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Clamp type multimeter recommendation - hobby use


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I know the answer is a fluke, but I don't want to spend a lot on a tool that I'll lose/ drop/drive over, so is there a reasonable alternative to a fluke multimeter that I can use to measure a parasitic power drain? In the £30 to £50 region?

Is the clamp type the best to find a low current drain? 

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Multimeters will measure DC current. Although mine's a Fluke, it has a 10A range as well as a more sensitive mA range and probably other makes do too. I think it is much more accurate at those sort of currents than a clamp. 0-10A might be sufficient for you.

Be careful when looking for a clamp meter and make sure that it has a DC range, they don't all. Also you might find a DC clamp is expensive.

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Clamp meters are handy for tracking current drains of course, because you can avoid disturbing the circuit to make a quick check. Cheap ones can be useful because you don't need accuracy or stability, which both cost. It doesn't matter if the drain is 20mA or 30mA, as long as you can tell if it goes up or down by 5mA, or if it drifts a few mA over a day.

It's more money than you want to spend, but the DiLog DL6506 is an excellent clamp meter for hunting low current drains. It's got a useable 1mA resolution, and it's pretty stable in the short term (though you have to zero it every time you use it). It's upper range limit is only 80A, so don't go measuring starter current with it!

Beware that it's *only* a clamp meter, so you'll still want a traditional multimeter alongside it.

I paid about £75 for mine a few years back, though it seems to have risen in price from a quick search just now.

I've got other dc clamp meters, and more Fluke and HP DMMs than any sane person should, but the DiLog is always a useful tool.

Edit: And if you *are* going to drop it or drive over it, save your money and get a regular (non clamp) Fluke now - it's more likely to survive, and because of it's price, you're less likely to do it :)

Edited by TSD
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4 hours ago, Badger110 said:

Screwfix are doing one for about £17, reduced from £40

 

2 hours ago, Peaklander said:

Is that for a clamp ammeter that measures DC and do you have a link please?

Yes, that was my reaction also 🙂
I have had a quick search on Screwfix.com and found nothing that meets either of the price points, without looking at the specifications.

I have a AC.DC clamp meter with peak hold etc, that I took a gamble on at an autojumble many years ago, and that's fine for starter motor currents etc, but I am attracted to a device with a smaller head that will read small value DC.

Wait and see!!

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We used to have a cheap DC clamp. It did it's job in that it told you if current was flowing and roughly how much. But I didn't trust it enough to pin point a small drain on a battery.

Now I use a Fluke multimeter with built-in clamp. I got it with a good discount and it has proved to be very good value for money. We compared it to an inline meter (also Fluke) for low currents and there was no difference. I'm not saying it's accurate to 1mA, but more than enough for any car applications. Because it also has all the functions of a traditional multimeter (apart from the inline current option), it's my tool of choice for elecktrickery.

As above, a Fluke can handle some abuse and if take a minimum of care, it should last many many years. Which is rarely the case with the cheaper alternatives.

Filip

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3 hours ago, Peaklander said:

Is that for a clamp ammeter that measures DC and do you have a link please?

Off the top of my head, no :(

 

I was picking up some stuff today and noticed it on the board.  I'll be back in again soon, i'll get some details :)

 

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1 hour ago, Badger110 said:

Does that measure DC current in the clamp? The current symbol looks rather AC to me. There's a hell of a lot that don't have DC clamps, especially the cheapies are almost always AC only.

I have a cheap AC/DC clamp meter that's close enough for garage stuff cost me about £30 from CPC, can't remember the brand. This one looks pretty close:

https://cpc.farnell.com/tenma/72-7226/clamp-meter-trms-ac-dc-current/dp/IN05111

Their cheapest AC/DC clamp meter appears to be this one:

https://cpc.farnell.com/tenma/72-2985/clamp-meter-mini-200a-ac-dc/dp/IN07620

 

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I have no idea mate, my knowledge of elastrickery isn't the best. 

I can rewire a house, pub, stripclub and most domestic systems but the subtle ins and outs of equipment elude me if i'm honest, i leave that up to my electrician :)

For £20 i guess you take a gamble?  Although the one in the shop it was under £17 so perhaps that one i posted above is posher :P

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According to the Q & A on the Screwfix page it’s AC current only.

I looked at the first link in FF’s reply and the DC current 40A range comes with a +/- 2% tolerance.

So going back to the original question, I wouldn’t have thought that even that nice device would give the repeatability of readings to be much of a guide when you are looking for current drain.

 

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If you’re just using it to monitor drain, why don’t you fit one of these?...

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07W7XXKVF/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_i5ZYFbTZMYYBY

or you can spend a bit more and get a Bluetooth one to use on your phone.
 

Obviously not portable like a meter, but how often will you need to monitor individual items and using a shunt permanently attached to battery will give you access to it all the time.

 

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10 hours ago, SteveG said:

If you’re just using it to monitor drain, why don’t you fit one of these?...

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07W7XXKVF/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_i5ZYFbTZMYYBY

or you can spend a bit more and get a Bluetooth one to use on your phone.
 

Obviously not portable like a meter, but how often will you need to monitor individual items and using a shunt permanently attached to battery will give you access to it all the time.

 

That looks great, I'm not sure my thinking apparatus is rated to use it, though.

I think I'll look for a tenma, that's reasonable money for what I want to do.

Thanks all!

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On 12/4/2020 at 10:14 PM, Escape said:

As above, a Fluke can handle some abuse and if take a minimum of care, it should last many many years. Which is rarely the case with the cheaper alternatives.

Anther vote for Fluke. They're expensive but they last. Friend lost his for about ~18 months... Turned up when the tractor he'd been working on came back into the workshop and he lifted the bonnet :lol:. It had done an entire season low in the engine bay of the tractor.

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14 hours ago, western said:

I have one of these

It doesn't measure DC amps though Ralph.

 

Years ago I bought a secondhand Fluke 70 with the yellow bump case and a nice long pair of rubber leads. It really is worth looking out for one.

I needed to buy two fuses for it though. These are used in the current measurement settings and if they have blown then those ranges don't work.

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Just to re-iterate for those less electrically inclined - if you see a cheap clamp meter, there's a 95% chance it won't measure DC amps in the clamp as that's significantly more expensive to do than AC. DC clamps under about £30 would be a very rare thing, so I'd always double-check if it's suspiciously cheap.

Also TSD is bang on (as usual) - you don't need the meter to be absolutely accurate to the last milliamp, you just need to know if your 50mA battery drain went up or down when you changed something, doesn't matter if it's really 30mA or 70mA.

I find the most useful features on a meter are the continuity buzzer/beeper (for checking/tracing wires), DC volts (natch), and the DC clamp. The backlight on the screen is useful too if you can get one with it. The ability to safely measure mains AC is handy too but even the £5 meters are OK for that, again you don't care if your mains is 241v or 239v, you just need to know it's not going in one end at 240v and coming out the other at 170v.

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I've checked for battery drain with an ordinary multimeter on a lowish voltage setting connected across an indicator bulb.  Bulb will protect the meter and the meter measures the voltage drop across the bulb.  Modern multimeters are very sensitive - so the sensitivity can be increased if initial readings suggest its not going to be overloaded.

 

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On 12/3/2020 at 8:39 PM, TSD said:

... the DiLog DL6506 is an excellent clamp meter for hunting low current drains. It's got a useable 1mA resolution, and it's pretty stable in the short term (though you have to zero it every time you use it). It's upper range limit is only 80A, so don't go measuring starter current with it!

...
I paid about £75 for mine a few years back, though it seems to have risen in price from a quick search just now.
...

Thanks for the recommendation. I bought from this ebay shop for £79.00, it was delivered a week before the prediction, via Royal Mail.

Some amusement - it wouldn't fit in the supplied pouch; I found a twin AAA battery pack in the pouch!

The 'indicator of high voltage' can be momentarily triggered by static from my fingers if they wipe across the jaw; this possibility is covered in the instructions.

The HV indicator lights up strongly when placed near a wide assortment of plug-in kitchen gadgets.

I notice the 'essential zeroing' is a straight-forward press of the Zero button after the range is selected - not onerous at all.

Thanks again, it will be nice to use when I get back to the car!

Regards.

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Non contact DC current measurement is a particularly challenging parameter because the reading can easily be affected by the earth's magnetic field and the sensors used are very susceptible to temperature related drift.

One trick which is worth knowing is that if you wind the wire through the current clamp multiple times then you increase the sensitivity of the measurement in direct proportion to the number of turns - say you have a meter which measures 50A with a single wire passing through it, that measurement will actually mean the wire is carrying 25A if there wire is passed through the clamp twice and 5A if the wire is passed through 10 times.

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