If you need to measure current, you’ll have to grab an ‘ammeter’ – and proceed to break that circuit open. That way, the flowing electrons will also have to flow through the meter, and you’ll get the reason.
But is there another way that is easier, faster, simpler and safer? The answer is yes, yes, yes and yes – and welcome to the exciting world of clamp meters! In a nutshell, what a clamp meter can do with impressive accuracy and reliability is give you those current readings – and you never have to break into, make physical contact, or even disconnect the electrical system in question.
And that’s not all they can do. Unlike an ammeter, clamp meters can also measure:
- Frequency … and more.
The most striking thing about a clamp meter is … the clamp! Some may consider it looks more like a claw, or a set of jaws, but no matter what you call it, it’s the component made or ferrite iron that opens up and is then closed around the conductor whose current you want to measure. Whether that’s a wire, a cable or something else, the latest fully-digital versions are now in wide use across the industry spectrum for all sorts of residential, commercial and industrial electrical systems, including for even high current applications such as:
- Servicing, repairs, maintenance, system troubleshooting
- System installations and circuit tests
- Supervision for apprentice electricians.
The ease of use
If your organization is considering adding a clamp meter to its toolbox for around the cost of a half-decent Bluetooth speaker or a couple of good pairs of runners, you don’t need to worry that it will be difficult to use – to simply get a current reading, all you need to do is switch it on, clip the clamp onto the cable or conductor, and get the reading.
How does it do its magic? Without getting too technical, the two sides of the clamp are separately coiled with copper, which creates an electromagnetic core. According to Faraday’s Principle of Electromagnetic Induction, what has been produced by the creation of the clamp’s loop is an electromagnetic field, and if something with a magnetic flux (the electrical system’s current) enters the field, the resulting magnetic flux is altered – and hence the calculations for the current reading.
While it’s true that an ammeter is more accurate, because you have actually broken into the current itself, clamp meters are used by organizations for speed, simplicity, safety and convenience – with the high levels of accuracy considered good enough for just about every organizational application anyway. In fact, it’s considered the tool of use for just about all less-than-ideal applications, like when the conductor is difficult to access, when wires are bundled together, or where the conductors are otherwise difficult to access by an ammeter.
Does your organization need a clamp meter? Because there is so much on the market, with the specifications, features, functions and quality differing across the spectrum of the range, always make sure to check in with an experienced industry expert.