer tools, and the attached voltage tester provides improved safety,” he says. “These tools are capable of performing seven or eight additional tasks that a regular tool just can't do.”

Prices for the Circuit Alert line of hand tools range from $11.99 to $23.99.

For more information, visit www.circuitalert.com or www.gardnerbender.com.

Product Specs

Batteries: CAM-10 Use 2 LR44 button cell batteries
Operating range: 50-600VAC, 50-60 Hz
Voltage indicators: Audible and visual alert
Operating temperature: 32°F (0°C) to 122°F (50°C)
Storage temperature: 0°F (-18°C) to 156°F (70°C)
Altitude: Up to 6,561 feet (2,000 meters)