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Multimeter Vs Voltmeter: A Side by Side Comparison in 2024

"A multimeter and a voltmeter are electrical measurement devices used to measure voltage, among other electrical parameters. They share similarities in terms of functionality, as both can measure voltage levels."

However, a multimeter offers additional features like measuring current, resistance, and sometimes other parameters like capacitance and frequency. In contrast, a voltmeter is a specialize device for solely to measuring voltage.

What are Multimeters?

A multitester or VOM (volt-ohm-milliammeter) multimeter is a handheld device that measures multiple electrical quantities.

It combines several measurement functions into a single unit, making it convenient and practical for various electrical applications.

Multimeters typically consist of a digital or analog display, a selection knob or switch, and input jacks for connecting test leads.

Read more about: Best Multimeter for Electricians

Purpose and versatility in electrical work

Multimeters serve a crucial purpose in electrical work. They allow electricians and technicians to accurately measure voltage and diagnose and troubleshoot electrical problems effectively. Whether checking the voltage of a battery, measuring the current flowing through a circuit, or testing the resistance of a component, a multimeter provides the necessary readings.

Multimeter vs Voltmeter

The versatility of multimeters extends beyond basic electrical measurements. They can also measure capacitance, frequency, and temperature and perform continuity tests. This wide range of functions makes multimeters indispensable in various fields, including electronics, automotive, telecommunications, and industrial applications.

Types: Analog and digital multimeters

There are two main types of multimeters: Analog multimeters and digital multimeters.

1. Analog Multimeters:

Analog multimeters have a mechanical or analog display in the form of a moving pointer or a scale. They rely on a microammeter with a moving coil and a pointer to indicate the measure value.

Analog multimeters use a range selector switch to manually set the appropriate measurement range.

The user needs to interpret the readings by observing the pointer's position on the scale. Analog multimeters are known for their simplicity and durability. 

2. Digital Multimeters (DMM):

Digital multimeters have a digital display, typically an LCD (liquid crystal display), to show the measure values numerically.

They use an analog-to-digital converter (ADC) to convert the analog signals into digital data. Also, have automatic range selection, meaning the multimeter automatically selects the appropriate range for the measurement.

Both of them include additional features such as data hold, relative measurement, and backlit displays for better visibility in low-light conditions.

Read More about: Multimeter vs Clamp meter

What are Voltmeters?

Voltmeters are electronic measuring instruments that measure electrical potential difference or voltage in a circuit. They provide accurate voltage readings and are widely present in electrical and electronics industries for various applications. Here are some features and applications of voltmeters:

Features

Measurement Range: Voltmeters are available in different measurement ranges to accommodate various voltage levels. They can measure low and high voltage levels depending on the specific model and design.

  • Display: Most modern voltmeters have digital displays that provide clear and precise voltage readings. Analog voltmeters, on the other hand, use a needle or pointer on a scale to indicate the voltage level.
  • Accuracy: Voltmeters are designed to provide accurate measurements within a specified tolerance range. Higher-quality voltmeters typically offer greater accuracy.
  • Input Impedance: Voltmeters have a high impedance to minimize the meter's impact on the measured circuit. This ensures that the voltmeter does not disturb the voltage being measured.
  • Safety Features: Many voltmeters are equipped with safety features such as overload protection and insulation to ensure the user's safety and prevent damage to the meter.

Applications of Voltmeters:

  • Circuit Testing: Voltmeters are commonly used to measure circuit voltage levels during testing and troubleshooting. They help identify faulty components, voltage drops, and irregularities in the circuit.
  • Power Quality Analysis: Voltmeters are used in power quality analysis to measure voltage fluctuations, harmonic distortion, and other electrical parameters. This helps in diagnosing and resolving power quality issues.
Multimeter vs Voltmeter
  • Battery Testing: Voltmeters are used to measure the voltage level of batteries, such as a car or rechargeable batteries, to determine their charge level and overall health.
Read more about: How to test car battery
  • Electronics and Laboratory Experiments: Voltmeters are widely used in electronics and laboratory settings for various experiments, circuit prototyping, and research purposes.

Types: Analog and Digital Voltmeters

Analog and digital voltmeters are two instruments used to measure electrical voltage. They differ regarding their working principles, display methods, and features. 

1. Analog Voltmeters:

Analog voltmeters are traditional electrical measuring instruments that use analog technology. They typically consist of a moving coil, a pointer, and a calibrated scale. Here are the key components and features of analog voltmeters:

  • Moving Coil: Analog voltmeters use a moving coil mechanism in a magnetic field. The coil is connected to the circuit in which voltage is to be measured. When a current passes through the coil, it experiences a torque proportional to the current. This torque causes the coil to rotate.
  • Pointer: The moving coil is attached to a pointer, which indicates the measured voltage on a scale. The pointer moves across the scale as the coil rotates, visually representing the voltage level.
  • Scale: Analog voltmeters have a linear scale printed on a dial, usually calibrated in volts or millivolts. The scale helps in reading the voltage value accurately based on the pointer's position.
  • Range Selection: Analog voltmeters often offer multiple voltage ranges to accommodate a wide range of voltage levels. The user can select the appropriate range to ensure accurate measurements.
  • Analog Display: The measurement uses an analog mechanism, such as a moving pointer or a needle that moves along the scale. The user reads the voltage value by observing the pointer's position relative to the scale markings.

2. Digital Voltmeters:

Digital voltmeters, on the other hand, utilize digital technology to measure and display voltage. They convert the analog voltage signal into digital form for processing and presentation. Here are the main characteristics of digital voltmeters:

  • Numeric Display: Digital voltmeters employ digital displays, such as LED (Light Emitting Diode) or LCD (Liquid Crystal Display), to present the measured voltage value in numeric form. The voltage is typically displayed with a specific number of digits or decimal places.
  • Resolution and Accuracy: Digital voltmeters offer high resolution and accuracy due to digital processing capabilities. They can often provide readings with more decimal places than analog voltmeters, allowing for more precise measurements.
  • Auto-ranging: Many digital voltmeters have an auto-ranging feature that automatically selects the appropriate voltage range based on the measured signal. This feature simplifies the measurement process, as the user doesn't need to adjust the range manually.
  • Additional Functions: Digital voltmeters often come with additional features and functions, such as data logging, peak hold, relative measurement, and connectivity options for data transfer to a computer or other devices.

Similarities and Differences between Multimeters and Voltmeters

Multimeters and voltmeters are essential electrical measuring instruments professionals and hobbyists use. While they share some similarities in functionality, they also have notable differences that set them apart.

Similarities

Multimeter vs Voltmeter: What’s similar? Here are some similarities.

Voltage Measurement

Both multimeters and voltmeters are capable of measuring voltage. They are designed to provide accurate readings of electrical potential differences, allowing users to determine the voltage across various components or circuits.

Display

Both instruments feature a display that shows the measured values. Whether it is a digital or analog display, the primary purpose is to provide users with a visual representation of the voltage being measured.

Range Selection

Multimeters and voltmeters typically have multiple voltage ranges to accommodate different measurement scenarios. Users can select the appropriate range based on the expected voltage level, ensuring accurate readings and preventing damage to the instrument.

Probe Connections

Both instruments use probes to connect to the circuit under test. The probes are usually color-coded, with red indicating the positive (+) connection and black representing the negative (-) connection. This standardization ensures consistency and ease of use across different instruments.

Portable and Handheld

Multimeters and voltmeters are designed to be portable and handheld, allowing users to carry them around easily. This feature makes them convenient tools for fieldwork, troubleshooting, and various electrical applications.

Differences

Multimeter vs Voltmeter: What’s not similar? Here are some dissimilarities.

Functionality

Multimeters are versatile instruments that measure various electrical quantities, including voltage, current, resistance, capacitance, and more. They offer a broader range of capabilities, making them suitable for comprehensive electrical testing.

On the other hand, voltmeters are instruments primarily for measuring voltage and cannot measure other electrical parameters.

Additional Measurement Modes

Multimeters often have additional measurement modes, such as current and resistance, requiring different connections and settings. These modes enable users to perform various electrical tests and diagnostics. In contrast, voltmeters lack these additional modes and focus solely on voltage measurement.

Read more about: High Measurement Multimeters

Accuracy

Multimeters generally have higher accuracy as to voltmeters. Due to their broader functionality and precision components, multimeters  provide more precise measurements across various electrical parameters. Voltmeters, being dedicated voltage measurement instruments, may have slightly lower accuracy.

Price Range

Multimeters tend to have a wider price range as to voltmeters. Since multimeters offer more functionality and versatility, they can vary significantly in features and quality, leading to a wide price spectrum. Voltmeters, being more special instruments, are often available at a narrower price range.

Applications

Multimeters find applications in various industries and fields, including electrical engineering, electronics, automotive, and telecommunications. Their versatility makes them indispensable for professionals dealing with diverse electrical systems.

In contrast, voltmeters are primarily where voltage measurement is the sole requirement, such as circuit testing, power supply diagnostics, and calibration.

Factors to consider when choosing between multimeters and voltmeters

Electricians can decide between a Multimeter vs Voltmeter based on the project requirements and cost considerations.

1. When to Choose a Multimeter?

A multimeter is good if the project involves diverse electrical measurements, ranging from voltage to current, resistance, and capacitance. 

It provides the versatility and functionality required for comprehensive electrical testing and diagnostics. Multimeters are particularly beneficial for electrical engineering, electronics, and telecommunications electricians.

2. When to Choose a Voltmeter?

A voltmeter is a suitable option when the primary focus is voltage measurement, and additional measurements are unnecessary.

Voltmeters are ideal for circuit testing, power supply diagnostics, and calibration. Electricians frequently working on voltage-specific projects may find voltmeters more cost-effective and straightforward.

What Are the Project Requirements?

One of the primary considerations when selecting between a multimeter and a voltmeter is understanding the specific requirements of the project at hand. Evaluating the nature of the electrical work will help determine the necessary features and functionalities of the instrument.

1. Measurement Needs:

Consider the type of measurements for the project. A multimeter is an ideal choice due to its versatility if the task involves measuring various electrical parameters such as voltage, current, resistance, capacitance, and frequency. However, a voltmeter may be more suitable if the primary focus is solely on voltage measurements.

2. Measurement Range:

Determine the voltage range for the project. Multimeters usually offer a broader range of voltage measurement options, allowing electricians to handle low- and high-voltage applications.

On the other hand, Voltmeters may have a more limit range, which is sufficient for specific tasks but may not be suitable for projects with a wider range of voltage levels.

3. Additional Measurement Modes:

Consider whether the project requires measurements beyond voltage, such as current, resistance, or capacitance. A multimeter is good if the task involves comprehensive electrical testing and diagnostics.

However, a voltmeter can suffice if voltage measurements are the primary focus and additional measurements are unnecessary.

Budget and Cost-effectiveness Considerations

Another crucial factor in the tool selection process is the budget and cost-effectiveness.

Voltmeters are generally cheaper than multimeters due to their limit features. An average digital or analog voltmeter could cost around $10.

Multimeters are slightly more expensive than voltmeters but offer additional features. They typically range from $10 to $12, sometimes more. 

Electricians need to balance the features and capabilities of the instrument with its price to ensure they are getting the best value for their investment.

Read more about: 10 Best budget Multimeters of all time

1. Price Range:

Multimeters typically have a wider price range due to their versatility and the availability of models with varying features and quality levels. It is essential to consider the budget constraints while ensuring that the chosen instrument meets the required specifications. Voltmeters, being more specialized instruments, often have a narrower price range.

2. Long-term Investment:

Evaluate the long-term benefits of the instrument. While a multimeter may have a higher upfront cost, its versatility and a broader range of functionalities can make it a more cost-effective choice in the long run.

A multimeter's ability to perform multiple measurements eliminates the need for additional tools, saving money and reducing clutter in the toolkit.

3. Reliability and Durability:

Consider the quality and durability of the instrument. Cheaper options may compromise reliability, accuracy, and durability, potentially leading to inaccurate measurements, frequent replacements, and additional expenses. Opting for a reliable and durable instrument, even with a slightly higher price tag, ensures accurate readings and long-term usability.

Calibration and Maintenance:

Take into account the calibration and maintenance requirements of the instrument. Some multimeters and voltmeters may require periodic calibration to maintain accuracy.

Consider the cost and availability of calibration services or equipment when deciding. Additionally, look for instruments that are easy to maintain and have warranties or service agreements to minimize repair costs.

Conclusion

In conclusion, multimeter vs voltmeter share the similarity of being able to measure voltage accurately. However, they differ significantly in functionality, display type, measurement range, additional features, and complexity.

A multimeter offers a versatile solution for measuring various electrical parameters beyond voltage, such as current, resistance, capacitance, and frequency.

It usually has a digital display and provides a broader range of measurement capabilities. In contrast, a voltmeter is a specialized device dedicated to voltage measurement, often featuring an analog needle or digital display.

While a voltmeter is simpler to operate and interpret, a multimeter provides comprehensive troubleshooting and electrical testing tools.

The choice between a multimeter and a voltmeter depends on the specific requirements of the electrical task and the level of measurement versatility and complexity desired.

FAQs Related to Multimeter vs Voltmeter

Is a multimeter and a voltmeter the same thing?

A multimeter and a voltmeter are similar in that they both measure electrical quantities, but they are not the same thing. A voltmeter is a specific type of instrument used to measure voltage. At the same time, a multimeter is a more versatile device that can measure various electrical parameters, including voltage, current, and resistance.

Multimeters typically have additional functions, such as continuity testing and diode testing. So, while a voltmeter is a subset of a multimeter, a multimeter offers a broader range of measurement capabilities.

Can a multimeter be used as a voltmeter?

Yes, you can use a multimeter as a voltmeter. A multimeter is a versatile electronic device that combines multiple measurement functions into one instrument. It typically includes capabilities such as measuring voltage, current, and resistance.

When set to the voltage measurement mode, the multimeter functions as a voltmeter, allowing the user to accurately measure the electrical potential difference between two points in a circuit. The multimeter can display the voltage reading on its digital or analog display by connecting the appropriate probes to the circuit.

What is the difference between a multimeter, voltmeter, and an ammeter?

A multimeter, a voltmeter, and an ammeter are all electrical measurement instruments, but they have different functions and capabilities. A multimeter is a versatile device that combines the functions of a voltmeter, an ammeter, and an ohmmeter. It can measure voltage, current, resistance, and other electrical parameters.

A voltmeter is specifically designed to measure voltage, providing readings in volts. On the other hand, an ammeter is used to measure current in amperes. While a multimeter offers comprehensive measurements, voltmeters and ammeters focus on specific electrical quantities.

What is the difference between V and V~ on a multimeter?

The difference between "V" and "V~" on a multimeter represents the measured voltage type. "V" typically indicates direct current (DC) voltage, which measures the potential difference in a circuit where the current flows in one direction.

On the other hand, "V~" denotes alternating current (AC) voltage, which measures the oscillating or changing potential difference in a circuit where the current periodically reverses direction. The selection between "V" and "V~" allows the multimeter to accurately measure the appropriate type of voltage depending on the circuit being analyzed.