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Old 15-06-2018, 11:55   #16
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Re: Recommendations for AC/DC voltmeter purchase

There are decend clamp AC /DC multimeter for about 30..40, they work great. Maybe they are not callibrated like a FLUKE, but as indication to see currents
, voltages, voltage drops, measure resistances and low frequencies, as well as temperatures with the temp sensor included, they can help an educated user to find and solve issues easily. for another 20 bucks there are component tester that measure diodes, impedances, resistors, transistors, FET, capacitors etc. Very useful if you know how to use them.

If you do not have a professional repair shop and need them daily, no need to throw such amount of money for this gear. The cheap stuff is good enough on board.
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Old 15-06-2018, 11:57   #17
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Re: Recommendations for AC/DC voltmeter purchase

Whatever you buy, BUY SPARE FUSES FOR IT. One day you will find that you've blown the "instrumentation" fuse in the meter, usually by a simple error on the amp scale, and those fast blow fuses will not be available anyplace within 50 miles of you. Order the spares, and with luck you'll never need them.

Also do look at the specs for the meter. While even the cheap ones may say "accuracy 2%" or even 1%...the ten dollar meters usually are not calibrated. They may say "12.4" volts when the real voltage is 12.0 or 12.8 or anywhere in between. Which is the difference between a new house battery, and a nearly dead one. That's one thing you get with the pricey Fluke, they are normally calibrated.

You'll also see in the spec "Accuracy %% plus or minus 3 LSD" or "3RMD" and that refers to the least significant digit, or the right most digit, floating on the meters. If the meter says 12.34 volts, it is common for that "4" to float on cheap meters, so again it could be 12.30 to 12.38 volts, you can't swear by the right-most digit. Again...Fluke will do better than most, but a $20 meter hurts less when you kill it. And being able to measure two things at once (two meters) is not always unreasonable.
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Old 15-06-2018, 12:03   #18
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Re: Recommendations for AC/DC voltmeter purchase

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Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
Whatever you buy, BUY SPARE FUSES FOR IT. One day you will find that you've blown the "instrumentation" fuse in the meter, usually by a simple error on the amp scale, and those fast blow fuses will not be available anyplace within 50 miles of you. Order the spares, and with luck you'll never need them.

Also do look at the specs for the meter. While even the cheap ones may say "accuracy 2%" or even 1%...the ten dollar meters usually are not calibrated. They may say "12.4" volts when the real voltage is 12.0 or 12.8 or anywhere in between. Which is the difference between a new house battery, and a nearly dead one. That's one thing you get with the pricey Fluke, they are normally calibrated.

You'll also see in the spec "Accuracy %% plus or minus 3 LSD" or "3RMD" and that refers to the least significant digit, or the right most digit, floating on the meters. If the meter says 12.34 volts, it is common for that "4" to float on cheap meters, so again it could be 12.30 to 12.38 volts, you can't swear by the right-most digit. Again...Fluke will do better than most, but a $20 meter hurts less when you kill it. And being able to measure two things at once (two meters) is not always unreasonable.
The cheap stuff is not that bad. Check out some reviews on the internet. They are almost as precise as the entry level Fluke. (+/- 1 Digit).

In most cases it is not the meter that fails, it is the person that has no idea, how to measure and what the result really means.

Hi precision gear does not help much if not used by someone knowing how to use it. Usually 3-4 digits resolution should be sufficient in real life if you are not developing circuits.
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Old 15-06-2018, 12:21   #19
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Re: Recommendations for AC/DC voltmeter purchase

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The cheap stuff is not that bad. Check out some reviews on the internet. They are almost as precise as the entry level Fluke. (+/- 1 Digit).

In most cases it is not the meter that fails, it is the person that has no idea, how to measure and what the result really means.

Hi precision gear does not help much if not used by someone knowing how to use it. Usually 3-4 digits resolution should be sufficient in real life if you are not developing circuits.
Oh well, I guess it is nice for some to say they have a Fluke even if they don't have a clue about using it.
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Old 15-06-2018, 12:47   #20
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Re: Recommendations for AC/DC voltmeter purchase

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I bought one of these a year ago and I'm quite happy with it.





It's built quite well and has most of the multimeter features I like, including autoranging.


Note that inexpensive clamp-on meters usually only measure AC current. I chose this one because it also measures DC current with its clamp - a 60A range and a 600A range.



(btw, I have like 5 or 6 multimeters around . This one's my "marine" meter)

I have a similar Mastech and it tracks things like inrush DC amperage well...Or well enough. It cost me about $70. I think it's this model reviewed here. I mean, I'll get a Fluke someday, I'm sure. After I hit the lottery!
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Old 15-06-2018, 13:13   #21
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Re: Recommendations for AC/DC voltmeter purchase

"The cheap stuff is not that bad."
I had always just accepted what my meter said, until I needed to use two meters to track voltage in two different points of a circuit. And found they weren't at all the same. Then when I started getting into calibration, I also started checking a couple of free Horror Fright meters. One was spot on, another was off by 0.4 volts. All it needed was to have the calibration screw turned, but that was apparently beyond them.
Then one day I tried to calibrate the old old analog voltage meter on the panel...I could set it to 14.4 when the alternator was running, or 12.x for the batteries, but no matter which one I calibrated it to, it was off by several tenths on the other side of things.
Yes, a lot of cheap stuff is good. More so in the $25 range than the $10 range. But random out of the box...you need a grain of salt, or calibration.
And then there's a quirk in many meters, they will show AC voltage in a DC circuit (i.e. alternator outputs) if the leads are connected in one polarity--but not the other. The more expensive meters using a different internal design won't have that problem. (Normally, showing any AC in an alternator output "should" mean a blow diode is passing the AC, so that can be a red herring caused by a meter.)
Incredibly, even used Flukes command top dollar.
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Old 15-06-2018, 15:35   #22
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Re: Recommendations for AC/DC voltmeter purchase

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While I love my various Fluke meters, I also have this inexpensive meter with the DC current clamp. It tracks the Fluke meters reasonably well on DCV and DCA. I have no problem using it for general work.
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00O1Q2HOQ/
I too have this meter, although it is a relatively recent acquisition. The clamp in AC mode is useful for checking for any ground fault, and DC for alternator/solar/wind gen output. It ticks all of the boxes at an affordable price. For watching battery state I have a permanently mounted DC voltmeter - this multimeter (and my others) is primarily used for troubleshooting. I also have a cheap HF meter, and a pretty nice Korean meter imported by a local company under the name "Universal Enterprises". The HF is highly functional and cheap (free, actually) and does most jobs well, but is not what I would describe as a pleasure to use. The Korean meter is as solid as a Fluke ("If it works, it's a Fluke") and has been with me since the start of cruising. The new clamp-on is similarly high quality while very compact - really quite a gem.

Back in the '70s I worked for Tektronix, and in the '80s my brother worked for Fluke while I worked at ESI (precision capacitance testing); these companies produced great products then but lost the plot and are nearly irrelevant at this point (both Fluke and Tek are now owned by the same company FWIW). The better mass market multimeters and oscilloscopes approach the Fluke and Tek products at a fraction of the price, and will certainly get the job done; if you must have a museum quality product to expose to the damp, salty environment of cruising then go ahead - it's your money.

@hellosailor is right on point with his explanation of accuracy. A DC voltmeter that reads to 0.1V is not really accurate enough for some work on board - just add the % error to the "count" (LSD) error to see how far off it can be and still be in spec. When shopping you should do this simple arithmetic to determine the likely accuracy. BTW I have not found these products to be out of spec - the spec is actually a lot looser than a quick glance would show.

Greg
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Old 15-06-2018, 16:54   #23
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Re: Recommendations for AC/DC voltmeter purchase

I replaced my leads with a set that has screw on clamps (croc jaws?) or remove for probe.
It's so handy to clamp the neg one whilst probing with the other one.
https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Digital-...0AAOSw3jBaxG5P
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Old 15-06-2018, 17:46   #24
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Re: Recommendations for AC/DC voltmeter purchase

No matter which meter you buy get long leads that are flexible. Most cheap meter have stiff leads which are a pita to use.
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Old 17-06-2018, 08:40   #25
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Re: Recommendations for AC/DC voltmeter purchase

I have a couple of expensive combination meters and clamp-on AC amp meters from a previous life. I also have a clamp-on DC meter I got on the "50% off 50% off" sale at Radio Shack. The volt meter side compares with the Fluke voltmeter. I can only guess that the DC amps are also good. I also collect the free with purchase combo meters from Harbor Freight. The leads eventually fail. but they are accurate enough for general trouble shooting and cheap enough to have laying around without protective housing. I do like the analog meter face.
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Old 17-06-2018, 09:22   #26
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Re: Recommendations for AC/DC voltmeter purchase

You need some background electric / electronics knowledge to get use of them. I saw many people out there with expensive gear and no clue how voltage and currents must be measured. They have no idea of basic principels.
It really hurts.

Invest more in knowledge, than the crappiest multimeter will help you solve most of the issues on board. The high resolution, calibrated stuff is only necessary if you intend to develop your own circuits or repair / callibrate circuits.

For general work you do not need a hi-resolution device at all. But you must know what voltage is, how it is measured, what a voltage drop is, what current is and you can measure it, what a clamp meter is - if you have one - and why you must use it over a single wire only, also how to increase sensitivity if necessary to measure low currents.
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Old 17-06-2018, 10:43   #27
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Re: Recommendations for AC/DC voltmeter purchase

I'd also recommend a 50ish buck UNI-T (or similar brand) with dc clamp. I own one of these and a fluke 87V, the only things which I really hate about the UNI-T in comparison is the weird user interface (gotta turn the dial and push a button to get to DC Volts) and the sluggish response, especially for continuity testing. One can live with that if it's not used on a daily basis. Precision doesn't matter for most things on a boat.

And yeah, learning how to troubleshoot is key. There are plenty of mechanics out there who survive on a simple test light like this:

https://www.amazon.com/Professional-.../dp/B003UHNMMS

It changes brightness according to voltage, so if you're used to it you can troubleshoot charging circuits, starter inrush, ...
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Old 17-06-2018, 11:35   #28
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Re: Recommendations for AC/DC voltmeter purchase

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You need some background electric / electronics knowledge to get use of them. I saw many people out there with expensive gear and no clue how voltage and currents must be measured. They have no idea of basic principels.
It really hurts.

Invest more in knowledge, than the crappiest multimeter will help you solve most of the issues on board. The high resolution, calibrated stuff is only necessary if you intend to develop your own circuits or repair / callibrate circuits.

For general work you do not need a hi-resolution device at all. But you must know what voltage is, how it is measured, what a voltage drop is, what current is and you can measure it, what a clamp meter is - if you have one - and why you must use it over a single wire only, also how to increase sensitivity if necessary to measure low currents.
Loop the wire in the jaws. I agree with you all the way. If someone does not know how to use a piece of equipment why have it. And very little is troubleshot to the component level. I better clarify that component, chip, etc..
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Old 17-06-2018, 11:59   #29
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Re: Recommendations for AC/DC voltmeter purchase

Here's a tip for measuring low currents with a clamp-on ammeter: Loop several turns of the current-carrying wire through the jaws. Two passes through the jaws gives you twice the measured amps (divide by two for the correct value). Ten turns (if that much wire will fit) gives you 10X.

Loop the wire in a circle, with one of the jaws going through the hole in the doughnut. Of course you need some slack in the wire to do this.
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Old 17-06-2018, 14:23   #30
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Re: Recommendations for AC/DC voltmeter purchase

Digital Clamp Meter Uni-Trend UT203
This meter is quite nice, I like it. Have never owned Fluke.


Thanks. Will try the wire loops measurement .
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