Multimeter: How to choose the best in 2021?
Having your presence stimulates us at electrical levels, especially when the subject we are going to address today has everything to do with it: multimeters.
When working with electronics, or having it as a hobby, you certainly had to perform some test or imagined the possibility of measuring the power of any circuit or wiring. A multimeter will help you a lot with this.
Now that we’ve fed your curiosity batteries a little bit, know that the multimeters serve precisely to measure some electrical quantities, when exposed to it. Read on to learn about models, features, types and functions!
First, the most important
- It is equipment capable of making several different measurements within the electrical – voltage, current, resistant – a real wild card for different uses (as long as within your specifications).
- Even though all devices are multimeters, some specifications restrict or allow their use differently as to the power source you intend to measure. Let’s talk more about that.
- Any equipment whose use is connected to electricity is life-threatening to a greater or lesser degree. Read the instructions for use carefully and check the integrity of the device before any measurement.
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Best multimeters: Our recommendations
If you deal with electronics, or intend to deal, know that the multimeter is a measuring instrument that is essential for its use. It is the most effective diagnostic tool for your measurement areas. Check out some of the best on the market below:
- Hikari Professional Analog Multimeter
- Vonder Digital Multimeter
- Minipa Digital Multimeter
- True Digital Multimeter
A multimeter has many specifications that must be observed before making the final choice. As an electrical measuring device, safety must always come first.
In this guide, we will bring you all the details you need to know to buy the best device and be safe while using it.
What is a multimeter?
As we have already presented, a multimeter is used to measure electrical quantities. Its characteristics can vary a lot according to model and use, but, in general, it will deliver information about the potential difference in direct current (DC) and also alternating current (AC).
In addition, you can see data such as electric current, resistance and continuity check, that is, if there is a load passing through a certain de-energized circuit.
These different measurement options are carried out by means of a rotating switch on the front of the device, which is quite prominent, allowing quick access to its functions and use.
Analog or digital multimeter?
Before we proceed, let me clarify that there are two main types of ammeter: analog or digital. The main one is on your display or, as the measurement is presented.
- Analog : The measurement is performed by a pointer dial, stimulated from the received current. It is best indicated in situations where the quantity to be measured has voltage variations, allowing to easily check the amplitude.
- Digital : Converts the electrical current to digital information, showing the value in number on an LCD screen. By the dial, it ends up more practical than the analog, and is more indicated for quantities with little variation.
With very similar characteristics in composition of the device and use, the measurements of both are reliable and accurate, and it is up to you to identify the one that best meets your needs. To make you more comfortable, follow a comparative table:
Did you notice that the differences are few? In the market the two options are found for both amateurs and professionals in the industry, and each of them ends up being taken by some preference.
However, you don’t have to worry about analog or digital now. Let’s look at other details of this electrical measuring device.
What are the multimeter’s functions?
Owner of several capabilities, we consider it very important that you are introduced to his main features, and how they work. In addition to being clear, receive some guidance on usage:
- Measure resistance (Ohmmeter) : Always set the multimeter’s selector to the highest resistance available, and change as needed.
- Measure potential difference in DC and AC : Know, first of all, if you are going to measure a DC or AC type. As a precaution, always start the measurement by selecting the highest value option on the multimeter switch. Do not decrease beyond the voltage limit, as it will damage the device and you.
- Measure electrical current (Ammeter) : Always place the device in the largest possible selection, and reduce it as desired in the device. Take care when measuring in a series system, when measuring in parallel it can cause an explosion.
To the enthusiasts on duty, and for you who are already planning the acquisition, here is good news!
Multimeters can be found from R $ 20. Therefore, price is not an excuse to avoid purchasing yours, especially if you like to be the “do it all” of the house.
As for maximum values, they can be found up to thousands of reais, varying from the functionalities they have (some measure more than voltage or potential), and mainly from the category of use. The multimeters mentioned here vary between R $ 60 and R $ 500.
Where to buy?
Devices with different functions in a single device, the multimeters have a lot of history and a trajectory of great success in their applications.
For this reason, they are found in most building materials stores and also in those where electrical components are sold, such as installers and department stores.
It is a very viable option, too, the search for models that meet your demand in online stores, where you will achieve greater breadth compared to the search in physical stores, receiving in the convenience of home.
Take care where to buy, websites of companies with reputation and origin, Amazon, will guarantee the delivery of the product according to the purchase specifications.
Purchasing criteria: Factors for comparing multimeter models
Maybe your tension is already high on details, but come on. When using any equipment in circuits and electrical networks, every precaution must be necessary.
Now that you know about some of the main points for choosing a multimeter (analog or digital, how to perform the main measurements, which is category), let’s focus on clarifying some details.
When purchasing your multimeter, it is important to first define its use, and then pay attention:
- Usage voltage
- Measurement types
- True RMS presence
Next, we will detail each of the topics, giving you different information, able to help you make the best choice when purchasing the product.
Despite a very complete equipment and proven safety, the multimeters are not alone in this electrical test journey, other devices come with strength in an attempt to overload these fighters.
Being more familiar with this equipment for electrical quantities, let’s talk about an essential condition for its acquisition: the categories.
Even a simple voltage measurement can cause unwanted exposure to electrical discharges, due to overload.
A system has the possibility to allow in some circumstances an abrupt increase in the voltage level. Not having adequate equipment for this possibility can bring serious risks.
The multimeter’s ability to withstand these peak loads is what constitutes its category. These current peaks are commonly called overloads, or transients. For this reason, multimeters must be prepared to receive a voltage greater than their own measuring capacity.
In all, there are 4 categories of multimeters, determined based on their ability to withstand overload peaks.
- Category I – They have the least protection against user exposure, made for use in low voltage circuits such as televisions, radios, circuits for household appliances.
- Category II – Used for measurements on appliances and electronic sockets with low and medium energy consumption.
- Category III – With greater range of use, it can be applied in residential and commercial environments, lighting and distribution circuits. Although they are safer, they cannot be used in Category IV locations.
- Category IV – The champions of multimeters at protection level, can be used in power distribution systems, distribution panels, underground and external installations.
Now that you know the categories, how about visualizing how far these overloads can reach in terms of voltage?
Multimeters have usage limits that need to be observed, in order to avoid accidents due to misuse.
It is recommended that before you start choosing, you can identify where you intend to use it and what the maximum voltage you will find in that location, thus helping to define the choice.
When searching, note with the category, at what voltages the equipment is capable of working safely. A value in general is up to 1000V, although several devices work only up to 600V.
Although the multimeter is considered an instrument for measuring current, many of them are capable of providing the measurement of other electrical quantities, according to their model and characteristics.
Measurement of temperature, frequency, diode and continuity tests are some of the extra features available.
So, think carefully about what measurements you want to make, and compare the devices. Identify if they are adequate to your need, or even to the price of the product compared to others with a wider range of uses.
These extra features can make the part more expensive, so to avoid paying more for something that will not be used, analyze whether the investment is necessary.
Here we get into a more specific topic for electrical professionals, or students in the field.
In most voltage and current meters, your data is accurate when energy is emitted through sine waves, with highs and lows capable of allowing an average analysis.
Therefore, in a sine wave, the RMS value relation is direct with the peak of the wave, making it easy for any device to establish its measurement. However, when the device is subjected to non-sine wave analysis, it ends up providing incorrect measurement values due to random wave oscillation.
A multimeter with the True RMS function does not only measure the wave peaks, but a marking along its entire amplitude for that measurement instant.
In this way, the value informed will be much more accurate, in addition to working for any type of wave, whether sinusoidal or not.