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How to measure volts with a multimeter? Voltage Measurement

By shafiq usama

How to meaure volts with a multimeter

As an electrical engineer, I love explaining how things like circuits and electronics work. I write on my blog to share simple explanations, reviews, and useful tips about the latest technology.

Voltage is one of the basic electrical quantities and can be measured with a multimeter. A voltage measurement is made by connecting the meter in parallel with the circuit under test. The reading on the multimeter will then give the voltage drop across its terminals. But it's not as simple as it looks, especially if you're a beginner. Being a professional, I will guide you on how to measure volts with a multimeter. But before jumping on to the guide, let's look at what a multimeter is and how it works.

What is a multimeter?

A multimeter is a testing device that measures multiple electrical values in a circuit, including current, resistance, and voltage. Multimeters can be either analog or digital.

Analog multimeters use a pointer to indicate readings on a dial, while digital multimeters (DMMs) display readings on a digital screen. If you want to know more about functionality features and different parts of multimeters, click on this full guide to multimeter parts and symbols.

Different types of multimeters

There are two main types of multimeters: analog and digital. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Analog multimeter:

Advantages:

  • Easy to use
  • Less expensive
  • Don't need batteries
  • More rugged

Disadvantages:

  • Not as accurate as digital multimeters
  • More difficult to read
  • Slow to respond

Digital multimeter (DMM):

Advantages:

  • More accurate than analog meters
  • Easy to read
  • Fast response time
  • Equipped with advanced features

Disadvantages:

  • More expensive than analog meters
  • Need Batteries

how to measure volts with a multimeter?

How do you make a voltage measurement with an analog multimeter?

Step-by-step Guide (5 Easy Steps)

1. Turn the multimeter on by rotating the knob to the far right.

2. Select the DC voltage range by turning the selector knob to the "VDC" position.

3. Touch the black lead to the ground terminal and the red lead to the positive terminal of the circuit under test.

4. The needle will move to indicate the voltage drop across the multimeter terminals.

5. You can also adjust the zero position of the needle just by rotating the knob or screw.

How to make a voltage measurement -with a digital multimeter, DMM?

Digital multimeters are more accurate and easier to read than analog multimeters. They also have a faster response time. There are two types of digital multimeters.

  • Auto-ranging
  • Manual ranging

Using a Manual Multimeter to read voltage

Step-by-step Guide (5 Easy Steps)

1. Turn the multimeter on by pressing the "on/off" button.

2. Select the DC voltage range by turning the selector knob to the "above rated voltage value." If you're measuring a voltage of 110V, set the range to 220V at least.

3. Touch the black lead to the ground terminal and the red lead to the positive terminal of the circuit under test.

4. The digital screen will display the voltage drop across the multimeter terminals.

5. You can also hold the "HOLD" button to take a reading and then release it to see the reading on the screen.

Using an Auto Ranging Multimeter to read voltage


This is the easiest way to measure ac dc voltages because you don't have to set ranges.

1. Turn the multimeter on by pressing the "on/off" button.

2. Select the voltage range by turning the selector knob to the "V" position. You don't have to select ranges but sometimes have to press the ac/dc shift button.

3. Touch the black lead to the ground terminal and the red lead to the positive terminal of the circuit under test.

4. The digital display will show the voltage drop across the multimeter terminals. You don't have to worry about ranges in this method, as the multimeter will automatically select the correct range.

5. You can also hold the "HOLD" button to take a reading and then release it to see the reading on the screen.

Tips for making voltage measurements

  • Make sure that the multimeter is turned off before making any connections.
  • Set the multimeter to the correct range. If you're unsure, start with the highest range and work your way down until you find the correct range.
  • Touch the probes gently to the terminals to avoid damaging them.
  • Never take measurements while the circuit is energized. Always disconnect the power before taking measurements.
  • If you're using a digital multimeter, be sure to hold the probes firmly in place while taking readings. Otherwise, the reading may be inaccurate.
  • Always take multiple readings and average them to get the most accurate result.

Things you should focus on:

Choose Test Probes:

When it comes to measuring voltages, the quality of test leads/probes matters a lot. Test probes are usually categorized by their cat ratings. The cat rating is the maximum voltage that the probe can withstand without breaking down. Almost every other multimeter has a cat rating CAT III or CAT IV. If you want to know more about multimeter cat ratings, then click here.

Identifying Live or Hot Wires:

The first step in measuring voltages is to identify which wire is live or hot. A live wire is a wire that has voltage running through it. A hot wire is a live wire that is also connected to an electrical load. In most cases, the hot wire will be the black or red wire. You have to put the positive lead of the multimeter on the red wire and the black lead on the neutral wire or ground.

Series and Parallel connections:

Connect the red and black probe in series with the load if you want to measure the current.  However, in the case of voltages, you have to connect the multimeter probes in parallel to the load.

What Multimeter should I buy? Recommended Multimeters

Normally all multimeters perform well if you just want to measure standard home or residential voltages. But the key differences are ranges, safety features, and advanced functions. So keeping in mind this, I have made 7 lists of the best multi-purpose multimeters as mentioned below. So you can choose the one according to your needs.

Final Verdict:

Voltages are an important part of electricity, and understanding how to measure them is crucial for anyone working with electrical circuits. A multimeter is the most common tool used to measure voltages, and it's relatively easy to use once you understand the basics. 

Be sure to follow all safety precautions when working with electricity, and always take multiple readings to ensure accuracy. Hopefully, this guide helped you to understand how to measure volts with a multimeter. Share this valuable guide with your friends and family members so they can also learn how to use a multimeter. Stay Safe and Happy Learning!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Can you measure both ac and dc voltage with the same multimeter?

You can measure AC and DC voltages with the same multimeter. However, most multimeters will have separate AC or DC measurement settings.

Q2. What is the difference between AC voltage and DC voltage?

AC voltage is an alternating current, while DC voltage is a direct current. AC voltage changes direction, while DC voltage flows in one direction only.

Q3. Can you measure Millivolts with a multimeter?

Yes, you can measure millivolts with a multimeter. Most multimeters will have a separate setting for measuring millivolts.