Take Advantage of Multimeters: Read This 5 Tips
DIY lovers love their power tools. You’ll always hear them chattering about their circular saws and hammer drills.
Multimeters, however, never garner such attention even though they are as much essential (even more if you ask me!) as any other tools at your disposal!
Sure, multimeters aren’t badass! If you want to show your workstation to someone, you will not say “Hey, look at my awesome multimeter, man!’’ That said, they are absolute necessities while tinkering with electronics, motors, and wirings.
So, why should you own a multimeter? What purposes does it serve? Today, we will highlight five scenarios where multimeters will be your go-to apparatus.
IDENTIFYING HOT AND NEUTRAL WIRES
In US buildings, wiring involves the use of three types of cables-hot, neutral and ground wires. If you are reading this article, chances are you are already familiar with these cables. But just in case you don’t, here’s a brief introduction to all three of them-
- Hotwire: The black insulated wire. It supplies 120VAC of current.
- Neutral: The white insulated wire. It provides a returning pathway for the current originated by the hot wire. Doing so, allows the circuit to be complete.
- Ground: The naked copper wire. It’s connected to the earth directly or via another conductor. It works as a failsafe in case of short circuits.
Proper wiring of these cables is mandatory to keep your electric appliances safe and avoid any electricity induced accidents. You can use your multimeter to identify the hot, neutral, and ground wires if they are not correctly color-coded.
Set your multimeter to the highest voltage setting in the AC range. Plug one end of both your multimeter probes into the multimeter terminals. Take the common probe (the black one) and attach it to the ground wire. This wire is easy to detect, as it is the only one without insulation. Now touch the red probe to other cables. If you get a reading, it will be a hot wire; if you don’t, it will be neutral.
Your TV remote batteries ran out of juice when you are dying to watch the game or catch your favorite TV show. You found some old batteries in your drawers, but not sure whether they are still active or not. Before you head outside to buy some fresh batteries, try testing them with your multimeter. Make sure the black probe connects to the COM port, and the red one plugs into the volts and ohms port (V and Ω). Set the multimeter to DC and set the voltage range. If your multimeter has auto-ranging, it will do it by itself. Otherwise, you need to fix it manually and in this case, set the dial at 20V. Touch the red probe to the positive end of the battery and the black probe to the negative end. Batteries come in various voltage ranges. For example, standard AAA batteries have a voltage rating of 1.5V. If we get 1.5V by testing a AAA battery, it’s okay and ready for use. For lower values and no values, the battery is dying and dead, respectively.
CHECK LIGHT BULBS
If you have some old incandescent bulbs lying around your house, you can check them using the ohms scale on your multimeter. Turn the dial up to the Ω mark to activate resistance mode, aka the ohms scale. Take the bulb. Place one lead of your multimeter on the side of the metallic base of the bulb. The other edge needs to be placed at the bottom of the plate. Tap it right in the center. Take resistance readings. If there’s no value, your bulb is dead. Alternatively, you can also test this using the continuity mode. In that case, place the leads as mentioned before and wait for a beeping sound. If you don’t hear anything, your bulb is faulty. This is a very straightforward process, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work for CFLs. So for better accuracy, I’d recommend the ohm scale method.
CHECK THE CONTINUITY OF A CABLE
The continuity method we briefly mentioned in the light bulb example has more significant implications regarding wires. Continuity means that the cables are capable of accommodating seamless current flow to complete a circuit. Put the multimeter leads on either end of a wire to check its continuity. If the multimeter makes a beep tone, then your circuitry is just fine.
CHECK POWER OUTLETS
Checking your power outlets when you move into a new place is always a good idea. You can easily do this with your multimeter. Set it on AC mode and insert the probes into the holes of a socket. If the outlet has two holes, one probe goes in each of them. In the case of three-holed sockets, insert the probes into holes that are placed right next to each other. If you get a non-zero readout, then your outlets are working fine. Don’t be alarmed by negative values. Just switch the leads, and you’ll get the exact figure, but in positive this time.