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#22940 - 03/08/03 12:02 PM multimeter for occasional trouble shooting
treeman Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/08/03
Posts: 6
Hello everyone,

Before I get roasted, yes, I know...a plumbing mistake can get you wet, an electrical mistake can get you dead.

Having said that, please give me your opinions on which test meter might suit me best. I manage a facility that includes greenhouses (fans, unit heaters, controllers), walk in coolers, general building circuits(I mostly work on 24v, 120v).

I am not an electrician or HVAC tech. I do basic troubleshooting and replace components within my capability (diagnosed/replaced a bad 24v transformer on Modine heater recently). I probably won't do "fine electronics" (circuit boards,etc.)or high voltage. I usually call the experts before I get in over my head! I probably will use this thing less than a dozen times/year.

A local HVAC supplier highly recommended a UEI DL250 clamp on- very popular at the local tech school and with HVAC techs.

Here are my questions:

When is true RMS important?

Clamp on vs. hand held for my needs? Especially - clamp ons seem much less accurate is this an issue?

I am really in love with the Extech clamp on 38389 at this site. The TK32 kit with line splitter and non contact volt sensor seems ideal for me. However, while this meter does "everything", it's accuracy (ie.- ac amps 3.5%) bothers me vs. hand helds at less than 1%. Is Extech junk? Only rated Cat II @ 600.

Please give me suggestions for less than $150 to suit my needs. I am familiar with popular brands (Fluke, Meterman,GreenLee, etc.)

Thank you all!

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#22941 - 03/08/03 12:25 PM Re: multimeter for occasional trouble shooting
The Watt Doctor Offline

Registered: 12/23/01
Posts: 443
Loc: Mont Belvieu, TX
RMS means "root mean square". When you read 120 volts. The actual "peak to peak" voltage is something like 169 volts (give or take a few volts). So, the nominal voltages that we talk about every day are RMS values.
Anyway, enough of that. I'm a Fluke lover. My personal meter is a Fluke. My company bought a Greenlee for me, and though I like my Fluke better, it does a reasonable job for a lot less money. I'm sure one day that Greenlee is going to "give up the ghost", but my Fluke just keeps going and going. You may be hard pressed to find a Fluke for $150 or less. I can't say for sure because I haven't priced them lately. So, Greenlee may be your best option.

By the way, welcome aboard,
The Watt Doctor
Altura Cogen
Channelview, TX

#22942 - 03/08/03 01:20 PM Re: multimeter for occasional trouble shooting
Bill Addiss Offline

Registered: 10/07/00
Posts: 4196
Loc: NY, USA

I've got to be a little defensive here...

The Extech meter you are talking about is a combination 600A Clampon, Multimeter (Voltage, Resistance & Capacitance) and Digital Thermometer. I see 3.0% accuracy specs, not 3.5 and it is under $100 with Cat III (1000V) Test Leads, Temperature Probe and Case. But anyway, if you look at other models that don't do all those things, you will see that the accuracy is far better, even in cheaper models.

I'm not trying to blow a horn for the products that are sold here, but just want to mention that you should make sure you compare Apples to Apples. And, of course, $$ to $$$$$$.

It's not fair to compare a low end all-in-one product to a different single function model or to think that those specifications are representative of the whole product line.


#22943 - 03/08/03 01:46 PM Re: multimeter for occasional trouble shooting
sparky Offline

Registered: 10/18/00
Posts: 5545
Choosing metering tools very much depends on what sort of diagnostics one can expect to do

The best all purpose tool-belt grade/drop/mistaken scale/fool proof meter for simple everyday diagnostics i've found is the Fluke 7-600

I've not managed to kill mine despite repeated attempts

#22944 - 03/08/03 03:45 PM Re: multimeter for occasional trouble shooting
Elec_VA Offline

Registered: 01/15/03
Posts: 41
Loc: Sterling, VA, USA
I have an Ideal 61-481, which is part of Ideal's "PlatinumPro" line. It's doing me great and runs about $100-120 from what I’ve found (I paid $106 plus tax).

From working with it, it's been great and costs less than a comparable Fluke model. Like almost all good meters I have found, go to the electrical supply house and not the orange box. (Also ask the guys at the supply house what they think. Most are very very honest about the products that they sell.)

Welcome aboard!!!

#22945 - 03/08/03 07:58 PM Re: multimeter for occasional trouble shooting
frank Offline

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 361
Loc: windsor ontario canada
A fluke 11 with the clamp on adaptor will do everthing untill you have to drag a scope out.Oh crap now that i think about it i have no idea where my ocilliscope is?

#22946 - 03/08/03 09:10 PM Re: multimeter for occasional trouble shooting
Fred Offline

Registered: 04/30/01
Posts: 461
Loc: Straughn, IN 47387
For checking AC/DC voltage, continuity and amperage up to 100A the Fluke T5-600 @ around $100.00 is a good value. Very accurate, small and durable. I have 3 other Fluke meters for the more specialized circumstances but this one hangs on my toolbelt for day-to-day troubleshooting.

#22947 - 03/08/03 10:10 PM Re: multimeter for occasional trouble shooting
Len_B Offline

Registered: 01/19/03
Posts: 56
Loc: New Hampshire
Fluke T-5 600 or 1000 gets my vote. True RMS meter can read/calculate voltages from non-sinusoidal wave forms. Not important for normal troubleshooting.

#22948 - 03/09/03 05:25 AM Re: multimeter for occasional trouble shooting
iwire Offline

Registered: 01/05/03
Posts: 4343
Loc: North Attleboro, MA USA
Fluke gets my vote, I have a Fluke 87 that quit working after a lot of abuse I called Fluke and they said flat rate repair charge of $97.00 for the 87, I paid $325.00 for the meter and the $50.00 Sears meter I bought was crap, so I sent it in.

It came back quickly looking brand new, recalibrated with seal and paperwork along with a refund of $50.00 and a note that explained the rotary switch was dirty and they cleaned it.

I was very impressed a company that already had my money sent some back.

I have to pick up the T-5 600 I keep using coworkers, it is a great meter.
Bob Badger
Construction & Maintenance Electrician

#22949 - 03/09/03 06:20 AM Re: multimeter for occasional trouble shooting
frank Offline

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 361
Loc: windsor ontario canada
The only problem with the t-5 is that it only reads up to one mega ohm.i have one and i love it but it can get confusing when you check a coil or resistor and it reads OL or open leads.This is where you need a benchmeter.

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