Multimeters are a great all-in-one tool for all your electrical measurement needs. Whether you’re measuring amperes, volts, currents or resistance – and much else – a good multimeter is great for doing DIY house and an essential part of any professional’s tool chest if they frequently work with electricity. A good multimeter doesn’t need to be expensive though, and this article will take a look at the important considerations what to keep in mind when buying one.
Important Factors to Consider
These are the key things to know about when choosing a multimeter.
Design and Display
When choosing a digital multimeter, one important feature to consider is a good display screen. This means that the screen should be large enough so you can read the results displayed without issues. The screen should also have a backlight. This allows the display screen to be both clear and visible in different environments.
As for the size, the best multimeters have a compact size. This makes it easier to grasp even with one hand. There are also multimeters available that sport an ergonomic design which makes you feel more comfortable while holding it.
Most multimeters found in the market share the basic standard features including measuring DC and AC currents, resistance, capacitance, and voltage. But some offer extra functions like battery test, diode test, transistor test, continuity test, and others. Then there are those which have special functions like analog bar graph, auto-range, true RMS, and so on.
These features make the devices more useful compared to the usual standard multimeters. Check the device’s specifications and product details to find additional functions. You can base from these the selection of your desired multimeter.
Ease of Use
Buyers usually shun away from devices with usage instructions that are too complicated. The best cheap multimeters should be intuitive, allowing you to figure out easily how to select variables and immediately understand how to set everything up. If you work in poorly illuminated areas often, a multimeter with a light would be a good choice.
In line with this, you should also consider the device’s power source. Many multimeters use batteries while others draw power from a power plug. Then there are models that use both. An auto shut-off feature is great for conserving battery life. Just make sure that it doesn’t turn off too soon as this becomes inconvenient.
This is one factor that is frequently overlooked when choosing multimeters. Select the model for the anticipated maximum load. Of course, you would have to spend more as the load goes up. Multimeters fall into three main categories.
Category I multimeters are for small electronic projects. Category II devices are for testing portable tools and household appliances. Category III devices are for testing distribution bars, cables, bus bars, socket outlets, and more. You can also use these to test motors with permanent power connections safely.
Going higher on the category scale improves your safety, especially in a commercial or industrial environment. There are also Category IV multimeters designed for origin of installation or utility measurements. These are the most expensive and rare. Devices of this category are exclusive to installers of industrial equipment and linemen.
Next, look for a product coming from trusted manufacturers with proven track records of quality and efficiency. With such manufacturers, even their cheapest models would still have some level of reliability.
Professionals can distinguish between well-made and poorly-manufactured models. But even DIYers and homeowners should opt for products made by trusted manufacturers. Moreover, these products come with a much better guarantee. This gives you more confidence in the device you have just purchased.
For this factor, the product you choose should come with at least a one-year warranty. This makes you feel more at ease when it comes to possible malfunctions and defects.
Benefits of a Multimeter
Every professional electrician knows the importance of a multimeter. It’s their primary instrument for testing and troubleshooting electrical circuits and connections. Although the design of most multimeters allows them to measure basic circuit characteristics, the newest models can do much more. Here are the top benefits of using a multimeter:
High-quality multimeters display high accuracy readings up to four decimal places. With regards to current fluctuations, as long as these are within the device’s range of fluctuation, you don’t have to worry about the readings.
Automatic Output Display and Polarity Function
Even for beginners, gauging multimeter readings shouldn’t be too difficult. All it takes some practice. Most multimeters use a multi-segment display to show the results automatically on the device’s LCD screen.
There’s no need to distinguish the needle pointer’s position on the scale to get values as you would on analog multimeters.
How to Use Multimeters
You can use multimeters to check DC or AC voltages, continuity, and resistance of electrical (or electric) components, and even small current amounts in circuits. You can use this device to detect the presence of voltage on circuits.
If a current exists, the multimeter can help you with a wide range of useful applications like measuring volts, amperes, and ohms. If this is your first time to use this kind of device, here are some steps to guide you in using it correctly:
Learn About Your Device
- Find the multimeter’s dial of the multimeter. This has scales with an arc-shape that you can see through a window along with a pointer that indicates the values from a scale. Many newer models have digital readout displays instead. The functions for both multimeter types are the same but with the digital type, you obtain a numerical reading.
- Locate the selector knob or switch. With this, you can change functions between ohms, amperes, and volts, and change the device’s scale too. Many of these functions have different ranges, so it’s essential to set both correctly. This avoids any harm or damage to you or your device.
- Find the openings in the casing where you insert the leads.
- Find the test leads. Such a device should have two test probes or leads. Use these to connect to the device you plan to measure or test.
- Find the fuse and battery compartment. On most multimeters, you can find this at the back. However, in some models, you can find this on the side. This compartment holds the battery and fuse that supply the power to the meter when you use it for resistance testing.
- Find the knob for zero adjustment. It’s a small knob that’s located somewhere near the dial. Use this knob in the resistance range while the probes touch each other.
- Set the device to resistance or ohms.
- Observe the meter indication.
- Connect the leads.
- Hold together the probes at the end of the leads.
- Measure the resistance of a device or appliance that you know is in good working condition.
- Try various ranges.
- Test resistance between hands.
- Check the accuracy of your reading.
- Set the device for the highest AC volts range provided.
- Insert the test probes.
- Locate the voltage scales.
- Test a working electrical outlet.
- Remove the probes.
- Reinsert the probes on the device you want to measure.
- Don’t hold both probes to ensure your safety.
- Make sure you have measured the voltage before measuring amperes.
- Set the meter to the highest supported DC or AC Ampere range.
- Consider using a “clamp-on” multimeter. If this is your first time to measure amperes, such a device helps ensure your safety.
- Check for filter capacitors or any other elements that require an inrush or surge current when switched on.
A multimeter is an essential tool in an electrician’s arsenal. It’s also a great tool to have around the house if you are doing some DIY using electrical components. A great multimeter measures such a wide range of things it’ll be the only tool you need to measure everything you need to get your project off the ground.