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What Is a Clamp-On Meter?

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  • Written By: K'Lee Banks
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 24 November 2016
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One of the most common tools that electricians use is a voltage meter, typically employed in the process of electrical troubleshooting. Sometimes referred to as an ammeter or multimeter, its general purpose is to check for electrical current. A commonly used type of ammeter offers a “hands-free” approach by incorporating a clamp into the design, earning it the name, “clamp-on meter.” These clamp-on meters are similar in appearance to other types of meters, since all ammeters have some type of digital or analog display. Some ammeters and certain other electrical test equipment utilize test probes that electricians touch to contact points in search of electrical current, while a clamp-on meter has a spring-loaded claw attached to the meter itself.

In some situations, an electrician may not want to be in close proximity to a high voltage line while current flows through it. By using a clamp-on meter, an electrician can attach the meter to any cable and retrieve a current reading in a much safer manner. Resembling a robotic claw, the clamping mechanism is often spring-loaded to hold firm around a power line or cable.

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At other times, electricians may need to operate controls or take notes on the readings they are observing. The clamp-on meter provides electricians with more flexibility and convenience, as well as safety, while they perform these other tasks. Anyone who works with electricity on a regular basis keeps in mind that it can be very dangerous. Whenever there is an option to perform a certain task without risking injury, it is best to take that option, especially when electrical current is involved.

The intended design of a clamp-on meter is to wrap its “fingers” around a power line and display the amount of current flowing through it. By determining how much, if any, current is flowing through a given line, an electrician can determine if it is safe to disconnect the line, or open the electrical panel at the end of it. When dealing with electricity, the motto is always “safety first.”

Like most electrical test equipment, ammeters can have different ranges or capacities. If purchasing a clamp-on meter, one should first make sure that the new unit is capable of handling the current load that one intends to test or check. For example, a clamp-on meter rated for residential use may not stand up to industrial applications. To avoid injury when dealing with electricity, it is best to contact a qualified electrician.

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