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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance
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  #1  
Old 11-21-2006
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Multimeters

Just wondering what the recommendations are out there for a reasonably priced and accurate digital multimeter. I like the flukes...a bit pricey! Am I looking at a couple hundred, or can I sneak in under the $200 mark and still get a good product?

Many thanks!
Chris
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Old 11-21-2006
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There is no getting around the fact that Fluke meters are top quality, and they are a bit pricey.

I'm in Instrumentation, and the accuracy and quality are required, so we always stress and recommend that our people have a Fluke or better.

If you are just troubleshooting 12Vdc electrics on board, then it's difficult to justify the expense (although $300 for a quality tool that will last a lifetime doesn't really sound so bad in the sailing world, relatively speaking) A "top of the line" meter from any of the chain stores might do you. Look for a high "ohms/volt" rating - cheap meters will be lower than a typical digital fluke at at least 20,000ohms/volt. This means that when you put your meter in parallel with another cct, the meter doesn't "short out" or load the cct causing your voltage to read low.

One other cautionary note re Flukes - if you are careless and blow the current fuse(s), they are 10 - 15 bucks apop - that's pricey.

So - do you "need" Fluke quality? - probably not. But quality will tell in the end.
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Old 11-21-2006
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Chris,

You sure can sneak in under $200, depending on how you plan to use the meter.

I own a total of five multimeters, including two top-of-the line Flukes (#189 and #337 clamp). The other three are cheap (under $50) meters, including a beautiful little yellow Velleman DVM850BL I just bought from Arcade Electronics in Virginia for $19.95 to replace an identical one I gave to my son for use on his boat. Some of their professional customers swear by this little multimeter, and buy them in quantity just for the annoyance factor: when someone asks to borrow their $350 Fluke meter, they just hand them one of the little Velleman's and tell them to go away :-))

A few months back, I did a comparison of the voltage readings of the five meters, and published some of the results on the SSCA Board (www.ssca.org).

In short, there were differences in the the measured voltages, as you might expect.

I wound up with a simple solution: after verifying that my Fluke 189 was reading correctly at the low DC voltages (1.5-15V), I simply tweaked the pots in the other cheap meters to read the same as the Fluke at approximately 12.5 volts, which was the most important level for me. I wanted to be able to measure house and starting battery voltages with some confidence.

If you don't need all the fancy stuff the more expensive Flukes are capable of (like logging, memories, etc.), I'm sure you can get by with one of their mid-range models (look on eBay) or with an even cheaper one.

Bill
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Old 11-21-2006
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Thanks guys!

I will look into the Velleman DVM850BL, been checking out ebay for the Flukes...no luck yet. The Velleman may be just what the doctor ordered though.

Chris
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Old 11-21-2006
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Sears also has some pretty decent auto-ranging multimeters for not much cash. I've checked the one I use for my boat against my Fluke and it's spot on.
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Old 11-23-2006
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You can get a fluke 73 for about $100. Mine even came with a rubber case/jacket for it too.
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