A clamp meter is an electrical test tool that integrates a basic digital multimeter with a current sensor.
Basically, clamps measure current. Meanwhile, probes measure voltage. Having a hinged jaw joined into an electrical meter allows technicians to clamp the jaws around a wire, cable, or other conductors at any point in an electrical system, then measure current in that circuit without disconnecting/de-energizing it.
Ultimately, underneath their plastic moldings, hard jaws consist of ferrite iron and are engineered to detect, deliberate, and measure the magnetic field being produced by current as it flows through a conductor.
- Current-sensing jaw.
- Tactile barrier (to protect fingers from shocks).
- Hold button: Freezes the display reading.
- Dial (aka rotary switch).
- Backlight button.
- Min Max button – Can be triggered depending on the amount of pushes.
- Inrush current button.
- Zero buttons (yellow): Removes dc offset from dc current measurements. Also serves as the dial’s shift button to select yellow functions scattered around the dial.
- Jaw release lever.
- Alignment marks – To meet accuracy specifications.
- Common input jack.
- Volts/ohm input jack.
- Input for the flexible current probe.
Formerly created as a single-purpose test tool, recent clamp meters provide more measurement functions, greater accuracy, and in some cases specialized measurement features. In line with this, today’s clamp meters include most of the straightforward functions of a digital multimeter (DMM), such as the capability to measure voltage, continuity, and resistance.
Clamp meters have developed popular tools primarily for two reasons:
- Safety. Clamp meters allow electricians to avoid the old-school process of cutting into a wire and inserting a meter’s test leads into the circuit to take an in-line current measurement. As a result, the jaws of a clamp meter do not need to touch a conductor throughout a measurement.
- Convenience. During a measurement, it is not compulsory to shut off the circuit carrying current—a big boost in efficiency.
When measuring high levels of current, an ideal tool is a Clamp Meter. Meanwhile, DMMs cannot measure 10 A of current for more than 30 seconds without risking damage to the meter.
Also, clamp meters propose a minimum current range of 0 A to 100 A. Many models have an array of up to 600 A. Others go up to 999 A or 1400 A, and some plug-in clamp accessories such as the iFlex® can measure as high as 2500 A.
However, industrial equipment, industrial controls, residential/commercial/industrial electrical systems, and commercial/industrial HVAC, are used under Clamp meters.
- Service: To repair existing systems on an as-needed basis.
- Installation: To troubleshoot installation problems, perform final circuit tests, and supervise apprentice electricians while installing electrical equipment.
- Maintenance: To perform scheduled and preventative maintenance as well as system troubleshooting.
Three types of clamp meters exist:
- Current transformer clamp meters: measure only alternating current (ac).
- Hall Effect clamp meters: measure both alternating current and direct current (ac and dc).
- Flexible clamp meters: employ a Rogowski coil; measure ac only; good for measuring in tight spaces.
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