Electrical Multimeters, an illustrated and helpful guide.

Electrical Multimeters, an illustrated and helpful guide.

What they can do, how to read them, what the ratings are, and some important things to know about their use!

Hello! Welcome to today’s edition of your Edmonton Electrician. In this volume of Electrical tips and tricks we will be discussing electrical multimeters. For the ease of reading, and to reduce confusion we will only be discussing the more commonly used Digital electrical multimeters. Your proffessional electrician would agree that analog meters are used less and less frequently and these may be discussed at a later date regarding their use. The digital electrical multimeter tools can be used for a wide variety of electrical jobs, big and small. From verifying continuity, to testing ac voltage, dc voltage, and much more. Some meters will have a current reading amp clamp feature. Some will have additional parts that can be used for different reasons by electricians on the job site. As a quality electrical contractor we believe it is absolutely necessary to have a thorough knowledge of an electrical multimeter, and how it will work. If you are ever unsure of how to use an electrical multimeter correctly or have concerns with your current electrical meter, it’s always a good idea to contact your edmonton electrician and have them help you with your electrical project, big or small.

What Brand do you go with? Electrical multimeters have a variety of functions, controls, ratings, and reliability. When picking out this electrical tool you must keep in mind what kind of job do you want it for. If you’re a homeowner looking for a meter to check your speaker wiring continuity then you might be able to go the inexpensive route and get a lesser known brand. If you’re an electrical contractor dealing with live parts then your better off to go with the better known brands that are known for their ratings, and their quality. The 3 best brands that we are familiar with in our area are Fluke, Klein, and Ideal. These brands have proven their worth with their quality in the electrical contracting field. If you’re ever going past standard voltages and currents present in the home you may be better off going straight to the trusted brand of fluke meters. As your Edmonton Electrician we never advise anyone to begin testing their own electrical as this is a potentially dangerous task best left to the professional electricians.

How much should I spend on an electrical meter? As with most things you will get what you pay for. Quality electricians will tell you that a $600 electrical multimeter will get you a lot further than an electrical multimeter that you got from the hardware store for $50. For this reason it is always advisable to pay a professional edmonton electrician to test your wiring and give you advice. When someone buys a cheap unreliable meter and starts checking their own electrical without the help of a professional electrician they can pave their way to failure quickly. As your Edmonton electrician we always insist on the approach of better safe than sorry. By hiring a quality electrical contractor for all your electrical needs, you can help avoid the nasty pitfalls that come with dealing with your own electrical problems. If you ever have any troublesome electrical that needs the helpful eye of a proffessional electrician give Hauer Power a call today, at 780-935-0622 or email us at info@hauerpower.ca!

Electrical Symbols and their meaning. The 3 most common uses for an electrical meter are testing voltage, testing continuity, and checking a current draw. Your edmonton electrician is always available to assist you with these meters. Some will only test alternating current (a/c), and some will also test direct current (dc) voltages. These will matter if you’re testing voltages from a dc battery source like in your car, or from a dc rectifier source like in a UPS System. Alternating current (a/c) voltages are the more commonly tested sources of voltages being found in most buildings, houses, structures, etc. These voltages range from the commonly found 120/240V found in most homes, to more complex voltages found in commercial and industrial settings. It is important to note that Hauer Power Electrical, your edmonton electrician is always proud to serve you in any of these markets. When Looking at these symbols It is important to note the various ranges. More expensive multimeters will typically have an “AUTO” range. The AUTO range is helpful in the sense that it smart detects the voltage that it is reading and promptly will display it for you. Proffessional Journeyman electricians will already have a good idea of how to read an electrical multimeter. Here is a helpful chart to help you narrow down your choice and decision when looking at the various symbols, to see what they mean.

TYPESYMBOLMEANING
AC VoltageVac OR Will measure the alternating current Voltages using probes, typically measuring in Volts (V). Wave symbol represents the sine wave that alternating current will follow.
DC VoltageVdc OR Will measure the Direct current voltages using probes, typically measured in Volts (V) Lines and dashes represent the straight waveform line that this voltage will follow.
ContinuityCont OR This will typically give an audible beep if the meter enables it. Continuity functions help to complete a wiring loop when identifying wires.
ResistanceOhm OR This function will tell you the resistance of a circuit. Often times the above continuity test will also display the resistance in Ohms.
CurrentAmp OR AThis function is most commonly used with a clamp meter with a physically moving jaw. Used to detect the current draw of a circuit
Diode CheckDiode OR Used to check if a diode has failed. Diodes rarely fail but it does happen. A resistance test can also be used to test this.
Frequency CounterHz OR In North America you will most commonly find 60Hz (hertz) and therefore this function is often unused. In other parts of the world 50hz and other voltages will be seen.

As your edmonton electrician we have seen many other symbols on electrical multimeters, however these are the most common functions and symbols that will be useful for the large variety of electrical projects.

Ratings of Electrical Multimeters. As a proffessional electrical contractor the rating of an electrical multimeter is very important depending on the job that the qualified electrician must perform. The rating system stretches from 1-4 using roman numerals (CAT I, II, III, IV). These divide the ratings of an electrical multimeter to help the electrician to determine which meter is best for their job. On a large variety of electrical job sites your edmonton electrician will always recommend to go with the safest and highest rated digital electrical multimeter. The lowest rated meter than would typically be used for data lines and cabling not dealing with high voltage potential would be a category 1 or CAT I rated meter. As the list goes up to CAT IV you reach the electrical multimeters that are built and rated to withstand much higher voltages. If an experienced electrician finds themselves working on utility service equipment, transformers, power lines both underground and overhead, then they would want to be utilizing an electrical meter that is rated for CAT IV. As your edmonton electrician we use only the safest products in the field to avoid all incident and injury. For that reason all of our certified journeyman electricians use only CAT IV category 4 electrical multimeters.

Connecting the Leads on an Electrical Mulitmeter. Your edmonton electrician will know how to properly connect the leads on a digital electrical meter. However to someone using a meter for their first time here are some helpful points to remember. A proffessional electrician will have different coloured leads for their electrical meter, a black wire lead and a red wire lead. The safety of these two leads is extremely important, as these are what help to keep the user from having an electrical shock, or worse-electrocution. The black insulated lead will be connected to the common, or negative (-) terminal on the electrical meter. Journeyman electricians will use all sorts of electrical meters, some with only 2 connections for the meter leads, some with 3, and some with more. Qualified electricians will know the difference of where to place these leads and what purpose they will serve. As your edmonton electrician we have some important notes to make such as never to test a live circuit in ohms/resistance setting. An Ohmmeter is not rated to be utilized on live power, and this will likely burn out the fuse on your electrical meter. Ohmmeter functions utilize the meters power source and if applying another source at the same time can damage the meter. If you find that your meter is no longer working properly 2 main things to check are your fuse, and the meters battery power source. Never open up or work on a meter however while using it on a live power source at the same time. Your edmonton electrician recommends to also have your electrical multimeter calibrated at regular intervals to ensure correct reading, functionality, and more importantly, safety.

Safety First. Quality electrical contractors will always put the same thing first before all else – safety. At Hauer Power Electrical we can’t stress enough that if you are at risk of electric shock, to cease your task, and give your edmonton electrician a call. There are many risks and warnings that come with the use of electrical multimeters. Here are a few especially necessary to read through. Respect the risks and dangers associated with electricity. No matter what voltage you’re facing, electrical shock can result in death. Calling your edmonton electrician or local certified electrical contractor to look at your wiring is always in your best interest. Never connect your electrical multimeters leads across a live source when it is not set to the right reading. If set to current (amps or A) or if set to Resistance or continuity (Ohm) and applied to a live source of power this can fry your meter or cause bodily harm or even result in fatalities. Your edmonton electrician is here to keep you away from all electrical incidents. Whenever using an electrical meter always thoroughly inspect prior to use and discard if not in perfect condition. If leads are damaged or have faced any damage they must be discarded and replaced. Any certified electrician will always test the meter first on a known source prior to testing to verify functionality. Experienced Electricians will always advise holding onto as few leads as possible, even using alligator clips to minimize contact. When your are unsure of your circuitry the less contact the better when it comes to electricity.

As a quality and reliable edmonton electrician, we at Hauer Power Electrical are always here to help when you need power. If you or someone you know needs a quality electrician in Edmonton give us a call today or email us at info@hauerpower.ca. We look forward to giving you power, and stay tuned for our next edition of Your Edmonton Electrician! 

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