Best 10 Multimeters
As Of July 2022
We did the
The No 1 Digital Tool Essential: The Multimeter!
Whether you are a professional electrician, a do it yourself type of guy, who likes testing new inventions and ideas, or simply a homeowner who enjoys fixing things around the house, a multimeter can prove to be a handy instrument for you. A must-needed tool that’ll make your projects much safer and more efficient. The job of finding the perfect multimeter might seem a bit challenging. That’s precisely why we are here! Check out our buying guide so that you’ll speed up the ins and outs of multimeters.
What is a multimeter?
In simple terms, it is an electronic instrument that measures a wide range of functions like power supply, continuity, inductance, capacitance, etc. You may see people refer to it as ammeter, ohmmeter or voltmeter. Generally, a multimeter is used to measure voltage, amperes (amps) and ohms. Nowadays, digital multimeters (DMM) also measure other parameters such as conductance, temperature, recurrence, duty cycle, and they perform diode and transistor testing.
Initial multimeters were analogue; they had a needle that swung across the calibrated scale. With the arrival of technology, manufacturers started to design digital multimeters that eventually became dominant. The digital versions are considered, by experts in the field, as more accurate and reliable.
Why do you need a multimeter?
You might not realise now, but multimeters are essential for every kind of electrical work. From changing a junction box to installing an air condition unit, you need a multimeter to determine whether electrical power is good or not. Now let’s break down the 4 most important benefits of using a multimeter:
1. You can diagnose electrical issues.
Performing diagnostics of problematic electrical components is without hesitation the most important benefit—no need to hire a professional electrical technician to run the diagnostics for you. You can use the multimeter on your own, and you’ll have accurate and reliable results.
2. Offers you safety.
It’s vital to check if there is no electrical power present when you’re about to handle any electrical device. A multimeter can prevent injury or even electrocution by testing circuits before you start fixing the problem.
3. You can save money.
With a multimeter, you don’t have to guess if there is an electrical issue or not, nor do you have to hire a professional electrician to run the diagnostics for you. You simply plug it in and let it do its magic.
4. It has a wide range of appliances.
Electricity is used everywhere in our daily life. That means you can use multimeters for many different purposes (household improvements, professional needs or hobbies). Here’s a list of various occasions you might need a meter:
- Testing the flow of current in a circuit.
- Checking for any dangerous live wires.
- Measuring voltage, resistance, temperature and amperage in any kind of home appliance or installation.
- For voltage detection and measuring DC and AC current.
- Repairing your car or motor engine and checking your cars’ battery life.
- Looking for any potential cargo leakages.
- Checking any kind of motors, batteries and electric generators.
That is, you are going to need it for each and every electric task, repair or installation you want to complete successfully!
But what’s also amazing about multimeters is their compact size and functionality, while they are quite affordable in the majority of the cases too. But the utmost benefit would be the advanced safety they provide for you during any electrical project you put your mind into.
Types of Multimeters
First of all, as we already discussed, multimeters are either analogue or digital. We advise you to go for a digital version since they’re more versatile and have more functions than the traditional ones. Here are some other basic categories of multimeters you should be aware of:
1. Auto-Range Digital Multimeter
A multimeter with an auto-range function can identify what range a measurement exists within, and all you need to do is select the type of test you want to run (current, voltage, resistance, diodes, etc.). The meter will detect the correct range by scanning through all the available range options, and all the information you need appear immediately on your LCD screen. It’s handy for beginners since it requires the least amount of effort and gives you accurate results.
2. Manual Range Multimeter
This particular meter requires the user to select the correct range each time so that he can receive an accurate reading. One major drawback is that you have to be familiar with the ranges and the spectrum where they exist. For a hobbyist or an amateur, that might seem a bit of a hassle. Those who are professionals in their field can get more accurate results than using an auto-ranging meter.
3. Clamp Multimeter
The prime advantage of a clamp meter, as opposed to other digital multimeters, is that it can measure the flow of electricity in a live circuit. The clamp measures voltage and resistance and eliminates the need to perform readings in series, which can be even life-threatening.
4. Automotive Multimeter
These tools are used to run diagnostics in vehicles and motors as well as to measure their electrical properties. If you enjoy fixing your can on your own, an automotive meter will definitely assist you in finding any potential electrical issues.
5. HVAC Multimeter
These types of meters are used for diagnosing issues on AC units. If you have an AC system installed, it’ll come in handy to have a meter designed to troubleshoot your unit accurately and quickly.
What to look for when buying a Multimeter?
Finding the ideal multimeter can be quite an uphill task, especially when there are a plethora of options out there. Wondering how to choose the correct model for your needs? Do you feel unsure about whether you even need a multimeter in the first place? What features should you prefer, and what features are not worth the price? Read on to learn all of this and so much more.
A few things that you should always think about:
1. LCD Display
The clarity of the LCD screen is an imperative factor to consider when buying a multimeter. Make sure that it has a backlight to view the readings easily in low light or dark spaces. Moreover, some digital displays can become unclear at certain angles, so make sure the one you’re using is clear at the usual angles that you need it at.
Another factor to consider is the maximum capacities that will help you determine the suitable multimeter for you—these need to resonate with the requirements of the projects you have in mind. For most domestic jobs, a standard multimeter should do. However, for more heavy-duty tasks, a more advanced and specialised multimeter may be required.
3. Data hold function
This function is another important feature that a good multimeter has. This will help you in recording several different measurements without putting each down separately to remember. It is not mandatory to have a multimeter, but it makes the job easier, especially when you don't have much space or a pencil to write down your metrics!
4. Safety rating
It is also ideal to purchase a multimeter that comes with a safety rating/certification. This will keep your projects safe for yourself and the system you are working on. It can avert fires and short circuits to happen. Invaluable, if we must add.
You must also know the accuracy of the multimeter. This depends on the level of accuracy you require for your project. While the general error limit, in any case, should be low, the exact level of digit preciseness can only be decided by you as per your needs. So, consider if you need it for home use or in a professional setting to be totally sure.
6. Battery life
If you intend to use your meter constantly, as part of your day job or even if you have an undergoing project that requires lots of measurements, you should go for one that lasts as much as possible. Most of the dmms have a battery indicator, and usually, they inform you 15 minutes prior they shut off.
We’re talking about a set of red and black probes and test leads that help perform basic tests, alligator clips for attaching the probes to wires or batteries. Others come with a magnetic case that allows you to attach the device to a metal surface, letting you read all the information while working with both hands. These accessories are also available at hardware stores, but it saves you time and extra money if they come together with the multimeter.
8. Additional Features
Also, keep in mind to make sure that you know what your multimeter is capable of testing. So these are some things you should consider checking:
- AC/DC Voltage. Ensure that the meter can test both current types, the alternating current (AC) and the direct DC current. Usually, true RMS multimeters are ideal for measuring alternating current or AC voltage.
- Current. Almost all multimeters are capable of testing electricity’s rate of flow. You better check before you buy!
- Voltage, which is the difference in electric current between two points.
- Resistance is a measure of the opposition to current flow in an electrical circuit.
- Capacitance. It’s the ability to store an electrical charge. Not all multimeters can test that, but you never know when it can come in handy.
- Temperature. You will most likely need at some point to measure the physical warmth of the circuit, so better invest in a multimeter with the thermocouple option. Pro tip: Always check that the temperature is measured both in Fahrenheit and Celsius!
- Frequency. You can also use your meter to test the rate of electrical occurrence (measured in hertz).
Is it dangerous to use a multimeter?
When you tackle an electrical problem in your house, or you’re a professional and have to deal every day with electrical issues, you should be extremely careful of how to handle them and always take the mandatory safety precautions.
Over the years, there have been incidents where electrical workers or amateurs have been exposed to a serious arc flash event or even shocked, trying to run simple electrical tests. In our case, shock hazards can occur if the meter is not properly maintained. Let’s look at some dangers that are out there and what we can do to ensure they don’t happen.
Danger no 1: Voltage Spikes
In some cases, the voltage on a 480-volt system can climb all the way up to 8000-10,000 volts. Capacitors, speed drives and motors can generate these overvoltages. Lightning strikes on a transmission line can also be a cause for a voltage transient. This is why it’s of pivotal importance to have a digital meter with the proper category rating for the work you need to do.
The solution, of course, is to choose the correct meter and probes. Use a voltage tester that is rated to handle more voltage than the equipment that’s being tested. Otherwise, they can explode, causing an arc flash. Also, keep in mind that the closer to the outside, the higher the category (CAT II, CAT III, CAT IV) rating required.
Danger no 2: Probe Insulation and Meter Deterioration
When you are dealing with electricity, wearing rubber gloves is mandatory, but when it comes to safety, it’s all about layers of protection. Always check beforehand the insulation on the probes for any signs of potential damage, deterioration or cracks to make sure you’re fully protected from a shock. You should also check from time to time that your meter works appropriately without lagging or malfunctioning. In simple terms, a thorough visual inspection of your tools and equipment can be literally life-saving. For internal breaks, you should use your meter’s continuity function. If you don’t know-how, you should look at the instructions manual that the multimeter comes with.
Danger No 3: Human Error
This probably happens quite often. There are 2 things to do if you want to eliminate the chance of making a mistake. Either hire a robot or increase the amount of practise you do. Electrical workers seem relatively calm when dealing with tens of thousands of life-threatening volts. Why? They’re experienced enough, and they simply know exactly what to do. Even when things go south, they know how to get out of nasty situations. It’s because of their training.
Let’s take a look at some common mistakes people make using digital meters and electrical testers:
- Ohms selected when measuring voltage. It’s very common to leave the meter on the ohms settings during voltage measurements. This can lead to meter sparking or even blowing up. This small explosion can affect the actual equipment, which will initiate a much more tremendous blast.
- Forgetting to change the probe socket. Often people overlook changing the probes to the correct socket. Some meters will alert you if something like that occurs, but not all, and the results can be devastating. Immediately the meter turns to a dead short, and when put across 600 volts, the arch flash can be life-threatening.
- Voltage exceeds meter limits. As mentioned above, never use an 800-volt meter on a 2000-volt electrical system so that you avoid damaging the equipment and, of course, injuries.
How often should you calibrate your Multimeter and why?
Every professional has a tool that he relies on every day. A writer, for instance, needs his laptop to work properly so that he can produce copies. An electrical worker, in the same manner, needs his multimeter as it is his go-to tool. Of course, a multimeter needs maintenance from time to time. Part of that maintenance is calibration. It is essential to calibrate multimeters to ensure their accuracy and efficiency. Since they measure various electrical properties, their calibration needs to be different for each of these processes. Apart from the accuracy, calibration also serves another purpose; to provide guidelines for fixing a device that is out of calibration.
It is natural for a multimeter to lose accuracy over time, especially when exposed to extreme temperatures and humidity. As mentioned above, if a meter does not give the correct measurements, it might be fatal for the user or mess out his projects completely. Thus, a well-calibrated meter is a requirement both for safety and efficiency reasons.
There is no specific answer on how often you should calibrate your meter. It depends on many factors, from how often you use it to where you store it. Most new meters will have a recommended calibration schedule in the manual. Manufacturers suggest sending the tool to a calibration lab at least once per year. If you’re an electrical worker and use your meter for heavy-duty jobs every day, it is recommended to send it for calibration once every 90 days. For a hobbyist, once per year should be more than enough.
Also, it is important to mention whether you can calibrate your meter on your own or should you go to a specialist. There are many resources available online and tutorials that go step-by-step on how to calibrate your electrical instruments. But, it is uncertain that you’ll achieve perfect accuracy. If you’re a hobbyist, you can do this process on your own. For a professional, it’s better to trust a specialist so that you can have peace of mind. You’ll save time and money through an error in measurement.
How much should you spend on multimeters?
When it comes to multimeters, there is a plethora of products from different manufacturers to choose from. At the end of the day, it all depends on your particular needs and the amount of money you’re willing to pay for such a helpful tool. The price range of multimeters goes from as low as £10 to £1000.
With a price range from £10 to £40, you can find a high-quality meter at an affordable price. You can choose from analog multimeters to auto-ranging digital multimeters that are accurate and reliable. Whether you are a certified professional or someone who enjoys repairing household electrical issues, there is a budget multimeter to choose from that won’t leave you unsatisfied.
With a price range from £200 to £1000, you can find top range products that are highly accurate and inclusive. In this category, most of the meters come with a 1-year warranty (some even 2) and have many capabilities, from simple troubleshooting to resolving complex electrical issues. Of course, this type of products are for certified professionals that use meters all day long and demand the highest levels of accuracy and reliability.
A multimeter, no matter how new or experienced you are in the field of electronics, is essential for any light or heavy-duty task you aspire to delve into; or for any short circuit repair you might need in your home or office. We are certain that this buyer’s guide sheds some light on how practical an instrument a multimeter is and what you can expect from it. Always keep in mind your budget and the features you need it to have so that you purchase the right product for the right money without overspending. Diligently deal with anything electric. Check among the best multimeters and find yours today!