Multimeter and clamp meter both are used to measure different electrical properties in electrical equipment. Both meters have similar functions but different designs and measuring capabilities. If you're looking for a comparison between multimeter vs clamp meter then Let's jump into their major differences.
Major Differences between Clamp meters and multimeters
There are a variety of electrical devices out there on the market, but without a doubt one of the most important tools that you can have in your toolbox is a multimeter and clamp meter. But instead of carrying both you must have to choose one for routine tasks. A clamp meter is similar to a multimeter because it measures voltage, current, and resistance.
Although clamp meters are better for many of these measurements because they clamp around the device you're trying to measure. A clamp meter is also known as an ampere meter, tong tester, current clamp or, clamp ammeter. Whereas multimeter can not measure high current (max up to10A-20A). But you can get a variety of features in them which makes multimeters an all-in-one electrical tester.
5 Key Similarities & Differences | Clamp meter Vs Multimeter | Which one to buy?
For Multimeter vs Clamp Meter, Let's take a look at five major differences between clamp meters and multimeters:
Differences between Clamp meter and Multimeters
1. No Direct Connectivity
If you want to check current then you should get a clamp meter. Clamp meters are better for quickly taking current measurements on live circuits due to no direct connection of wires or Probes.
2. Current Measuring Range
Multimeter and clamp meters both can measure current but the measuring ranges are very much Different. Clamp meters can measure AC and DC currents up to 1000A, while multimeters can only measure AC DC Current up to 10A and in some special cases up to 20A.
3. Voltage Measuring Ranges
Multimeters are good for voltage testing. But mostly it depends upon cat ratings. If you want to how to test voltage with multimeters then its quite easy. Contrary to Multimeters, Clamp meters have a bit less voltage measuring ranges so you can not use it for high voltages (<600V)
Generally, clamp meters are very accurate when it comes to measuring current, especially in AC circuits. A variety of factors influence their accuracy, including the position of the conductor inside the jaw and the quality of the clamp meter. A multimeter can also accurately measure current, but it needs precise contact with the circuit, so user error might affect the measurement.
In general, clamp meters are more expensive than basic multimeters since they require additional technology to measure non-contact currents. As the features and capabilities of multimeters differ, they can be found at a wide range of price points. In comparison to other multimeters, Fluke multimeters are a bit pricey. I have made two comparisons one for the basic fluke 100 series comparison and the second for the premium range fluke 280 series multimeters comparison.
Some of you might don't like multimeters so for your convenience i also do an in-depth analysis of the 9 best budget-friendly clamp meters.
Similarities between Clamp meter and Multimeters
1. Auto-ranging Capability:
A clamp meter or multimeter with auto-ranging functionality simplifies the measurement process. This is a function that automatically selects the appropriate measurement range.
2. Continuity Testing:
Both clamp meters and multimeters are capable of measuring continuity, or whether a circuit is complete or open. Usually, this feature is used for identifying faulty connections or broken wires.
3. Voltage Measurement:
Multimeters and clamp meters can measure AC and DC voltages. Voltage meters let you measure voltage levels in electrical circuits, outlets, batteries, and other things.
Personal Opinion | Multimeter vs Clamp meter
When it comes to choosing between a clamp meter and a multimeter, it's important to consider what you'll be using the electrical tester for. If you need a tool for quickly taking current measurements on live circuits, a clamp meter is the better option. Whereas if you need a general-purpose tool for every electrical device, a multimeter is the better option.
What is a multimeter?
A multimeter is an electronic instrument used to measure electric current, voltage, and resistance. You can also perform various diode and continuity tests. There are two types of multimeters, analog and digital.
Types of Multimeters
Analog multimeters use a needle to display the measured value on a scale. You can measure all basic functions with analog multimeters such as mA, mV, Capacitance, Voltage, current, and resistance. You must need to read a user manual or need some expertise to measure current or other electrical variables with analog multimeters.
Digital multimeters display the measured value as a number on an LCD screen. There are many additional benefits of digital multimeters, like frequency, duty cycle, and LoZ functions. The display count can be varied. Here is a list of multimeters which might be of your interests.
Multimeters can be used to measure various parameters in the power system. Here is a list of some different measurements you can perform with multimeters.
Now that you know what a multimeter is, let’s take a look at how to use one.
First, you need to make sure the multimeter is set to the correct variable and range. Multimeters use a current to flow through an internal wire, and then the multimeter measures the voltage drop across that wire. The meter does this by applying a high voltage to one lead of the multimeter and measuring the resulting current. This is all done using transistors inside the multimeter. If you are looking for best budget multimeter then I also have something for you.
What is a clamp meter?
A clamp meter is a type of multimeter with jaws that can be placed around a conductor to measure the magnetic flux. After that this flux converts it into mA and provides accurate readings of current and frequency. Most clamp meters will give you real-time readings and update every second, which makes them perfect for quick current measurement. Clamp meters are commonly used in power system troubleshooting to measure current.
Types of Clamp meter
Although all clamp meter works the way (in measuring current) but there are different types for different electrical equipment. Some clamp meters use for residential electrical systems and some for industrial electrical systems. True RMS clamp meters are the most precise ones.
If you're a person who mostly deals with industrial equipment then True RMS multimeters and clamp meters are best among all. I have made a list of True RMS clamp meters for you. Furthermore, you don't need any physical contact to measure ac or dc signals/dc current. So, here I have mentioned all Clamp meters types as per their appearances and functioning.
Lug clamp meter
The lug clamp meter is the most common type of clamp meter. It has a pair of jaws that open and close around a conductor. They can measure magnetic flux on power lines, connections of electrical wire, or cable.
Fiberglass clamp meter
The fiberglass clamp meter is a type of modern clamp meter that uses a fiberglass rod to measure the magnetic flux. It is ideal for use on energized circuits because it is non-conductive.
Rotating clamp meter
The rotating clamp meter is a type of clamp meter that has a rotating head that can be placed around a conductor. It is ideal for use in tight spaces.
Silicone test leads
Silicone test leads are a type of test lead that is made from silicone. They are heat resistant and can be used on energized circuits.
Soft jaws are a type of clamp meter that uses soft straps to measure the magnetic flux. It also has some advanced features. You can measure high alternating current with these soft jaw clamp meters.
How does a clamp meter work?
Basically, an amp clamp has a current transformer with primary coils. This current transfer converts this magnetic field into the electrical current with the help of a hall effect sensor. The magnetic field varies as the electrical current flows. To test current flow in any electrical conductor, you have to set the ranges as per your electrical meter capacity.
How to use a clamp meter?
You can measure electrical current and voltage with a basic clamp meter. But most modern clamp meters offer all electrical measurement functions. The following procedure can be used to measure the current with a clamp meter.
- Set the correct variable and range by pressing the up or down button and rotating the knob to the correct setting.
- Plugin test leads into the “amps” socket on the clamp meter.
- Open the jaws of the clamp meter around the conductor. Make sure the jaws are fully closed and that there is good contact with the conductor.
- Turn on the clamp meter by pressing the power button.
- Read the current value from the display.
Clamp meter measures current of both ac and dc circuits but there are also some specific dc clamp meters. Because AC and DC voltage have different magnetic fields so a dc clamp meter measures voltage more efficiently as compared to basic clamp meters. The wire produces a different magnetic field when the current flow.
Which one to buy? Clamp meter vs multimeter
Well, clamp meters are used for taking quick current measurements on live circuits. They also have the ability to measure approximately everything that a standard multimeter can do. As compared to general multimeters, clamp meters can measure high currents in both ac and dc circuits.
However, multimeters are better for taking voltage, resistance, and capacitance measurements. They can also be used to measure frequency, duty cycle, and LoZ. Digital multimeters can measure higher ranges of electrical variables.
An all-around tool is a must for electrical energy measurement. A good quality clamp meter can measure voltage, current, resistance, frequency, LoZ, duty cycle, and capacitance. Whereas a digital multimeter is the better option for such general-purpose work for every electrical device. If you need a tool for quick current measurements on live circuits, a clamp meter is the better option. Clamp meters are designed for basic electrical measurements without complicating things. If you're going to perform electrical work then the current and voltage must have an accurate measurement.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Question)
Is my multimeter protected against overload?
Most digital multimeters are equipped with thermal protection devices, which prevent the instrument from overheating. Every meter's overload capacity varies, however, it should be enough for most cases.
Is a clamp meter the same as a multimeter?
To some extent, you can say that multimeters and clamp meters are the same. But Clamp meters measure current with the help of a magnetic field generated due to the current flowing through power systems. So, you can measure currents up to 2500A easily. It is also known as a Tong tester.
Whereas in general multimeters there is no current transformer for measuring alternating current. Although you can perform all kinds of electrical system analysis with them.
How accurate are clamp-on meters?
The accuracy of your measuring variables depends upon the clamp meter brand. Moreover, while measuring current in different circuits the accuracy also differs. As far as in my experience measuring electrical currents with clamp meters is way more precise. If you have to measure only milli-amps then instead of trying different clamp meters just buy Fluke 771 Milliamp process clamp meter. Although it's a bit expensive the meter is worth it.