ADVANTAGES OF PICKING THE RIGHT METER
One of the most obvious benefits of choosing the correct meter is safety. In high-current applications, a clamp or fork meter is clearly less risky to use than a multimeter that uses probes, as it is not necessary to break the circuit to take a current measurement. There is always a potential for an arc flash when interrupting a circuit, so using a meter that doesn’t require a circuit interruption is not only ideal, but also much safer.
Clamp meters can be the easiest to use in situations in which an electrician may have to isolate a single conductor from an array of others. However, fork meters may be even more useful still in tight situations, where the prongs are able to fit around conductors without having to manipulate the clamp. Even though they tend to be bulkier, clamp meters also come in handy when you’d like to hang the meter from the conductor for a hands-free reading. Some manufacturers offer a secondary display on the base of the meter to make those dark junction box readings easier.
FEATURES WORTH LOOKING FOR
When asked, seasoned professionals will all mention their favorite features in meters. When we had the opportunity to speak with industry pros, we got a variety of answers, including:
For obvious reasons, this is an important aspect of a meter. You don’t want to be on a jobsite with a nonfunctional piece of equipment.
An audible notification is crucial in certain environments that are dimly lit, or just from an ease-of-use perspective. Many meter manufacturers offer this feature. Often, it is possible to defeat the tone in noise sensitive areas such as hospitals.
Being able to see your reading accurately in challenging workplaces is critical. Single or dual displays that are legible are extremely important regardless of where your job site may be.
Although meters are precision instruments, they must be tough and durable. Many manufacturers rate their meters to easily survive a 2-meter fall. Some offer a rubber overmold that helps with both insulation and drop protection, in addition to helping with grip and ergonomics.
Professionals typically buy their gear as a lifetime investment. Most of the reputable manufacturers certify their meters to be accurate and test them prior to leaving the factory, as well as providing some sort of warranty. Some even offer third-party certifications (such as a UL Listing) to ensure their accuracy, safety, and longevity.
A good meter is ergonomically comfortable and can be used with one hand. Some meters allow both storage of the leads on the back and some will hold the extended probe or probes to simplify your work. This is useful in a variety of situations, whether you are a lineman, industrial, commercial, or residential electrician.