Last updated: September 11, 2020

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Ammeters are instruments for measuring electrical currents and are very similar to other well known measuring instruments such as voltmeters, multimeters and polymeters. Each of these systems are similar in the fact that they utilize a galvanometer as the central element in part of their measuring processes. Ammeters specifically incorporate a parallel resistance that allows them to calculate the amperage of the electrical current you would like to measure. In addition to offering this functionality, these instruments are watertight and safe to use.

Amperage is the size of the electrical current flow, i.e. the amount of electrical particles passing through a conduit, and is measured in “amps” or “A.” On the market today, there are many types of ammeters with different characteristics and uses. In this guide we will explain everything you need to know to choose the best ammeter from the U.S. market.

Key Facts

  • Some ammeter models feature a clamp for attaching to an electrical circuit. These systems are more sophisticated and perform a wide variety of measurements (voltage, current, etc.). This clamp allows you to take readings directly withn the cable, because it works by means of measuring the magnetic field of the electricity.
  • Digital ammeter models are much more accurate than analog models. Digital models are the most commonly used by professionals, as they are precise and easy to understand. You must keep in mind that it is, of course, the quality of the internal components and processors that  determine the accuracy of the measurements you take.
  • We recommend that you always choose digital ammeter models with an LCD display. These devices show all the required information on the screen and avoid possible reading errors, something common in analog (needle-read) models.

Our selection: The Best Ammeters on the U.S. Market

You will find a large variety of ammeters at different prices and with different features available for purchase today. Choosing the best model, with all the functions and features you need, can be an overwhelming task. That is why we have prepared the following guide that includes the best options on the U.S. market, to help facilitate your purchase decision.

Etekcity Auto Ranging Clamp Meter

The Etekcity Multimeter combines ease of use with innovation, making it the perfect tool for any electrical project. Easily test AC/DC Voltage, diode, continuity, and resistance. Avoid hazardous situations by using the convenient clamp to safely measure AC currents without having to strip a cord or break a circuit.

Etiekcity’s ammeter also features hold result and max value buttons that makes it quicker and easier to use. The autoranging function helps you get precise measurements, every time.  This meter retails for about $26 and has extremely high customer ratings.

Fluke 323 True-RMS Clamp Meter

With a price tag of over $110, the Fluke 323 clamp meter is designed to perform in the toughest environments and provide noise-free, reliable results you can trust to confidently diagnose problems. The Fluke 323 model is ideally suited for current measurements up to 400 A in tight cable compartments. True RMS measurements and optimized ergonomics make the Fluke 323 one of the best general troubleshooting tool for commercial and residential electricians.

Wires in tight compact spaces. Panels out of reach. Extra-large conductors. Fluke understands your workspace and have designed products for noise-free, reliable readings. Built on success, clamp meters designed by Fluke are known as workhorse clamp meters. With advanced performance, the clamp meter line is designed to be simple to use and gimmick-free.

AstroAI Digital Clamp Meter with Auto Ranging

The AstroAI 202D Clamp Meter is designed to be used safely and accurately by anyone. It’s design is easy and safe to use with advanced features like auto-ranging built right into the meter’s design.  At just $22 this versatile tool can be a useful member of your toolbox.

Run tests on diodes while still being able to measure AC/DC voltage, AC current, resistance, and continuity, all with the same device. This Clamp Meter is designed to be used safely, with it’s integrated Clamp for measuring AC Current without having to physically contact the hot part of a wire.

Bayite DC 5-120V 100A Mini Digital Current Voltage – Hall Effect Sensor

bayite Hall effect current meter reads current by detecting the magnetic field around the wire, there is no electrical contact which eliminate risk to delicate monitoring equipment and also minimizes safety concerns. The sensor doesn’t get hot like the current shunt sense resistor which can have thermal temperature heat dissipation issues. For just $19, you can add this low profile tool to your next project.

As the resolution is 0.3A, the current reading might be flickering with 0.3A difference. For example, if the current is 1.7A, you might see a 1.7A and 2.0A alternatively. This is normal.
If your signal is too weak or you are not getting the resolution you want, you can coil the wire through the current sensor as many times as you want to double, triple, or quadruple the sensitivity or resolution. For example, if your current signal is only 0.2 Amps, you could loop the wire through the sensor 10 times and the signal would by 10X stronger and would appear as 2.0 Amps.

Triplett 9200-A Mini AC Digital Clamp-on Meter with Large Display

The Triplett 9200-A is a 3 3/4 (4000 count) mini AC digital clamp-on meter with a large display. It offers a standard DC Current, and Data Hold functions. The ABS plastic housing provides impact and drop resistance in a sleek ergonomic design, and the user-friendly Auto Ranging helps maximize results. The Model 9200-A is suited for a variety of commercial and residential applications such as security, electrical, HVAC installations and more. Includes Model 9200 Clamp Meter, 3-volt battery, carrying case, and instruction manual.

Founded in 1904, U.S.-based Triplett Test Equipment continues to be on the leading edge of specialized testers. Whether supplying vital test equipment to the U.S. Signal Corps during WWII, or providing the railroad industry with essential testers to ensure the safety of the public, Triplett company prides itself in developing innovative, reliable, and durable test equipment for every technician–that also won’t break the bank. In this case, just $44 will get you and your crew your own 9200-A model.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Ammeters

Ammeters allow us to safely measure the current and amperage of electrical circuits. If you are not a skilled electrician, it can be difficult to choose one that adequately suits your needs. That’s why in the following section of this guide we explain the most important aspects to consider when purchasing an ammeter. Continue reading to find the answers to the most frequently asked questions among U.S. consumers.

 electrician using a voltmeter

Among electricians they are commonly known as “testers” and serve to measure the intensity of the current in a device or system.
(Source: auremar: 13782943/ 123rf.com)

What is an Ammeter?

Generally speaking, an ammeter is nothing more than a galvanometer, an instrument for detecting current to which a resistance is added in parallel. This resistance within the device is called “shunt resistance.” An ammeter measures the intensity of electrical currents and has a wide range of testing uses.

Ammeters have a very small internal resistance, below 1 ohm. The purpose of their small size is to ensure their presence does not decrease the current being measured when connected to an electrical circuit. Currently, ammeters have digital converters to measure voltage drops and microprocessors with LCD displays.

How does an ammeter work?

Modern ammeters are compact, insulated and are quite small, so they can fit in your pocket. Among electricians they are commonly known as “testers” and serve to measure the current intensity of an electrical circuit. Digital ammeters have a very simple operation whereby you simply turn the knob to select the parameter and connect the tips of the diodes to the electrical wire or cable.

When the tips or the clamp are connected to the current, the relevant data will appear on the screen. Analog models (barely used these days) show the information with a needle that moves through a numerical range. Modern digital models display measurements in numbers on a display, which is far more reliable, accurate and readable.

What are the uses of an ammeter?

Despite being a basic tool for any electrician, ammeters have many other uses. For example, in the home an ammeter can be used to measure the power of a battery in a vehicle. You can also use them to measure the capacitors in mobile phones that are used to generate energy and cooling functions. If you are a DIY’er, you can use an ammeter to help you determine the source of malfunctioning appliances.

In professional use, these devices are used to measure the current that passes through a cable. It is very important not to exceed the amount of energy transported by a particular conductor as this can be dangerous. By testing the current of a circuit you can prevent short circuits or electrical failures that may cause accidents. Ammeters are also used to measure the current in electrical panels and plugs.

Can I use an ammeter to save electricity at home?

The answer is yes. An ammeter can easily be used to determine the energy consumption of a given electrical appliance. With this device you will also be able to find out which type of conduit is the most appropriate for a particular circuit and whether the energy loads connected to it are within the safety limits of the socket. By following these simple tips you will be able to reduce overall energy consumption.

In large circuits, such as a whole block power grid, knowing the amperage is vital from a safety perspective and for ensuring adequate and equivalent electricity supply to each suburb or sector. It is essential to closely control the amperage levels of electrical circuits if you do not want the current to be interrupted or, even worse, for a short circuit to burn the cables.

What types of ammeters are available?

The most common ammeters today are the digital ammeters, commonly known as “testers.” However, there are other types of ammeters, each with different characteristics and uses. Below we explain the different types of ammeters with some information on each:

  • Analog Ammeters: these are the older ammeter models. They contain a coil connected to a needle that shows the measurement by means of a numerical scale.
  • Electromechanical Ammeters: built with both fixed mobile parts, with the latter being attached to the needle. It is a large system and its components tend to wear out fast. It is prone to reading errors.
  • Magnetoelectric Ammeters: built with a coil that rotates around an axis to receive current.
  • Electromagnetic Ammeters: works in the same way as the previous ammeter, but instead of using a coil it contains a magnet that moves with the current.
  • Moving Iron Ammeters: instead of a coil or magnet, they contain a small piece of soft iron in the form of a vane or rod.
  • Electrodynamic Ammeters: work with two magnets that separate when current is received. The distance between the magnet provides the measurement.
  • Thermal Ammeters: operate by heating a conductor. The main advantage of this type is that magnetic fields do not affect them, although they are more expensive and consume a lot of energy.
  • Digital Ammeters: the most accurate, with microprocessors and screens that eliminate reading errors. They hardly suffer wear and the quality of their circuits will provide accurate measurements.  Digital ammeters are affordable for anyone these days, so this type is your best bet for DIY.
  • Current Clamps: this type of ammeter does not need to touch the current source to be able to take readings. It is driven by the magnetic field of the current and can measure both alternating and direct current.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of digital and analog ammeters?

Analog ammeters have become obsolete as the needle measuring system often caused reading errors. Digital systems, on the other hand, display all the ordered information on an easy-to-read, usually LCD, screen. In addition, these modern models are much more precise when it comes to carrying out various different measurements.

To provide you with all the information you need, we have prepared the following table with the advantages and disadvantages of digital and analog ammeters.

Type Advantages Disadvantages
Digital ammeters High reading speed.

Higher accuracy and better reading resolution.

Eliminates scale errors.

More expensive than analog ammeters.

Requires a power source such as batteries.

Analog ammeters Cheaper than digital ammeters.

No power source required.

Lower accuracy than digital models.

Greater difficulty in reading measurement results.

Readings may be affected by scales.

What special functions do ammeters have?

Some ammeters have special functions that are useful for diagnosing problems in electrical systems. One of these functions is frequency measurement. In order to properly analyze electrical currents, an ammeter must have an average, minimum and maximum function to be able to compare previous readings and results. Accuracy is very important in electrical projects.

Capacity measurement is also very useful, which is a function that most clamp ammeters incorporate into their functions today. This option helps to facilitate the work of many professionals who are dedicated to the study of motors. Additional protection and safety functions, such as emitting a buzzing sound when placed near currents, are also useful extras in an ammeter.

testing the battery of the motorcycle

The most sophisticated models have a clamp and perform different types of readings.
(Source: Philippe Renaud: 93952907/ 123rf.com)

What safety measures should I consider when using an ammeter?

Ammeters are used to measure voltage and electrical current. Whenever you work with electricity there are inherent dangers and risks of which you should be aware. In this case, it is advisable to take extreme precautions and always follow the correct safety measures. Electricity can be a very dangerous resource if mishandled in any way.  If you are ever in doubt, it is highly recommended that you stop immediatley and consult a trained electrician. Below you will find the necessary safety measures for using an ammeter:

  1. The current must flow through the meter to complete the circuit.
  2. Make sure all ammeter components are connected securely to the electrical circuit to get a good reading.
  3. Use tools with rubber handles to avoid electrical shocks.
  4. Never connect the ammeter to the main power source of a circuit box.
  5. Make sure you work in a dry environment where there are no water sources present.
  6. Before taking any readings, ensure that the ammeter has the maximum resistance level set.
  7. Do not touch the current source with your hands.
  8. Never manipulate the installations with bare hands when they have live current.

Shopping Criteria

Ammeters are highly complex tools, especially digital models. They are complicated instruments as they make exact measurements of current and the electrical voltage. If you want to buy the best model on the market, with the best functions and features within your budget, follow our recommendations below and you will be sure to succeed in your purchase:

Comfort

The physical design of ammeter has significantly evolved in recent years. The designs and materials used in their construction have varied enormously to create drastically improved devices. The most modern models have tools that allow you to take readings in places that are difficult to access, by containing features such as removable screens so that you can observe the measurements from afar. Be sure you can reach far enough with the tool, for example into the interior of an appliance, etc.

Most electricians recommend ammeters with specially designed “tweezers.” This type of design makes taking measurements far easier as it reads the magnetic field generated by electricity. With this type of ammeter you won’t need to cut or strip the cable to connect to the electrical circuit. We also recommend choosing digital display models, as they are far easier to read.  Make sure the “tweezers” are not so small that they are difficult to hold on to.

Usefulness

Ammeters are capable of taking many different types of measurements. The most common measurements are voltage and current, both alternating and direct. Depending on the complexity of the ammeter model, the reading functions will vary. Some devices include options for voltage, resistance, continuity, or even capacitance reading.  Be sure you an read the screen in darker environments, such as boiler rooms and in bright environments, such as outdoors when servicing a vehicle.

Our recommendation is that you look for a model that has all the features you will need in your work environment. Buying an ammeter that does not have the required functions is a useless investment that you will regret. Although digital ammeters are very versatile, their usefulness will depend on the intended use. It is a good idea to read through user reviews, to see what other people like and dislike about several models of ammeter. This will help you narrow down your criteria.

Resolution

Resolution plays an important role in the purchase of an ammeter. The accuracy of the measurements and the values shown in the system readings will depend on it. When you know the value of the resolution of the ammeter, it is possible to determine any change, no matter how small, in the reading made. Depending on the type of work you plan to do with your ammeter, you may need a highly accurate instrument, so be sure you understand the options available, the costs thereof and your actual needs before you buy.

To represent the importance of resolution with an example, it would be useless to buy a ruler that measures centimetres if what you need is to measure in millimetres. We recommend that you take into account the smallest resolution you need in your work before buying an ammeter, because it is an essential factor to determine the usefulness of the device.

Precision

When talking about precision, we are referring to the indication of the real value of what is being measured. We recommend that you choose a device that is as accurate as possible, because the quality of the work you do will depend on the accuracy of the device. The more accurate the measurements, the better you will be able to perform your tasks.

In general terms, reading accuracy of most ammeters is 3%. This means that, when measuring a quantity of 100 amps, the reading could be seen 3 values above or below the measurement. Normally, the accuracy range is indicated by each different manufacturer. This factor should be taken into acoount when purchasing an ammeter.

True RMS

Ammeters equipped with the True RMS guide determine the actual effective value of the current being measured. These systems are more accurate, as they obtain this measurement by levelling the signal. During the measuring process, they adjust the final reading to an effective value according to an average.

These ammeters can measure sinusoidal alternating voltage signals much more accurately than other systems. Models without True RMS function are only useful for measuring non-sinusoidal voltages. Note that currents are not always sinusoidal.

using the multimeter

Analog ammeters have become obsolete and have been replaced by the digital ammeter.
(Source: Norasit Kaewsai: 70202695/ 123rf.com)

Operating System

The operation of an ammeter is very simple, just select the parameter you want to measure, place the diodes on the corresponding electrical circuit and take the measurement data directly from the screen. The selector on the handheld device usually has a very simple rotary system, with different selections for the same parameter.

The advantage of these selection systems is that you can use them without taking off your safety gloves. The selector allows the ammeter to be switched off when not in use and some systems have an automatic safety switch. The models that measure with clamps directly from the cable are very practical.

Special Features

When buying an ammeter you should take into account certain special functions. If you perform a recurring job, then a data retention function will be very useful. We always recommend that you choose a system with overload protection to prevent short circuits and damage to the systems you are testing.

Models with backlit screens will allow you to work in low light or even in the dark, such as  underneath a house. The tweezer models are ideal for making work easier as they allow you to take readings without having to cut or strip the cables. Switches and buttons for selecting scales and manual or automatic ranges are also very useful.

Summary

Ammeters are the best way to accurately measure the current of an electrical circuit. They offer very precise measurements and readings in a comfortable and safe manner. Thanks to these devices you can easily determine the energy consumption of an electrical appliance or a power outlet. They are frequently used and highly appreciated by professionals such as electricians. There are also many practical uses for these devices in the home.

As you have seen, there are many types of ammeters available on the market. The most sophisticated models have a clamp and perform multiple types of readings, offering orderly information and the possibility of storing the data. By following our recommendations we are confident that you will find a suitable ammeter that will help you with any electrical job you have.

If you liked the article, please leave a comment or share with your friends and family so that they can also buy the best ammeter on the U.S. market.

(Source of featured image: akz: 93485124/ 123rf.com)

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