View Full Version : Time for a new multi-meter
02-06-2010, 05:41 PM
What have you found to be a preferred controls meter? I would like to have a single multi-meter if possible. Used to carry two, one UEI amp clamp style multi-meter and another for reading 4-20 mA signals. Anyway company told me to pick out one or two of what I want so the search begins.
02-06-2010, 05:59 PM
Check out the Amprobe 38XRA has RS-232 to download info to PC. Also check out TPI #440 also has RS-232 capability. I have the Amprobe 34XRA and have had no problems and I really like the blue backlight it's easy to read. I understand Amprobe bought Meterman and the Fluke rep at the industrial maintenance show I was attending told me that fluke makes Meterman Meters.
02-06-2010, 07:45 PM
If you work on Variable Frequency Drives a Fluke 1587 is the way to go.
The Lo Pass filter will show you the true VFD voltage output and the insulation test feature has helped me prove to many so called "qualified electricians" that either the motor windings are failing or wiring is bad.
Fluke makes the best products when it comes electrical measurements hands down!
Theirs is the only meter I'll trust my life with.
02-06-2010, 09:14 PM
Fluke makes the best products when it comes electrical measurements hands down!
Theirs is the only meter I'll trust my life with.
I'll second that one ;)
I remember when Fluke first came out and I bought one, other techs teased the hell out of me, saying it must have been a "fluke" that I found blah blah blah, now,,,, everybody has one !! Crabby,,, go fluke and don't look back ;-) !!!!
02-07-2010, 08:46 AM
What have you found to be a preferred controls meter?
In all reality, for controls work the one meter I end up using 90-95% of the time, and which is able to suitably handle the tasks which that 90-95% entails ... is just a simple pen probe style basic multimeter which conveniently slips into a pocket.
An example of what I'm talking about.
The one pictured is not exactly the same as what I use. The make and model that I use is long out of production. Back then, I bought a couple, both still work and see a lot of use. But the one I link to represents the basic type of meter I'm speaking of.
I've never found a single meter that meets all my needs, all of the time. I don't think anyone actually makes such a gadget.
So I've always carried more than one meter in my work vehicle.
The thing is, on an average day, just how much does a person want to haul around on a job site when doing controls work?
Of course, it depends on what you're doing. For myself, I do very little actual install of equipment, components, etc. Mostly I'm doing programming, or testing and commissioning, troubleshooting a problem that occurred during the warranty period. Etc.
So ... most of the time, all I'm grabbing when I get to a job site is my lap top. A small tool pouch that clips onto belt or pocket with just a very few basic tools. A little plastic parts box that's no bigger than a pack of cigarettes which just contains a few wire nuts and a few other odds and ends. And that little pen probe style multimeter. Parts box and multimeter conveniently slip into pockets. Add one of those pen style voltage detectors.
I like traveling light.
Now, in the work vehicle I do have much better and more versatile meters. (I do favor Fluke)
But the fact is I don't actually need such just all that often.
MOST checking and troubleshooting I can accomplish readily and easily with that little meter. The ones I use have auto ranging, auto switch between AC/DC, etc. Only does volts and ohms. But in the majority of situations, its really all I need.
Such meter is convenient. Small and easily slips into a pocket with room to spare. In fact I pretty much leave it and a Klein 10-in-1 screwdriver/nutdriver on the seat or dash of the work vehicle at the end of a work day. And slip both into a pocket first thing when I get into the vehicle in the morning. (I do habitually wear pants with cargo style pockets on the thighs.)
In use, can work with it 2 handed without needing to find a place to set or hang the meter as is the case with larger meters. And this type usually has an alligator clip on the ground test lead, so it can be used one handed.
With mine, I glued (epoxied, actually) a small piece of double sided velcro to a convenient spot so that when not in use, I just coil the test lead and strap it to the meter so it doesn't flop around, get tangled, etc.
The sucker is just so darn CONVENIENT ... I feel lost without it.
Now as far a full fledged, serious meters go. Opinions about such vary greatly. All I'll say about that is that I prefer Flukes. A bit pricey. But I've been using em for years (about 20). Have frozen em, overheated em, dropped em from 10 foot up onto concrete, had em snowed and rained upon, burned the test leads off several times, blown the fuses on any number of occasions. And they're still ticking and working fine.
The only one I've had die on me so far, permanently, is one a coworker borrowed and then dropped into a water tank.
In my work vehicle I always have a T5 style. It's just handy sometimes. And I like that I can get the amp jaws into some places where the larger clamp on style jaws just don't fit. And then a I have a real, multi-purpose meter. Can't remember the exact model at the moment. Not a new one, have had it for years. But it does all the usual, milli-amps, freq, cap, RMS, micro volts, diode test, yadda, yadda. Oh, and accepts temp probe.
IIRC, it can also use a number of other attachments, but I never bother.
I'm not really a fan of an everything in one type device with a bag or case filled with all sorts of attachments. Ends up being more stuff to haul around whether yah need all of it or not. And in more complex troubleshooting or other task, I'm not fond of constantly changing attachments, switching meter over to appropriate scale or input type, moving meter from one spot to another all the time, etc.
So I tend, in more complex tasks, to grab the old canvas utility bag (actually I think mine is Condura or some similar sturdy synthetic fiber), think about what I'll be doing and will need, and toss in those specific items. For instance, might include a couple contact type electronic thermometers, a couple insertion types for ducts, a magnehelic or two of appropriate ranges, hand pump, hand held infrared scanner, the T5 for quick amp readings, etc.
It may seem like a lot. But I only grab whats needed. And then when working I have em set out on service cart (I have a small one) and grab as needed. I find it faster and more convenient. Can stick individual temp sensors where needed, let em settle out while I'm doing something else, don't have to stand there and wait because I'm using a one device does it all. Each magnehelic is in a case within which I also keep an assortment of pipe/tube adapters, connectors, extra tubing, and so forth. So I don't have to monkey around figuring out what I need to attach it and run out to the vehicle to get such.
I pretty much like things to go 1-2-3, fast and simple. As little wasted motion or time as possible.
But, generally speaking I don't need all that stuff most times except for initial setup, cal check, and so forth. On a new install, I'll generally get all that sort of checking (and adjustment if necessary) done right off the bat.
You know, check and verify that particular temp sensor is showing something like a true, verifiable temp. Set trip set point on high duct lockout or similar devices. Verify range settings on press or DP transmitters, and then see if what they're actually outputting looks reasonably accurate, zero the same ... in such cases I generally have the good multimeter configured for ma input, and leave it that way. Use another meter for volts, resistance, etc. Need signal generator? I have separate device for that. And so forth.
Then put the stuff away and settle down with just my laptop, the pocket multi-meter, maybe a pocket thermometer ... just in case, the Klein 10-in1 driver, good multi-tool on belt, etc. Minimal stuff, light, don't need hands to carry it.
I mean, I might actually still have the good meter stuck on a bottom shelf/tray of the service cart (with laptop set up on top), just in case.
But its like a situation that happened last week. New construction, new install. I'd gotten all the preliminary stuff out of the way. Sensors all set up and checked. We label EVERYTHING, so had all that done. So I'm down to me and the laptop, checking out input and output configuration and making sure that when AO #1 ranged from low to high that the correct device cycled, and cycled fully and in the expected direction. In this case was some dampers. I'm looking at temps and CFMs, Hmmm ... sure looks like OA dampers aren't cycling right. So I jump up, grab pocket meter, test AO at controller, yep she's outputting signal. Stash meter in pocket. Look into observation window on AHU access door. Nope, dampers should be open but they're closed. Grab ladder and climb up where dampers actually are ... way up there about 12 foot. Actuator not moving? Or maybe not secured correctly to damper shaft? Or damper shaft not connected to dampers? Binding? Who knows? .... Nope ... actuator not moving. Have power? Signal? Okay, junction box right there, remove cover, grab meter from pocket, .... I've got power, common wire to ground shows continuity ... ahhhh, no signal.
As it turned out signal wire had fallen out of wire nut a couple junction boxes before that one. Was a common problem on that job as the installer didn't like using a lot of different size wire nuts. So he'd used a too big size in many instances. We did have a discussion about that later.
My main point was that I didn't have to haul the bigger meter up and down the ladder unnecessarily ... and if I did find I needed a meter ... The little one in the pocket handled most needs. No climbing down to go fetch one.
I must confess, I'm really, really lazy. Hate manually hauling around stuff I don't need. One eliminated trip up and down a ladder is good, more such eliminations are even better. I don't even like extra trips back and forth from one side of a machinery room to another to go fetch a meter I left over there. Or to go fetch a screwdriver, the reason I love that Klein 10-in-1.
Just my thoughts on the subject. The particular Fluke suggested by another fellow looks good to me. I checked the specs on it ... nice. But I'd give some consideration to the idea of a little, easily pocketed meter, in addition.
02-07-2010, 10:41 AM
I bought this meter to check 4-20ma signals
and I bought this one for vfd testing, troubleshooting, etc.
02-07-2010, 01:06 PM
My everyday carry (in my laptop bag) is a Fluke 337 (just had to replace it as my old one was stolen with the laptop before Christmas).
In my tool bag I also have the following:
Fluke 87 (with thermocouple module)
Fluke 922 (love this thing for calibrating vav controllers)
I've been looking at the fluke 4-20mA meter but don't have the $$$ right now.
Look on eBay when you have made a decision, decent deals on meters.
02-07-2010, 04:17 PM
Toyota is the best car you can buy, Theirs is the only car I will trust my life with. The Biggest is not always the best. Perception is Reality = Quality is Job One. You asked for it, you got it! Toyota!! I mean Fluke!!
02-07-2010, 06:26 PM
This is not a Fluke commercial:
I use a Fluke 115 as my drag around everyday meter. The 116 is Sweet but it won't handle 4-20mA.
As others have mentioned I have more meters in the Van including my Simpson 260 and an Amprobe RS-3 Ultra, both of which I have used in the last 10 days because digital just can't do some stuff.
You are not new to this so I would honestly suggest one of the basic UEI/TPI (are they still in business?) with manual ranging (as a daily drag around. Or the Fluke 115 !) . Why ?, they are inexpensive, accurate and reliable. I used a TPI for 8 years until the day it read 564VAC on a 480VAC circuit, went into the trash instantly. But hey, It only cost me 50-60 bucks and I definately got my moneys worth.
If needed, I have the "Fancy Meters" in the Van !
02-07-2010, 10:28 PM
I bought a Fluke 922 meter too, we are doing a bunch of NFPA 496 work and it has really come in handy.
BTW my company buys our tools and have supplied me with a Fluke meter and a Fluke amp meter and a Fluke temp meter but the ones I have posted about I have purchased myself.
02-07-2010, 10:39 PM
I have an old fluke (back before they added K plug) it still works very well and has held up well. However when I updated I got a fieldpiece. I love it. I also have several attachments with it and intend to get more. While a condenser was being unloaded of a truck I laid the field piece down to help move the 5 ton beast. The driver dropped his load plate on my meter. Needless to say the LCD screen shattered. I sent it to fieldpiece to get it repaired and they sent me a brand new one. No charge since it was not yet a year old. To me this is my most valuable tool.
02-08-2010, 12:51 AM
If your not doing VFDs, then I use a Fluke 179, with a 200A clamp attachment. It all fits in 1 pouch, it has the magnetic hanger, and you can get the meter/laser thermometer kit for a decent price. This will do all of your controls work and high voltage as long as your not doing really big equipment and need a bigger ampprobe. The 80 series are better, if you need the features. The flukes are rated CAT III, check this out and it might answer some of your questions. http://support.fluke.com/find-sales/Download/Asset/1260898_6116_ENG_M_W.PDF
02-08-2010, 10:47 PM
This is the one that I use.
It may be a little bigger than others, but it does everything that I could need in the field and on the test bench.
You can buy the extra for it easy. There are combo kits for it also.
Check it out.
02-09-2010, 10:25 PM
I'd love to get my hands on a good Simpson if I could. That would be my pick. Just my $.02
02-12-2010, 09:53 PM
Thanks for all the input thus far. I just can't believe someone doesn't make an amp clamp style multi-meter that also will read 4-20 mA. I have a hard time with Fluke wanting more for there amp clamp only accessory than most want for a multi-meter.
Of course for the 4-20 the Fluke that you don't have to break the connection looks really nice. I am leaning towards making that my second multi-meter.
02-13-2010, 06:55 AM
hey crab the 4 to 20 fluke also has leads on the clamp so you can actually remove the clamp from the meter and hang the meter outside the panel, I believe the lead is about a foot long
02-23-2010, 08:42 AM
Thanks for the replies. I am going with a Fluke 28II with the i410 amp clamp and a few other accessories - pipe temp clamp, etc. It looks like it should basically cover everything with the amp clamp.
Still wish someone made a clamp style multi-meter that does mA's.
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