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#208731 - 02/08/13 11:14 AM What is a Cat III rating on a tester mean?
RonKipperDatacom Offline
Member

Registered: 01/10/13
Posts: 30
Loc: Kansas City, KS
Test Equipment Safety in the Field

Are you aware of the newer safety ratings on test equipment today? If they are not listed on the tester I would think twice about buying it. Today it seems everyone is offering test equipment so how can you tell if the meter is any good?
One of the most important things to look for when buying test equipment today is to look for third-party testing laboratories certifications. A couple we’ve had around for a long time of course is UL and CE. A new one that has been around a while now that you may not have heard of is the Category rating of the test equipment. Normally where the leads go into the inputs of the test equipment you’ll find a Category rating today. The International Electrotechnical Commission or the IEC has developed a safety standards model for measurement, control and laboratory use of test equipment.
You might be surprised at the number of phone calls from customer service we get on why someone’s $20 Category II rated tester is no longer working. Then you find out someone is using it on a commercial job and the transient impulse voltages the tester experienced ruined the meter.
The higher the category rating of the test equipment the higher the peak impulse transient voltages the test equipment is designed to absorb. Keep in mind this is over a very short period of time like milliseconds not for several seconds.
Not many of us can actually sit down and figure the Peak Impulse Transient Voltage that we may experience when testing electrical circuits. So it is actually better to describe the location and environment that the test equipment is intended to be used in. If you know what the Category ratings mean you know where it is safe to actually use them and not damage either the test equipment or yourself.

Category I This is the lowest rating and the test equipment is designed for telecommunications, electronic and other low energy equipment with transient limiting protection. A good example would be inside a copy machine.

Category II The test equipment is safe to be used with loads that plug in at the receptacle outlet. Outside of walls on fixed and non-fixed powered devices including appliances, lighting and portable equipment.
All outlets at more than 10 m (30 ft) from Category III
All outlets at more than 20 m (60 ft) from Category IV
These testers are fine for the typical homeowner or hobbyist.

Category III This is the minimum rating I would recommend for electrical contractors. The test equipment can be used in electrical distribution panels and in primary feeder and branch circuits.
Permanently installed loads like motors, lighting systems, drives and load centers. Typically they are separated from the utility service by at least a single level of transformer isolation. Does not include receptacle plug-in loads, except in the case of heavy appliance outlets with “short” connections to service entrance

Category IV This is the highest safety rating and is for test equipment used at the origin of the installation (utility service) and can be used outside of building including the utility service entrance, service drop from the pole to the building, overhead line to remote buildings, underground line to a well pump and the run between the meter and the panel.

Knowing the Category rating of your test equipment will keep both you and the tester safe when working with electrical equipment.


Edited by RonKipperDatacom (02/08/13 11:16 AM)
_________________________
Ron Kipper RCDD / NTS
IDEAL Industries Inc
Ron Kipper Datacomm on YouTube

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#208750 - 02/09/13 10:45 AM Re: What is a Cat III rating on a tester mean? [Re: RonKipperDatacom]
harold endean Offline
Member

Registered: 02/16/02
Posts: 2248
Loc: Boonton, NJ
Ron,

Thank you for this information, it is very informative. I now should go and look at my test equipment to see if it is rated. Thanks again.

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#208754 - 02/09/13 06:29 PM Re: What is a Cat III rating on a tester mean? [Re: RonKipperDatacom]
Trumpy Offline

Member

Registered: 07/05/02
Posts: 8540
Loc: SI,New Zealand
Hi Ron,
First off, welcome to ECN. cool

Personally I've always believed that there is no excuse for using a $20 multimeter and that you should always buy the best test equipment you can afford (or start saving and get it), I mean do you really want to put such a low price on your life?

I've had the same test equipment since I started out in this trade (and that wasn't exactly yesterday either).

Good tools and test equipment are an investment and if you look after them and don't abuse them, they should by rights last your whole career.
_________________________
Let's face it, these days if you're not young, you're old - Red Green grin

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#208783 - 02/11/13 08:13 AM Re: What is a Cat III rating on a tester mean? [Re: harold endean]
RonKipperDatacom Offline
Member

Registered: 01/10/13
Posts: 30
Loc: Kansas City, KS
Harold
Thanks for reading the post it was a little longer than I intended. If your testers are 15 years or older you really should take a look at them and make sure they are what you should be using today.
If you're in need of a new one I am giving testers away for the next 2 weeks on my YouTube channel Ron Kipper DataComm. Subscribe to the channel and let me know you're from the forum and I'll make sure to pick you is a winner!
_________________________
Ron Kipper RCDD / NTS
IDEAL Industries Inc
Ron Kipper Datacomm on YouTube

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#208785 - 02/11/13 08:24 AM Re: What is a Cat III rating on a tester mean? [Re: Trumpy]
RonKipperDatacom Offline
Member

Registered: 01/10/13
Posts: 30
Loc: Kansas City, KS
Trumpy thanks for letting me be part of your group.

I would agree with you about $20 multmeter's we sell them but I don't recommend them especially for trades people. However for a homeowner or hobbyist they are fine as long as someone does not use the meter where it is not safe as in electrical distribution panels.

I agree no matter what the trade buying good tools is generally a good idea. But even then they need to be updated at times. True RMS Cat III rated test equipment is what electrical contractors should be buying at a minimum. Older testers that are not True RMS can be significantly off in readings depending on the harmonics in a building.

I hate to see a older tool I have finally wear out. I've been dying to buy new table saw for about 5 years and just replaced the motor again last year. Maybe one of these days
_________________________
Ron Kipper RCDD / NTS
IDEAL Industries Inc
Ron Kipper Datacomm on YouTube

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#208789 - 02/11/13 10:10 AM Re: What is a Cat III rating on a tester mean? [Re: RonKipperDatacom]
gfretwell Offline

Member

Registered: 07/20/04
Posts: 9045
Loc: Estero,Fl,usa
We had never heard of category ratings on meters until right before I left IBM in 1996 and then I am not sure how established it really was. We had an assortment of meters from a small Tripplet analog meter to some top of the line scopes and voltage monitors. Our everyday meter for the troops was a Fluke 8060A. It was really not meant for the beating most of them took tho.
99.9% of our stuff was 240v or below and most guys had no business near service conductors so we probably were OK with Cat II meters.
_________________________
Greg Fretwell

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#208886 - 02/18/13 07:28 AM Re: What is a Cat III rating on a tester mean? [Re: RonKipperDatacom]
RonKipperDatacom Offline
Member

Registered: 01/10/13
Posts: 30
Loc: Kansas City, KS
We sell all of these testers and deal with many folks who don't know about the Cat ratings. They are new to the trade and buy in many cases a pretty inexpensive tester but try to use them on a commercial job. These ratings are relative new to the industry in the last 10 years or so and many older techs may not know about them either.

Send me your address to my ron.kipper@idealindustries.com email and I will send you one of the testers I am giving away for my promotion!

I have 61 – 746 clamp meters, 61 – 340 digital multmeter's, 33 – 856 VDV phone data coax tester and 33 – 864 Tone and Probes to choose from.

Thanks for commenting I really appreciate it

Ron
_________________________
Ron Kipper RCDD / NTS
IDEAL Industries Inc
Ron Kipper Datacomm on YouTube

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#208887 - 02/18/13 08:24 AM Re: What is a Cat III rating on a tester mean? [Re: RonKipperDatacom]
HotLine1 Offline

Member

Registered: 04/03/02
Posts: 6804
Loc: Brick, NJ USA
Greg:
I recently bought a Fluke 233 with the remote head to use at 'show and tell' durung my classes at Vo-Tech. It has a dual Cat4 & Cat3 rating.

My only complaint about it is the life of the batteries in the remote head, as apparently...there is no 'OFF'.
_________________________
John

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#208930 - 02/22/13 08:07 AM Re: What is a Cat III rating on a tester mean? [Re: RonKipperDatacom]
RonKipperDatacom Offline
Member

Registered: 01/10/13
Posts: 30
Loc: Kansas City, KS
I have heard those are pretty cool testers with the remote display. A nise touch and new to DMM's but that is what you should expect from Fluke. They make good stuff.

How long will the display batteries last?

Ron
_________________________
Ron Kipper RCDD / NTS
IDEAL Industries Inc
Ron Kipper Datacomm on YouTube

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#208938 - 02/22/13 04:55 PM Re: What is a Cat III rating on a tester mean? [Re: RonKipperDatacom]
HotLine1 Offline

Member

Registered: 04/03/02
Posts: 6804
Loc: Brick, NJ USA
Ron:
To be fair, the tester sits idle for long periods, so actual battery life is hard for me to determine. As I said, I use it for a show & tell at my Electrical trades classes at a county Vo-Tech, where I am a part time instructor. It's two AA batteries, & not a big deal.

Fluke offered a few testers at very attractive prices for instructors, so I bit the bullet. No, the school does not supply, or underwrite any tools/testers that I bring in. I have quite a few items from my contractor days, Ideal solenoid testers, strippers, handtools, and a few data/comm items from your company that I also 'show & tell'.

I always look to various manufacturers for class aids, device samples, literature, etc. It all helps the cause, hopefully training a few future 'sparkies'!!
_________________________
John

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