What is a clamp meter? Common uses for tong testers

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Clamp meters – also known as tong testers – are handy tools used to measure current. Intuitive, simple, and user-friendly, you’ll find one in the toolbox of most electricians and electrical engineers.

This portable, handheld device functions both as a multimeter and a current sensor, helping to protect workers and promote electrical safety at work. In this guide, we’ll cover some of the everyday industrial uses of a clamp meter – and discuss how you could use it, too.

What is a clamp meter?

Clamp meters are highly accurate devices used to measure and record electrical current. An advanced sensor is located within the clamp, which resembles a tong or pincher. They work by detecting and measuring the magnetic field produced by a current.

To take a reading, the engineer simply opens the clamp with a release lever and places it around a conductor, such as a cable or wire. This makes for a fast, seamless process.

How is a clamp meter different to a multimeter?

Engineers and electricians often use both of these types of meters.

For measuring current, there’s a clear winner. Using a clamp meter, electricians can shorten and simplify the traditional method of breaking a circuit and connecting a meter within that circuit to take current measurements. Instead, a conductor can simply be placed inside the jaws of a clamp meter to take the reading.

Multimeters are used to measure various units including voltage, capacitance, resistance, continuity, and current. However, they can only measure up to 10 amps of current. In contrast, depending on the specific model, clamp meters can measure up to 2,500 amps.

While a multimeter is commonly used for voltage testing, the user is required to hold probes close to two points in a high-voltage circuit. This often makes taking readings with a multimeter a time-consuming, dangerous process for electricians.

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What can a clamp meter be used for?

  • Troubleshooting

Great for testing equipment, it’s always a good idea for electricians to have a clamp meter on hand. With technology improving every year, engineers must update existing devices and test their replacements.

  • Electrical installations and maintenance

Used across multiple contexts in electrical installation, clamp meters are a versatile necessity, boasting the ability to measure and test electrical current as well as voltage. Plus, clamp meters are a popular choice amongst HVAC technicians and other engineers whose work relies on efficient, accurate readings.

  • Supervision of trainees

If you’re working with an apprentice or know someone who is interested in becoming an electrician, a clamp meter makes a safe and practical introductory device in training.

In summary, clamp meters are an essential addition to the toolbox of any budding or established electrical engineer.

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