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Multi meter: which to purchase for a homeowner who's never used one!

Multi meter: which to purchase for a homeowner who's never used one!

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  #1  
Old 02-10-12, 02:33 AM
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Multi meter: which to purchase for a homeowner who's never used one!

Iím in my 40ís now and it seems a multi meter is something I should have bought 20 years ago. Yet Iíve never been able to justify it. Even now all I want to do is check to see if there is juice (I donít even know which term to use amps or volts) in my outlets and possibly use a multi meter to test other things.

Iím just a home owner and donít need anything pro. Saw some people in a plumbing forum saying they need to buy $80 ones and Iím laughing as I type this because it is SO intimidating seeing those things in the hardware store.

Anyway, some suggestions would be nice. I have a Menards literally across the street from me. Itís like Lowes or Home Depot. Further, if you need more info from me just ask and Iíll edit my post. Thanks in advance!
 
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  #2  
Old 02-10-12, 03:35 AM
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Go to Harbor freight they have one usually les than 10.00. If you need volt readings. If you are just looking to see if a plug is hot there are plug in circuit testers less than 10.00 at HD, LOwes ect
 
  #3  
Old 02-10-12, 05:06 AM
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I have a HF digital volt meter and I never have been able to use it as well as the old analog testers. Maybe digital is too high tech for me
I've not seen the analog meters at HF but both Walmart and Sears have them for under $15. I've had one for 35 yrs or so and couldn't imagine doing any electrical [ac or dc] without one....... and they are a lot cheaper than they used to be
 
  #4  
Old 02-10-12, 05:29 AM
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I bought two of the cheepo $6 meters from Harbor Freight for the boat. The reason I bought two is because the first one stopped working after a month. The second one lasted a little longer.

The Menard's website has several meters for $60 or under. Look for a "true RMS" for the best accuracy. You don't really need it to be able to check current (amperage). Most low-priced multimeters with current-testing capabilities are limited to 10 amps, which does you little good if you want to test power circuits. It's better to get a clamp-on for that if you need it, or a Kill-a-Watt to check how much power a device is using.
 
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Old 02-10-12, 07:45 AM
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We from time to time have posters here who are fooled by the ghost voltages some digital meters show so I would recommend an analog multimeter. While others might disagrees with me I would also write don't waste your money on a non contact tester.

Also you might want to look at solenoid voltage testers. You can get them for under $30 and they provide both visible and audio indication of voltage and continuity. Unlikely they would be fooled by ghost voltages.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 02-10-12 at 12:37 PM.
  #6  
Old 02-10-12, 10:14 AM
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My suggestion for a homeowner not well-versed in electricity AND not likely to need actual voltage measurements is also the solenoid-type voltage tester. Meters are somewhat (to very) delicate and can easily be damaged or destroyed by dropping or wrong settings. The solenoid tester is almost bulletproof.

Here is an example.

Amazon.com: NSi TES-151 Heavy Duty Solenoid Voltage Tester - Vibrating & Visual: Home Improvement

There are several other manufacturers and the prices all range upwards from this particular model. Be sure to get a solenoid model that has a moving pointer and not just a series of neon lights.

I've been working with electricity for more than fifty years and I still use the solenoid tester on a regular basis. Just a few weeks ago I was working on a circuit that tested hot with a non-contact tester and I KNEW it shouldn't be hot. I used the solenoid tester and it was indeed off but there was a second circuit nearby that was fooling the non-contact tester.
 
  #7  
Old 02-10-12, 12:36 PM
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On the solenoid testers be sure they include a continuity tester. That can be very useful for such things as identifying which cable goes to a switch.
 
  #8  
Old 02-10-12, 02:07 PM
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30 years ago I wanted a Simpson analog but at $200-300 I couldn't justify it. 25 years ago I bought a $50 Radio Shack analog. It has a slow movement, nothing like the Simpsons I used at my high school job, but it's still kicking.

I also have a cheap DMM with a serial output. It came with some software to record readings on the computer, but that was probably back in the days of DOS or Win 3.1.

I also have a solenoid (aka Wiggy) that I use quite a bit and a non-contact Fluke pen-style tester that comes in handy.

If I had to pick one I'd go with the DMM because it's got a rubberized case that can handle being dropped, it shuts itself off, and I can use it when I'm brain dead.
 
  #9  
Old 02-10-12, 03:39 PM
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Get a wiggy and a DMM. You need a DMM to do accurate voltage drop, and the wiggy for other wiring debug work. We are talking a grand total of less than $50 bucks here. Not like the old days, when you had to take pause to decide on an instrument. Shoot, get a clamp on also that does AC/DC amps. The last 10 years they have come way down in $$. I used to spend $4000 on system DMM's for my company. Do I get the high dollar prize??
 
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Old 02-10-12, 03:55 PM
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Shoot, get a clamp on also
I have an old Radioshack analog clamp-on that also does voltages. It often the only meter I bothered to take out of the truck. Usually just used it for voltage but the clamp made it handy to hang from a wire so I had both hands free to use the probes when checking voltage.

Must be getting old. Not a single person has mentioned a VTVM though I'll admit the mention of a Simpson was a nice blast from the past.
 
  #11  
Old 02-10-12, 04:50 PM
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Since a VTVM (Vacuum Tube Volt Meter) needs AC power to operate it isn't normally considered to be a field use instrument. I had a Knight Kit KG 625 that I built when I was in my teens but I gave it away to a man that runs a Museum of Obsolete Technology in Wallace Idaho.



I still have my Simpson 360 which was one of the first digital VOMs (Volt, Ohm, Milliammeter) made for general usage.

Simpson 360 - Digital Volt-Ohm-Milliammeter
 
  #12  
Old 02-10-12, 06:06 PM
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I had built the Heathkit equiv. to that Knight kit above and used it thru the late 60's. But, I never owned a VTVM. Isn't the "negative" lead attached to the chassis? I would suppose measuring home 240v line would be trouble!
 
  #13  
Old 02-10-12, 07:04 PM
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I don't remember how the "low side" lead was connected but VTVMs were used for measuring the plate voltage in vacuum tube circuits and they ran upwards of 500 volts in some cases. While I had that VTVM since about 1965 or so I hadn't used it in over thirty years when I finally gave it away. I also had the tube tester, R/C tester, RF signal generator and an oscilloscope which I gave away at the same time. I still have the battery eliminator and R/C substitution box.

(Ray, you can delete all this nostalgia. )
 
  #14  
Old 02-10-12, 08:11 PM
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A good brand of digital multimeter will not be fooled by phantom voltages. I recommend Fluke or Ideal. I use a Fluke 7-600 and it is the easiest meter I have ever used. It has two settings "on" and "off". Sadly it has been discontinued. The Fluke 113 has taken its place. I suggest if your going to drop some coin (the 7-600 was about $100) get one that is auto ranging.

An inexpensive analog meter will serve you well with a little instruction. You can pick up a Sperry at Menard's for between $10-20
 

Last edited by Tolyn Ironhand; 02-10-12 at 08:27 PM.
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