Best HVAC Clamp Meter (2020 Edition)
When it comes to HVAC clamp meters, the most common question that I hear is: “Are HVAC clamp meters worth buying?” I can’t answer that for you, but you can read this article to find out more about the best clamp meters for HVAC and decide for yourself if you want to get one.
Clamp Meter Comparison Table
About Clamp Meters
What clamp meters used for?
Clamp meters are used for measuring current when contact with the conductor isn’t possible or wanted. Clamp meters are primarily used for non-contact measuring because they work on the principle of magnetic induction. As AC current flows through the wires, it produces a magnetic field. Clamp meters can sense the magnetic field and then detect the strength of the current by sensing magnetic field fluctuations.
And if you want to measure DC current?
If you want to measure DC current, you will need to get a special DC clamp meter to do it because DC current does not produce any fluctuations while flowing through the conductor.
General use of clamp meters
Clamp meters are commonly used in industrial settings and on construction sites. In the DIY field, it can be used for testing lamps or power sockets without needing to turn the power off. They can be used to test wires, especially in cases where the user is not sure of the amount of current flowing through the conductor and wants to be safe. You can also check resistance continuity with the continuity beeper in the meter. It is a useful HVAC tech with overload protection.
What are the types of HVAC clamp meters?
HVAC clamp meters can be divided into several types, in several categories.
In the first category of HVAC clamp meters, we can divide them according to the way in which they gather and analyze information. Clamp meters in this category are divided:
- Transformer clamp meters;
- Hall effect clamp meters;
- Flexible clamp meters.
If we categorize HVAC clamp meters according to the type of current they can measure, we will divide them into AC and DC clamp meters. And finally, we can divide HVAC clamp meters according to their functions. In HVAC, clamp meters are divided into clamp meters that can measure temperature and those that can’t.
How to pick the best clamp meter for HVAC?
As when buying all other things, when you want to buy a clamp meter, you need to have a few things in mind. Since you are reading this article, I guess that you are an HVAC technician or plan on using a clamp meter for HVAC. A good clamp multimeter is an essential part of your toolbox whether you are working in an industrial, commercial place or fixing household appliances.
Since we know what we are going to use the clamp meter for, we now only need to decide what price range we are going to buy the clamp meter from. Now, you will obviously need to make that decision for yourself.
Low price range is usually up to fifty dollars, the mid-price range is from fifty to a hundred dollars, and the high price range begins at one hundred dollars.
Things to consider before buy the clamp meter
The most important thing that you need to consider is what quality of work do you want to deliver. If you only do DIY work, you should pick low to mid-range clamp meters, if you are a professional, you should get a medium or a high range clamp meter. It is so because as a professional, you should always use quality tools for ensuring safety.
Have in mind that clamp meter’s features may be different from manufacturer to manufacturer and although two meters can cost the same, there may be differences in quality. To be more specific, the manufacturer of one clamp meter could have invested the funding into accuracy, while another one could have focused on build quality and resistance to falls.
Clamp Meter Basics – Everything You Need to Know
If you have ever used a multimeter, you will know how to operate a clamp meter. When you want to measure something with a meter clamp, you need to turn the clamp meter on, turn the dial in the middle on the wanted setting (just like on multimeters), spread the clamps and place the conductor in the middle and read the measurement. A clamp-on meter helps technicians to measure current in the circuit without disconnecting any wire.
When you want to replace the battery on your clamp meter, you should unscrew the battery compartment on the backside, and you should be able to take care of everything from there.
Some manufacturers have decided to place fuses beneath the batteries, while other manufacturers have decided to place the fuse under a separate cover. To replace the fuse underneath the battery, you just need to remove the battery, and that’s it. If you want to replace the fuse that is in its own space, you just need to unscrew the lid and replace it.
Features of the best Clamp Meters
First of all, clamp meters on top of their class on this list are very accurate and have a wider array of functions than average clamp meters do. They not only have voltage detectors but are now capable of measuring both ac voltages and dc voltages.
The second thing is the quality of the build. Best clamp meters on this list are made out of sturdy materials that can endure a lot of punishment. When that is the case, you can usually feel it if you take a clamp meter in your hand and squeeze it a little.
A third important feature when it comes to best clamp meters is safety. Best clamp meters have safety ratings and fuses. The most common safety rating when it comes to clamp meters is CAT III 600 volts rating. Although some clamp meters aren’t equipped with fuses, it is important that we consider their function before jumping to conclusions. Since clamp meters don’t require contact with the conductor, it is a lot less likely that there will be any type of power outburst.
Fourth has to be the battery life and measurement range of a Clamp Meter. Unlike digital multimeters, the clamp meter performs better without risking the damage to the meter.
When you are considering the amount of money that you have to pay for a clamp meter, you need to take two things into account. Can you afford to use the lower quality products in your work? If you are not a professional, you probably can. If you are a professional, you should invest in the best test equipment which comes in various price ranges. I think that you should aim for the best models because only they can enable you to show your true skills.
Do you have a preferred manufacturer? An independent research study shows that most professionals love Fluke’s products the most, while DIY users prefer other products. Since Fluke’s products are the best ones on the market when it comes to, well, everything, this brand’s products can cost more than products manufactured by other companies.
If you are not a professional, you can get the same level of quality for less money from another manufacturer. An excellent example of the same level of quality for less money is Fieldpiece.
The Level of Accuracy in a Clamp Meter
When it comes to the accuracy of clamp meters, it works in basically the same way as on multimeters, minus the fact that clamp meters are less accurate because they can measure without contact.
If you plan on using for non-contact measuring, you should know that you will have less accurate results. But simultaneously they have more measurement range also. If, however, you plan on using clamp meters with standard multimeter probes (since most clamp meters can take them), you will have a lot more accurate results.
It can be excellent to use the non-contact voltage measuring function to get a general outline of the number of currents, and then, if needed, to use the standard multimeter probes for more accurate results.
Clamp meters from lower to middle range will probably need to be calibrated, while clamp meters in higher ranges won’t because most of them are factory calibrated.
Clamp Meter’s Safety Features
- Clamp meters are generally safer than multimeters since they don’t require any contact with the conductor. Earlier HVAC technicians have to insert the meter test leads into the circuit to take an in-line measurement which was not safe.
- The thing to take into account when working with high powered conductors is, well, the power of the current.
- If you work with high powered currencies, be careful that a spark doesn’t electrocute you, because the more powerful the current is, it has a tendency to spread out on other surfaces. So it is essential to use quality tools while working.
- Clamp meters can have the same safety features as multimeters do. CAT III and CAT IV ratings are a standard when it comes to clamp meters.
- Also, many more clamp meters, especially clamp meters from higher price ranges, have one or more high-quality fuses inside.
If you get a clamp meter from a lower price range, and it has a fuse, I recommend that you get a high-quality ceramic fuse, ideally, one that is made in European Union or in the United States and replaces the low-quality fuse as soon as possible. Safety Rating while using Clamp Meters should be high. It will not only protect the circuit but it is safer for you as well.
Clamp Meter Reviews
Etekcity MSR-C600 Digital Clamp Meter
This clamp meter is an affordable multimeter that has the ability to measure voltage, amps, resistance, and capacitance. MSR C600 is CAT III 600 V and CAT II 400 V certified. It also comes with a pair of standard multimeter probes.
The accuracy of this clamp meter is most suitable for beginners and users that don’t use clamp meters for professional work or on a regular basis. Although not very accurate, the accuracy of this meter can be improved by calibration.
The casing is comfortable to touch and hold for longer periods of time but not very sturdy, so you should be careful that you don’t accidentally drop this meter.
AstroAI Digital Clamp Meter DT201D
DT201D is an excellent and affordable pick for HVAC technicians that don’t need the best product out there. DT201D can measure amps, volts, millivolts, continuity, resistance, frequency and temperature.
This meter also comes equipped with a nice backlight and a screen that has a nice level of contrast.
If you are a beginner, I truly suggest that you get this meter because it comes with standard and thermal probes.
However, the build quality of the casing is not so good. In fact, it is very fragile. If you decide to get this meter, it would be best if you would get a universal protective shell with it.
Uni-T B4Q094 UT210E True RMS
This little guy can measure voltage, resistance, and capacitance. Although this clamp meter doesn’t have as many HVAC features as the previous model on this list, Uni-T B4Q094 comes with the RMS function. This model is definitely the most accurate model in this price range, so if you can afford to sacrifice a huge number of functions for accuracy, go for it.
Unlike other clamp meters, this one can measure both the AC and DC currents. The casing is fine for this price range. B4Q094 is CAT III 300V and CAT II 600 V certified but, unfortunately, it is not fused.
400A AC Auto-Ranging Digital HVAC Clamp Meter Klein Tools CL312
The first HVAC clamp meter on our list from the middle price range, Klein Tools CL312 is an excellent choice, both for professionals and beginners. The ease of use is excellent for users that have not yet had the chance to use clamp meters, while the number of features enables the more experienced users to conduct a wide range of operations
This clamp meter can measure voltage, amps, milliamps, resistance, capacitance, frequency, and temperature, both in degrees Celsius and Fahrenheit. This is an accurate clamp meter built from quality materials. CL312 is CAT III 600 V certified, but it has no fuse.
Fluke 323 True-RMS Clamp Meter
Fluke’s products need no special introduction since the Fluke brand is at the top of the multimeter and clamp meter market. Quality of build is excellent, and the level of accuracy would be excellent if this clamp meter didn’t have the True RMS feature, but since it does, the level of accuracy is incredible on this model.
This clamp meter is suited for basic HVAC work since it has only the most basic functions, but I believe that most users will be very happy with what this clamp meter has to offer. To be more precise, Fluke 323 can measure voltage, resistance, and amps. Fluke 323 is CAT III 600 V and CAT IV 300 V certified.
Digital Clamp Meter AC/DC Auto-Ranging 600 Amp Klein Tools CL800
Klein Tools CL800 is the best HVAC clamp meter in the middle price range. The quality of build is better than that of Fluke’s model, and the number of features is incredible. CL800 can measure voltage, amps, resistance, continuity, capacitance, frequency, temperature and it also has a nice LoZ function.
This bad boy has an auto-ranging feature and an excellent level of accuracy since this is a True RMS model. CL800 is CAT III 1000 V and CAT IV 600 V certified. This clamp meter is excellently designed, which makes it possible for the user to have a firm grip when holding this clamp meter and maneuver in tight spaces.
Fieldpiece HS33 Expandable Manual Ranging Stick Multimeter for HVAC/R
This excellent clamp meter is very accurate, built from excellent materials, and has a wide array of HVAC features. HS33 has too many features to list in this short review, so I’ll just write the most important ones for HVACR.
This clamp meter can measure temperature, capacitance, voltage, resistance, and more, combined with every possible range and function. It goes without saying that this clamp meter is CAT III certified. Some sellers sell this meter with high-quality standard and thermal probes, holster, and pouch.
This model is truly a must-have for anyone who is doing serious HVAC work.
The upgraded version of Fieldpiece HS33, HS36 is an example of what happens when you think that it can’t get any better. Well, yes, it can. This wonderful clamp meter has an even tougher casing that is almost unbreakable.
The accuracy of HS36 is amazing, and it is delightful to know that this clamp meter doesn’t require any calibration. The important difference between HS33 and HS36 besides all the upgrades is the backlight.
If you have to work in poorly lit environments and if you also want to have one of the best HVAC clamp meters ever produced, this model is a must-have.
Fluke 325 Digital Clamp Meter
When it comes to Fluke 325, you truly have to see to believe. Fluke 325 can measure temperature, capacitance, frequency, amps, resistance, and volts. The level of accuracy is beyond what words can describe, and the same goes for an excellent casing that is incredibly sturdy and resistant.
This clamp meter also has a min/max function, hold feature and a powerful backlight that makes it possible for you to work in low light environments.
This clamp meter is incredibly intuitive and easy to use, as a matter of fact, this model is suitable for beginners and users who have never used a clamp meter before.
Clamp meters FAQ
Are clamp meters difficult to use?
Clamp meters are not difficult to use at all. You use a clamp meter just as you would use a multimeter. They have a voltage measurement system that ensures safety and convenience.
First of all, you need to select the desired setting on the dial in the middle of the clamp meter, after that, all you need to do is to clamp the conductor on, and you’re good to go.
Are clamp meters just multimeters with fewer functions and less accuracy?
Clamp meters and multimeters share a lot of similarities, and clamp meters are as accurate as multimeters are. The only function that is less accurate is non-contact measuring. But Clamp Meters have a high measurement range of current as compared to multimeters. All other functions are accurate just like they are on the multimeter from the same price range. Clamp meters can have as many functions as multimeters can.
Can I use a multimeter test leads with my clamp meter?
Depends from meter to meter. Generally, you can, but there are some clamp meters that don’t have that possibility.
Are clamp meters safer than multimeters?
Clamp meters are as safe as multimeters are. The tipping point that makes clamp meters safer than multimeters is the non-contact voltage measuring function. Since it requires no contact with the wires, there is less chance that the person using the meter will be injured. Though ghost voltages can only be detected by a few multimeters and clamp meters. It has a low impedance which reduces the possibility of false readings due to ghost voltages and improves accuracy when testing to determine absence or presence of voltage.
Extra Probes and Accessories for Clamp Meters
Most clamp meters can be used in combination with standard multimeter probes. Since this article is about HVAC clamp meters, if your clamp meter has a temperature measuring function, you can be certain that you can use temperature probes too. Additional probes for measuring frequency exist, and they can be used in the same way as standard probes.
As with the gear whose purpose is the protection of your clamp meter, you can buy holsters and cases that were specially designed for use with clamp meters. Cases can come in all sorts of sizes and varieties, most common ones being large and small; and soft and hard cases.
Since clamp meters can be as accurate as multimeters can, I recommend that you get quality probes that are as accurate as possible, especially if you are planning on buying high-quality multimeters. Fluke’s probes are the best ones on the market, and I can’t recommend them enough.
Clamp meters Advanced Features
The most advanced feature of a clamp meter is the non-contact voltage measuring.
When it comes to high-grade clamp meters, all their features are advanced. Such models have backlights that don’t waste energy from your batteries. The accuracy of such models is incredible, and many of them have the non-contact voltage measuring function’s accuracy so polished up, that you won’t even know that you are not using the contact measuring function.
These clamp meters are made of tough plastic, and their shells can endure a lot of punishment, so it is not necessary to use any rubber protection with them. But, since these clamp meters were designed for HVAC, another type of clamp meters exist. This type of clamp meters can have thermal imaging cameras.
Clamp meters with thermal cameras are excellent for work in environments that make it very difficult, if not impossible to access the area where you need to measure temperature. Regardless of the reason is small space or weather conditions, the thermal cameras will work wonders. All that you need to do is to turn the camera on, and it will show you accurate temperature measurement on the measured surface. Some advanced clamp meter models that don’t have a thermal camera can be outfitted with them.
It doesn’t matter if your motivation for getting a clamp meter is professional, DIY, or you just want to have one in case that the need for a clamp meter arises, you will find a model that is the best one for you. The safety rating is high in clamp meters because of the non-contact voltage measurement range of current.
All clamp meters on this list are best in their class, we also made sure that we pick models that are as cheap as possible, and also that they are built as good as possible so that you can do your work in peace and know that you have a quality product in your hands.
Whichever model you decide to pick, you can rest assured that it will serve you well.