Multi-meters for the hobbyist electrician

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ChrisGreaves
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Multi-meters for the hobbyist electrician

Post by ChrisGreaves »

https://www.canadiantire.ca/en/pdp/mast ... p.html#srp
https://www.canadiantire.ca/en/pdp/mast ... p.html#srp
https://www.canadiantire.ca/en/pdp/inno ... p.html#srp

I am about to buy my first Multi-meter. (Well, Tom will buy it for me next time he is in Clarenville ...)
I have read web pages that say "Get a simple one; it will serve you well until you get to a professional level, then you can buy a better one"; that makes sense to me.
I want to
(1) check that the 120vAC mains power really is dead before I replace another baseboard heater thermostat
(2) be able to check current and voltages in a 12vDC system (car battery reservoir, wind vane, 12vDC appliances)

I understand that I need a meter with a dial to read out "current" or "voltage"
I know that a million printed labels on a dial don't make it a good meter.
We should realize that prices in $CDN in Clarenville will seem exorbitant to folks in Dallas or London!

If you regularly use a multi-meter with confidence, is there anything at all in the three examples listed above that triggers a "DO NOT BUY THIS" signal in your mind? Tom will be sent off with instructions to buy one of these three if they are in stock.

Thanks
Chris
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silverback
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Re: Multi-meters for the hobbyist electrician

Post by silverback »

It's this one for me, 'cos it looks just like the one I've got here at home.
Silverback

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Re: Multi-meters for the hobbyist electrician

Post by BobH »

I don't know why you think you need a dial gauge. I'm not an electrician, but I've used the digital displays for a lot of years. One feature that I find of value is a tone for continuity testing. Sometimes it's difficult to place the leads AND read the gauge. The audible tone when you have continuity is very helpful.

Here's one I think you might like. It has the audio tone and 2 types of probes. The included contactless voltage detector is very handy. I don't know this brand but Amazon is pretty good about bad products. Don't know about Canadian prices either. It's probably twice (?) the US price. Amazon delivers even in Bonavista, I understand, even if it is only once on alternate weeks. :grin:
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Re: Multi-meters for the hobbyist electrician

Post by Rebel »

I agree with Silverback (the first one in your list - Mastercraft at $34.99). It appears to be a simple basic meter. But DO read the instruction manual.
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Re: Multi-meters for the hobbyist electrician

Post by John Gray »

There are ever-so-many multimeters available, and if you don't want to buy a top-quality multimeter (like a Fluke, a snip at £210, which translates as about CAD 360, excluding Bonavista Tax) then your suggestions seem adequate for small numbers of volts* and amps.

Do consider whether crocodile clips would be of use as well as the pointy probes - more function but another pair of leads to carry around / lose...

* when first I wrote that it came out as "viols", a consort of which I have been listening to recently! :thumbup:
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Re: Multi-meters for the hobbyist electrician

Post by Doc.AElstein »

ChrisGreaves wrote:
25 Dec 2020, 19:39
....
I want to
(1) check that the 120vAC mains power really is dead before I replace another baseboard heater thermostat
(2) be able to check current and voltages in a 12vDC system (car battery reservoir, wind vane, 12vDC appliances)..
I would tend to have any cheap new one with all the mod cons, and not take much care of it, and expect to probably break it at some point, and I usually do.
I would have a few of those little screwdriver voltage indicator things laying around.
I often put a new pair of the cheap plastic throw away gloves on when going anywhere near high voltage. ( I know everyone will tell me they are not specified or suitable as electric shock protection, but they work and have saved me a few times. ( Occasionally in my work I am forced to work on live wires outside in the rain and wind etc… ) )

I treasure my old AVO 8, and often use that if I want to be really sure what I’ve got “in my hand” in terms of Volts…
Its reliable ‘cos its analogue - something in it moves physically when its shoved with volts.
A Digital Multimeter is like a computer and the damn thing could be telling you anything.
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Re: Multi-meters for the hobbyist electrician

Post by Rebel »

John Gray's suggestion of an extra pair of leads is excellent. I can't find any on the Canadian Tire site, but Amazon has lots to choose from. You should also be able to find these if you have a local electrical supply shop.
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Re: Multi-meters for the hobbyist electrician

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Post by silverback » 25 Dec 2020, 16:35
Silverback >> It's this one for me, 'cos it looks just like the one I've got here at home.

Thanks Silverback. I am somewhat constrained by availability and delivery here. All bets are off when it comes from anywhere further than St John's, and I'm not so sure about daily taxis to St John's anymore. As well, I really need something dead-simple for the first few months, just to make sure that (a) I don't electrocute myself and (b) that DC power is enough to make a lamp glow or a pump to operate.
I take it from your lack of comment that you have had no major problems with your meter, that is, that you got what you expected when you paid for it.


Post by BobH »
25 Dec 2020, 18:38
BobH » I don't know why you think you need a dial gauge. I'm not an electrician, but I've used the digital displays for a lot of years. One feature that I find of value is a tone for continuity testing. Sometimes it's difficult to place the leads AND read the gauge. The audible tone when you have continuity is very helpful.

Me too, I don't really know why I need a dial gauge. I think that a dial gauge lets me start off at a high testing level then scale back until I am within range. I'd feel the same about a set of scales or perhaps a thermometer.
I am guessing that "continuity testing" is testing to see if there is a circuit, and that an audible tine tells me that there is a circuit, without me having to take my eyes of the ends of the probes.

BobH » Here's one I think you might like. It has the audio tone and 2 types of probes. The included contactless voltage detector is very handy. I don't know this brand but Amazon is pretty good about bad products. Don't know about Canadian prices either. It's probably twice (?) the US price. Amazon delivers even in Bonavista, I understand, even if it is only once on alternate weeks. :grin:

Bob, I do believe that you are right; I would like it, but at this stage I am on a tight monthly budget for this project AND I will be paying an electrical engineering student to mentor me. These $cdn40 devices encourage me to think that they will do until I get "on my feet" with the project. Last time I looked I had twenty-nine applications/appliances dreamed up. If I can achieve one per month, well that's 2.41667 more Christmases …
You are right about Canadian prices. I haven't done a lot of cross-border shopping. Buffalo gas (don't even think about commenting) is 1/3 cheaper than Canadian Gas, but a 2:1 rule of thumb works for me. Amazon does deliver to Bonavista, but my pal tells me it is sometimes three weeks, and HE is driving to Clarenville early next week and can pick up my meter on that trip.


Post by Rebel »
26 Dec 2020, 03:01
John>> I agree with Silverback (the first one in your list - Mastercraft at $34.99). It appears to be a simple basic meter. But DO read the instruction manual.

Reading instruction manuals is what I do best. I rewrite the ones in broken English and test the rewritten manual against the installed Stelco programmable thermostat (grin!). I like the French and Spanish versions, too, but am cautious about the translasians!


Post by John Gray »
26 Dec 2020, 05:37
John>> There are ever-so-many multi-meters available, and if you don't want to buy a top-quality multi-meter (like a Fluke, a snip at £210, which translates as about CAD 360, excluding Bonavista Tax) then your suggestions seem adequate for small numbers of volts* and amps.

Thanks John. I saw many references to the Fluke as I read web pages. Fluke appears to have a good reputation.

John>> Do consider whether crocodile clips would be of use as well as the pointy probes - more function but another pair of leads to carry around / lose...

I met get Tom to ask the clerk to recommend crocodiles for the meter and have him pick up a pair if they have them in stock.


Post by Doc.AElstein »
26 Dec 2020, 11:00

Doc >> I often put a new pair of the cheap plastic throw away gloves on when going anywhere near high voltage. ( I know everyone will tell me they are not specified or suitable as electric shock protection, but they work and have saved me a few times. ( Occasionally in my work I am forced to work on live wires outside in the rain and wind etc… ) )

I was given the rubber-glove advice over twenty years ago by a buddy who worked for Ontario Hydro; he also suggested rubber-soled shoes, indeed, anything at all that helped insulate me from the ground.


Post by Rebel » 26 Dec 2020, 12:08
John >> John Gray's suggestion of an extra pair of leads is excellent. I can't find any on the Canadian Tire site, but Amazon has lots to choose from. You should also be able to find these if you have a local electrical supply shop.

Thanks John, but please see above my reference to Tom chatting with the clerk. We do not have an electrical store here. We have part of Aisle four in Swyers hardware, and at Home Hardware we have Todd and Morgan who say "No, we don't stock that/those". (grin!)


Thanks to All
Chris
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Re: Multi-meters for the hobbyist electrician

Post by PJ_in_FL »

ChrisGreaves wrote:
25 Dec 2020, 19:39
I am about to buy my first Multi-meter...
check that the 120vAC mains power...
I understand that I need a meter with a dial to read out "current" or "voltage"...
If you regularly use a multi-meter with confidence, is there anything at all in the three examples listed above that triggers a "DO NOT BUY THIS" signal in your mind?
Chris,

Pretty much all you wrote raised a flag.

1) You're going to be probing AC.

I'm not going to sugar-coat this. Unless you know what you're doing before probing then there's a chance you could injure or kill yourself. You're a very knowledgeable and articulate man. I really don't want you to disappear from the communities like Kilmatead from Ireland who was active in the xplorer2 forum until November three years ago. I still don't know what happened even after extensive searching. Although you might chose to ignore my advise, please be cautious. Use gloves like Doc mentioned if you just HAVE to go near AC.

2) Mentioning a "dial".

If you want a dial search in the antique shops. Seriously, digital meters are very reliable, but do require batteries, so there's a place for pure analog meters.

3) Getting a meter at a local shop in Clarenville.

If you spend more that $20 then you're buying more than you need. For most uses, a cheap (<$5) meter will do the trick. I've used expensive test equipment for a few decades (including $5 million test systems), but for personal use I had a Fluke meter until it died after about 20 years. I bought a nice Radio Shack True-RMS meter when they were selling out the retail stores, just because, but my go-to daily meter is this CEN-TECH meter picked up at Northern Tool out of a $2 bin about 10 years or so back.

It's cheap and fragile. I know the probe leads have probably 3 or 4 strands of copper in them at most, so I'm very careful with the leads. If you get really DIY-ish, it'll even test your transistors. FYI, I've never tested a transistor at home. I don't need anything more around the house. You can find it on Amazon for the outrageous price of $7 plus shipping. If you really need alligator leads, order a set of those, too, for about $6.

Depending on what's available in the stores close to you, it might be worth waiting a week or two for an Amazon delivery.
PJ in (usually sunny) FL

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Re: Multi-meters for the hobbyist electrician

Post by BobH »

Chris, I did the currency conversion and they one I saw is less than $40 CA at $38 and change. It comes with alligator clip probes plus the contact-less current tester. I urge you to consider waiting for the Swoosh to Swoop to BV NL CA
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Re: Multi-meters for the hobbyist electrician

Post by ChrisGreaves »

PJ_in_FL wrote:
27 Dec 2020, 01:02
1) You're going to be probing AC.
Hi PJ.
First off my thrust is into 12vDC. I do very little mains electricity. Three body-slams in Australia was enough for me. At least it hasn't affected my personality ... :grin:
My most likely use of 120vAC on a meter will be to confirm that the power is truly off before replacing an appliance or turning a rogue wall-outlet upside down. Despite installing 32 new outlets and upgrading 10 existing outlets in the house, the electricians managed to miss one. I want my wall-outlets to be consistent in orientation so that no-one, including you when you come to visit me (I've already been to Florida three times), spends time finger-slipping when they try to plug in a bed-side lamp.
For that kind of hobbyist 120vAC I will have the service panel breakers off; the outlet breakers off, rubber gloves on, rubber-soled fleece-lined boots on, rubber handled tools, ... I really mean it when I say that I don't want to die before I have read every book that has ever been published. :read:
Unless you know what you're doing before probing then there's a chance you could injure or kill yourself.
... which is why I paid reputable firms such as Bartletts thousands of dollars to come in and upgrade the wiring, and repair the damage caused by The Crash Of November 2019.
Seriously, digital meters are very reliable, but do require batteries, ...
There are more variables at play here. If I don't have a meter, then any meter is a step forward, and that's what I am taking. That basic meter is being picked up in Clarenville as I type (Tom set off a few minutes ago). In my ambitious 12vDC system I am prepared for a few dead-ends. My years in project/system development have taught me that. I want to minimize dead-ends, but I will never eliminate them.
I take all the points in this thread into consideration, and chances are strong that within twelve months (a) I will have upgraded to a better-suited meter and (b) will be passing off my early stuff to someone as enthusiastic as I in 12vDC in this district; someone who does not, as yet, have a meter. The same applies to my first wind-turbine, first LED light, first ... The "R" in CPRGreaves stands for "Reuse"!

If you spend more that $20 then you're buying more than you need. ... Depending on what's available in the stores close to you, it might be worth waiting a week or two for an Amazon delivery.
I quite agree. I learned that lesson forty years ago. Small steps at low cost are the best way forward in exploration.

The $20 limit might be true in a heavily-populated area like Florida, and in $US, but it will not be true in less populated densities and in particular in $cdn. This is a fact of life. An Île de France Navigo pass for five zones for one month sets me back $cdn110 to cover a 12,000 sq km area. The TTC serves the city of Toronto (a mere 630 square KM). A monthly pass was $144 last time I looked. Based on area served, a TTC metro-pass is some twenty-five times as expensive as a Navigo pass. (That the RATP/Transilean system craps on the TTC is another issue). Thirty years ago an all-you-can-eat breakfast in Buffalo was about $3.75; in Toronto it was more like $6.

As far as stores close to me are concerned I have been for many years a zealot in terms of shopping locally. Tomorrow morning I wall walk down the hill to my nearest hardware store and buy an LED battery-powered flashlight, rather than save a dollar by having Tom pick up a cheaper model in Clarenville. I value Todd and Megan's advice and delivery of heavy items enough to channel my business there. I am sure that Amazon can ship it to me from wherever, but I place great value still on local interaction with people.

(FWIW I am keeping track of Tom's adventures; about half of what he orders through Amazon seems to be returned as unsatisfactory. He spends many hours repackaging stuff and carting it off to the post office. I stare in silent amusement)

ANYWAY! PJ I thank you again for your comments. My reply here is not aimed directly at you as much as at the general population, for a general understanding of my situation. If Hans's grandfather had a multi-meter business right in the heart of Wageningen, selling stuff at 1/10 the price of Canadian Tyre in Bonavista, I'd still drop my coins in Bonavista!

Cheers
Chris
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Re: Multi-meters for the hobbyist electrician

Post by ChrisGreaves »

BobH wrote:
27 Dec 2020, 03:18
Chris, I did the currency conversion and they one I saw is less than $40 CA at $38 and change. It comes with alligator clip probes plus the contact-less current tester. I urge you to consider waiting for the Swoosh to Swoop to BV NL CA
Thanks for this Bob, but time has crept up on me and slapped me with a Cosh (US: Blackjack) (also known as a cudgel, baton, bludgeon, truncheon, nightstick or impact weapon). I had previously set myself a deadline for the first few of my (now) 29 12vDC applications, and time marches on. I had hoped to have a mentor by now, but none has arisen, so plan B is to "Cut Code" as my late boss Bob Northcote used to urge.

The price looks quite similar to what I paid at around 4am this morning, and Tom's Tyres Travel Toward Town as we squeak.

Whatever I buy over the next couple of months will for sure be passed on to the next Bonavista resident who wakes up to the applicability of 12vDC at the tip of this wind-swept peninsula. (I have switched to checking wind speeds in Ventusky in mph because it is not quite so frightening a value)

I am trying not to think of your 70°F issues. How you must be suffering!

Cheers
Chris
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Re: Multi-meters for the hobbyist electrician

Post by ChrisGreaves »

Bonavista_20201228_151254.JPG
Woo-Hoo! That was fast!
And it comes with battery.
Bonavista_20201228_145904.JPG
Now I can test the batteries that came in my cheap ($cdn3.77+tax) soutce of LED lights this afternoon.
Cheers and Thanks all around. :thankyou: :thankyou: :thankyou:
Chris
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