What's a good Multimeter?

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  #1  
Old 02-04-05, 11:08 AM
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What's a good Multimeter?

I need a multimeter to test AC and DC voltage at ends of my electric cords to make sure I don't get voltage drops over long distances, anyhow, I see such a variety of these things all over the place in price..

1.) What is a good make and model?

2.) What is the range number all about, I see 19, 22,32 range, etc and don't know what this means but can tell that the price goes up the higher the range number is.

3.) Should I buy one from Home Depot, Radio Shack, Sears, etc or order online?

Thanks
 
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  #2  
Old 02-04-05, 01:11 PM
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I have a digital Radio Shack model that I've had for about 5 years or so and have been very happy with. The numbers on the back are "22-178" and "8A7 006153", some or all of which are the model number. Think I paid about 50 bucks. Very user friendly.
Not sure about the "range" numbers you refer to. Last time I was shopping around for one, I couldn't see much difference. Except for the model I bought, they were all made in China (this one was made in Korea).
 
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Old 02-04-05, 01:19 PM
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yeah some specify an amount of ranges that it does and others say "autoranging" so I don't know what is best, or what I need, etc

then others yet are "RMS" but they seem to be more expensive, again I don't know if I need that or what it's used for
 
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Old 02-04-05, 01:40 PM
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Originally Posted by squale
yeah some specify an amount of ranges that it does and others say "autoranging" so I don't know what is best, or what I need, etc

then others yet are "RMS" but they seem to be more expensive, again I don't know if I need that or what it's used for

If you just want to plug a cord into the wall and check the voltage drop, then probably any multimeter will work. You really only need a true RMS meter if you have a non-linear load or the waveform you are looking at isn't a pure sinusoidal wave.

The cheaper meters take an average of the rectified AC voltage and give you the reading - as long it is a sine wave they are pretty accurate. If it isn't, they can be way off. You should be getting a pretty good sine wave from the power company so the cheaper ones should work for checking things like this, but if things like that cause you to lose sleep, then go for the true RMS meter, and know you will be covered no matter what happens to be screwing with the waveform, like induction motors and other nonlinear loads.
 
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Old 02-04-05, 02:17 PM
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Blizzard, you sound like you really know your stuff,
what about the functions and ranges these things are listed as having? and then the auto ranging ones... what is this all about?

I was checking out this one, it looks like a good price and seems to do many different things, what do you think? http://www.sears.com/sr/javasr/produ...26+Accessories
 
  #6  
Old 02-04-05, 06:35 PM
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"Functions" refers to what the meter willl do. For instance, you want to read AC and DC, which would be two different functions. If you wanted to read resistance, frequency, amps, etc., each would be a different function.

"Range" refers to the scale of what you are reading. For instance, you might have an AC voltmeter that can read up to 600 volts. But you want to check the output from a doorbell transformer at 24 volts and it's so low on the scale you don't have any accuracy. So the voltmeter might have several ranges (for example, a 10 volt, 100 volt, 300 volt, and 600 volt range). This allows greater accuracy at each level you are attempting to measure. A "free ranging" meter is usually a digital one that reads the voltage and automatically goes to the proper scale.

For household type measurements, anything with a UL (Underwriters Laboratory) sticker will probably do. I would recommend a "clip-on" type meter that has AC, DC, resistance,and current measurements.
It won't be that much more expensive than a "voltmeter only" device and will give you a lot more flexibility.
 
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Old 02-04-05, 07:39 PM
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Fluke multimeters are good. I used them during my time in the military, which means they measure single phase and 3 phase. Very nice units! In 1986 these costed about $150. In 1992 I checked again on a Fluke for home use - still $150. I haven't checked on one since because I never needed one.

Check out the Fluke website.
 
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Old 02-05-05, 11:36 AM
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For the casual or occasional user Home Depot has one by A.W. Sperry for about $9.95 that'll do nicely. It's analog (Needle and dial) but it is reliable and pretty accurate. I have the Sperry commercial grade meter with an amp clamp that was almost $100. Probably overkill for the occasional user, unless you have lots of money and want to impress your friends and neighbors with it. Over the last 20 years or so the only meters I have owned are Sperry. My last company provided a Fluke and they are butter! One of the best commercial meters out there. But expensive.

Radio shack has a nifty little digital model for under $20. It comes built into a little case with a space to coil your probe leads in. Very easy to use and very accurate at higher and lower ranges. Great for testing all your AC needs, as well as car and household batteries (AA, C, D cells, etc.) with precision.

Juice
 
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Old 02-07-05, 10:18 AM
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I like Fluke meters myself as well, but I work with a guy that hates them - he only uses Beckman. Asking somebody what their favorite meter is, is kind of like asking them what their favorite car is. I think the one you have the link to would be perfectly fine for what you want to do. It has quite a few features at a reasonable price.

If you were looking for a meter to use everyday and/or accuracy was extremely important, then you probably would be better served by a much more expensive meter like a Fluke or Agilent. But for household use and just testing whether a circuit is hot or not, the Sears meter would work just fine.

If you are just testing cords for voltage drop, you shouldn't really need clamp on leads. Clamp on's are a must if you want to take current readings or if you don't have access to test points, but you still have to have room to get the clamp around the cable.
 
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Old 02-07-05, 12:34 PM
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I have a radio shack model 22-812, it's $70, has the removable rubber case, detachable leads, and a PC interface. Had it for several years now. I did have one of the little $20 ones with the attached leads, simular to the 22-820, but I wouldn't go back to one now.

For another $20, you can get the true RMS model with temp sensor as well.
 
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