Get to know your clamp meter better
What is a clamp meter?
Clamp meter (also called current clamp or current probe) is an electrical measuring device which combines the functions of a basic multimeter and current sensor. Clamp meters are used to measure current. They have jaws which open to clamp around an electrical conductor, a cable etc. (therefore clamp meter). There is no need to make physical contact with the conductor, you only need to embrace the jaws of the clamp meter around it. There is also no need to disconnect the cable or conductor.
Clamp meter are used to measure AC (alternating current). More advanced types can also measure for example phase or waveform or DC (direct current). There is also maximum value to which a certain clamp meter can measure the current, so make sure the specs meet your requirements when you pick a product. Some clamp meters can measure the current up to 1000 A or higher, but it depends on the certain type.
Almost every type of clamp meter is composed of the following parts:
- Current-sensing jaw
- Tacticle barrier
- Hold button: freezes the display reading (reading is released when button is pushed a second time)
- Dial (aka rotary switch)
- DisplayBacklight button
- Min Max Button: on first push, display shows maximum input, on subsequent pushed, minimum and average inputs are shown (works in current, voltage and frequency modes)
- Inrush current button
- Zero button: removes dc offset from dc current measurements, also serves as dial’s shift button to select yellow functions scattered around the dial
- Jaw release lever
- Alignment marks: to meet accuracy specifications, a conductor must be aligned with these marks
- Common input jack
- Volts/ohm input jack
- Input for flexible current probe
Why are clamp meters so popular?
Clamp meters have recetly become extremely popular among the users. They are very user-friendly, but most importantly, they are safe and convenient to use.
Thanks to a clamp meter, you don´t need to cut into a wire to measure the current in-line. Thanks to the jaws of the clamp meter you don´t need to make any physical contact at all. Secondly, you don´t need to shut down the circuit when measuring. The measurement is therefore very easy and simple.
What are clamp meters used for?
Clamp meters are mostly used to repair systems, troubleshoot installation problems, perform final circuit tests, supervise apprentice electricians while installing electrical equipment, to perform maintenance or system troubleshooting.
Another applications of clamp meters include:
- These meters are used mainly for measuring high-level current. By using digital multimeters we cannot measure the current of 10A for more than 30secs without damaging the meter.
- The applications of these meters mainly include industrial controls, industrial equipment, commercial, industrial, residential electrical systems & HVAC.
- These are used for repairing accessible systems based on the requirement.
- These are used to troubleshoot fixing problems, execute last circuit tests, and manage beginner electricians while fitting electrical instruments.
- These are used to execute scheduled, preventive protection as well as troubleshooting of the system.
What is better – a clamp meter or a multimeter?
Let´s discuss some differences and similarities between these two tools.
Clamp meters can measure wider ranges of current then multimeters and they can measure high current (which multimeters yousually cannot). On the other hand, multimeters can also measure resistance nd voltage and they also have a better resolutions and accuracy.
Multimeters are more suitable for electronic work, clamp meters are more suitable for measuring the speed of machine and current drawn.
A huge advantage if clamp meter is its number of functions and damage protection. Clamp meters are designed to be carried everywhere it the construction sites and they are usually very sturdy. Put simly, clamp meters are safer and easier to use than multimeters, while multimeters can give you much more precise measurement than clamp meters (thank to the direct physical contact with the circuit, which is not needed when using the clamp meter). Multimeters also have a disadvantage of short battery life, which can however differ from type to type –more expensive multimeters will probably have a longer battery life that the cheaper products.
To sum up let´s conclude that both devices have their pluses and minuses. Which one you should choose will depend on the requirements and the desired purpose. If you only need to measure the current values, you should probably pick a clamp meter. However, if you also need to measure resistance or voltage, you will more probably opt for the multimeter. Always make sure that the product you choose to buy meets your specifications and its features accomodate your requirements.
How does a clamp meter work?
The magnetic induction principle creates the current measurement without physical contact. It detects the magnetic field, generated by the current which flows through a wire or conductor.
Types of clamp meters
There are three most distinct types of clamp meters, Current transformer clamp meter (which can only measure AC), Hall effect clamp meter (which can measure both AC and DC) and Flexible clamp meter (which can only measure AS but are very good for measuring in tight spaces thanks to the Rogowski coil).
If you are looking for a good bacis AC measurement clamp meter, check out these tools: https://measuritec.com/collections/clamp-meters/products/fluke-771-clamp-meter-milliamp-process or https://measuritec.com/collections/clamp-meters/products/fluke-connect-leakage-current-clamp-40mm-clamp-opening or https://measuritec.com/collections/clamp-meters/products/fluke-connect-leakage-current-clamp-61mm-clamp-opening .
The most popular amongs the clamp meter types is probably the Hall effect clamp meters, because they can be used for a wide range of operations and the features provide you with professional performance. A very bacis but quality tool of this type is the following product: https://measuritec.com/collections/clamp-meters/products/kaiweets-ht206d-current-clamp-ammeter which performs all basic functions of clamp meter and measures both AC and DC. More advanced products for more advanced users include https://measuritec.com/collections/clamp-meters/products/amprobe-acdc-3400-ind-current-measuring-clamp-ac-dc-cat-iv or https://measuritec.com/collections/clamp-meters/products/keysight-technologies-u1194a-ac-dc-digital-clamp-meter . The price usually determines how sturdy the tool is, how many values it can measure, or the exact specifications and performance of the product. However, even a less expensive tool might be very useful for a basic user who only needs basic functions. Is you are a professional and need a very advanced, highly performing tool with many various features and functions, you might be more interested in tools like https://measuritec.com/collections/clamp-meters/products/keysight-technologies-u1213a-ac-dc-digital-clamp-meter or https://measuritec.com/collections/clamp-meters/products/extech-382075-2000a-true-rms-ac-dc-3-phase-power-clamp-meter .