Buyer's Guides Multimeters

Best Multimeters for Home and Professional Use: Buyer’s Guide for 2020

working technician

If you’re a professional electrician or an experienced DIYer, then you need to use the best multimeter for its accuracy, safety features, and efficiency. Multimeters are devices that are used to measure electrical units. These devices can be total lifesavers on the job, or when performing home electrical repairs. But finding the best model, one that’s accurate and reliable, isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Because of this, I decided to create an in-depth buyer’s guide that will delve into the must-have features to look for when you’re shopping for a multimeter, so you’ll be sure to find a pro-quality model at a price you can afford. I’ve also reviewed many of the leading models on the market, narrowing down my choices to six multimeters that have what it takes to help you get any job done at work or around the home. Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that includes each of the models that made it onto my list, their best features, and how they rated.

Multimeters Comparison Chart

Product Type Capacity Analog/Digital Rating
KAIWEETS Digital Multimeter 

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Auto-Ranging 600VDigital
AstroAI Digital Multimeter

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Auto-Ranging 600VDigital
Crenova MS8233D Digital

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Auto-Ranging 600VDigital
Fluke 116/323 KIT HVAC Multimeter

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HVAC600vDigital
INNOVA 3320 Digital Multimeter

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Auto-Ranging 300VDigital
Gardner Bender Analog Multimeter

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Manual 300VAnalog

KAIWEETS Digital Multimeter


Our Rating: (5/5)

This device can handle a wide variety of applications, with a capacity of six thousand volts. This is a beginner-friendly device. The large dual backlit LCD display will clearly list the readings with a bar graph. The flashlight found on the back of the gadget will provide much-needed light in dark spaces, so you can easily see the display. This is a multifunctional meter that can perform non-contact voltage testing, in addition to live functions complete with light alarm and sound. The display screen will change to red when detecting a live wire.

Pros

  • Beginner-friendly
  • Dual backlit display
  • Versatile
  • Includes silicone protective case

Cons

  • User’s guide is not well-written

Conclusion

This model can handle six thousand counts auto-ranging, for precise measurements of DC and AC voltage, wire on and off, liquid temperature, capacitance and diode, battery checking, frequency, continuity, and resistance. Additionally, the manufacturer offers thirty-six months after sale service and lifetime technical support. This multifunctional device is perfect for both home and pro use.

AstroAI Digital Multimeter


Our Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

This multifunctional auto-ranging multimeter tests for temperature, frequency, capacitance, continuity, resistance, tests diodes, AC and DC current, and AC and DC voltage. This is a pro-quality device that includes true RMS for measuring both AC voltage and current and offers auto-ranging capabilities. The included features, such as data hold, kickstand, backlit screen, and the low battery indicator make recording and taking measurements a breeze. This model is perfect for commercial settings where it can easily handle the demands of heavy-duty use.

Pros

  • Multifunctional
  • Auto-ranging
  • Data hold
  • Overload protection

Cons

  • Not beginner-friendly

Conclusion

This model comes with a three-year product warranty, which covers overload protection. This is a pro-quality model that may be too complicated for beginners, however, DIYers with multimeter experience will appreciate the pro-quality design, overall durability, and the high power capacity rating.

Crenova MS8233D Auto-Ranging Digital


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This model has a built-in double fuse, comes with overload protection on all ranges, and includes a one hundred percent safety assurance from the manufacturer. This device can accurately measure diode, continuity, frequency, resistance, AC and DC current, and AC and DC voltage. It also features a large backlit LCD display that will allow you to clearly view the readings, even in low light areas. It comes with data hold functionality, a three-second sampling speed, auto power off, function switching, and max value hold.

Pros

  • Beginner-friendly
  • Large backlit display
  • Data hold
  • Three-second sampling speed

Cons

  • Beeping function during continuity testing doesn’t always work

Conclusion

This is a great device for both commercial and home use and it comes with an intuitive design that makes it very beginner-friendly. It’s versatile, durable, and designed with withstand heavy-duty use and includes a durable casing that will protect it from damage that can occur if it’s dropped. It’s a great buy for DIYers and electricians on a budget, and it earned top marks as one of the safest models on the market.

Fluke 116/323 KIT HVAC Multimeter


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This HVAC multimeter is fast-acting, rugged, and comes with an integrated temperature probe, so there’s no need to use a separate thermometer. The gadget’s microamp function will allow for precise flame sensor measurement, down to 0.1 microamps. The large, LED backlit screen will allow you to easily view readings, even in low light conditions. The auto LOZ function will prevent false readings that can occur due to ghost voltage. Basically, this is a device that has it all. This model is best-suited for pro use since it’s not very beginner-friendly.

Pros

  • Large LED backlit display
  • Microamp function
  • Integrated temperature probe
  • Rugged casing

Cons

  • Not beginner-friendly

Conclusion

This multimeter comes with all of the bells and whistles the tech could want. It includes a built-in thermometer for HVAC applications, microamps designed to test flame sensors, and a rugged design that will protect the meter from cracks, chips, and other damage. Built tough, and designed for commercial use, this is one meter you can rely on at work, and a model that earned a higher than average accuracy rating.

INNOVA 3320 Auto-Ranging Digital Multimeter


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This auto-ranging multimeter is UL certified and designed to accurately and safely troubleshoot a wide range of household and automotive electrical issues. The auto-ranging feature will eliminate the need for the user to dial in the right range when taking measurement readings. The device also includes a large digital LED display that’s color-coded. The single setting resistance function for both DC and AC voltage makes this gadget very beginner-friendly.

Pros

  • UL certified
  • Beginner-friendly
  • Protective rubber corner guards protect the device in the event it’s dropped
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Difficult to read the display screen in low light situations
  • Not recommended for pro use

Conclusion

This beginner-friendly multimeter is fairly basic, so it’s not the best choice for commercial use, however, the DIYer will appreciate the intuitive design, included mode options, and the ability to accurately and easily take readings using the auto-range scales. Overall, this device is a great buy for the beginner, is a model that’s designed to last, and it features the type of rugged design that every buyer is looking for.

Gardner Bender GMT-312 Analog Multimeter


Our Rating: (4/5)

This is a manual, analog multimeter that features a manual range selection, including a standard zero OHM adjustment dial. The color-coded display screen is very easy to read, although you will not be able to view the screen in low light conditions. This model can test for resistance, DC and AC current, and DC and AC voltage. The device includes lead input icons to ensure the correct probe placement. It also comes with a set of negative and positive electrical probes.

Pros

  • Durable
  • Color-coded display
  • Fuse overload protection
  • Manual range selection

Cons

  • Cannot read display in low light conditions
  • Not beginner-friendly
  • Not as accurate as digital meters

Conclusion

This model is not one that’s recommended for beginners. If you’re an experienced electrician who is familiar with analog meters, then you’ll know how to put this model to use. But the beginner may not be aware that analog models are not always very accurate and how to calibrate the device to improve accuracy. The lack of features, confusing display, and the manual range selection make this model a poor choice for the beginner or pro in need of a model that’s more versatile and highly accurate.

Multimeters Buyer’s Guide

In the past, analog multimeters were the only option. These days, digital models are now available and provide quicker and more precise readings. These devices are mainly used to track a blown fuse or a short circuit. These gadgets are very useful for electricians who applied other forms of analysis in the past. The best thing about these devices is that they can be used to get input impedance, farads, voltage, and ohms, in addition to other electrical units.

What is a Multimeter?

Electrical Engineer working

A multimeter is a diagnostic device that is used to measure the electrical value that comes from an outlet or an electrical connection. If you keep experiencing flickering lights or constant tripping of breakers, then one of these devices can be invaluable. These gadgets can be used to review the resistance of the flow of power, the power status of voltage, and the electrical current. This will help the DIYer and electrician to diagnose problems. These devices can also be used to test battery power levels.

Digital multimeters will provide important information concerning the power sources in a home. Since these devices are programmed to read current and voltage, exposure to excessive power can potentially damage one of the gadgets, frying parts of it. Additionally, if the device is plugged into the wrong type of power source, it will burn up as well.

Different types of multimeters can tolerate a variety of power strengths. As an example, an HVAC multimeter can handle exposure to a higher level of power compared to a basic unit. If you’re not sure how much electrical current passes through the electrical lines in your home then you’ll want to avoid plugging a multimeter into the power lines.

Now that you know what this device is designed to do, let’s explore some of the benefits that come with purchasing a multimeter.

Multimeter Benefits

These devices can be very useful for troubleshooting and testing circuit issues and electrical connections. While many models are designed to measure basic circuit characteristics such as current, voltage, and resistance, many modern multimeters are also able to do so much more. Both digital and analog models offer their own pros and cons. However, when it comes to precise readings and ease of use, digital models take the cake. Below, you’ll find a list of the benefits these devices offer, which will help you determine which type is right for you and how you can put one of these gadgets to work.

  • A multimeter provides high output impedance
  • Digital models will minimize interpolate errors and are considered more accurate than their analog counterparts.
  • With a digital model, zero adjustments are needed
  • It can be used to measure frequency and time, can test continuity, and loading effect on electrical circuits.
  • Multimeters can also measure duty cycles and can handle advanced measurements such as inductance and capacitance.
  • Multimeters are known for their accuracy and can provide readings in four decimal places.
  • Fluctuation will be okay as long as the fluctuation is within the tool’s range of fluctuation.
  • Even for a beginner, gauging the reading isn’t an issue with a little practice. With a digital model, you’ll notice it uses seven segments to display the readings.
  • With a digital model, you won’t have to worry about the position of the needle pointer on the scale like you will when you use an analog model.
  • A digital multimeter can read both negative and positive values, which will come in handy when you’re measuring voltage.
  • These devices can be used by DIYers and electricians to find out if a circuit is DC or AC. Test probes will be used to test the different voltage on multiple locations of a circuit.
  • Resistance readings can be done using diodes. The diode testing feature allows users to determine where the diode needs to go on the circuit.
  • A continuity check helps users to check for any loose connections or broken wires in an electronic device.
  • When soldering wires, a multimeter will make a beeping sound if everything is alright.
  • Multimeters are able to measure duty cycles of a sine wave to check for distortion in the connection.

As you can see, these devices offer a wide range of benefits, when used correctly. Now, let’s move on to learn about the different types of multimeters to choose from and the features they have to offer.

Types of Multimeters

There are many different types of multimeters to choose from. Some will be better options for home use, while others are pro-quality all the way and are designed to handle high power exposure.

HVAC

Heating systems and air conditioning units operate on 220 volts of power. Because of this, it’s crucial that you use a multimeter that’s designed to handle a higher level of power. The HVAC multimeter is specifically designed to handle the job and will not get damaged unless they’re plugged in incorrectly. Testing 220 volts with a device that’s not able to handle that level of power can pose a serious danger to the operator and will damage the device.

Auto-Ranging

When looking for the resistance of a resistor, there are some multimeters that don’t have to be dialed around. Usually, you’d have to connect the device to the resistor, then begin your search until you’ve located the right range, which is when you would get the reading. This type of multimeter eliminates the need and will automatically search for the range on its own. While this feature is very handy, it shouldn’t be your main priority.

Fluke

These digital multimeters are designed to handle plenty of rough treatment. They’re also waterproof and able to handle dangerous drops, shock, and high levels of humidity. You can use this type of device to check batteries, the same way you can with a standard multimeter that’s made for home use. However, these devices offer more capabilities and can be used to transmit information to your phone or PC. This means that if you run into a hazardous situation that needs attention, you can place this device within measuring distance and take a reading using your phone. The data will be stored directly on your phone so you can send it to co-workers or an electrician.

Manual

Instead of the auto-ranging feature that most digital models offer, with analog devices, you’ll have to manually search for the frequency. This can make the device difficult to use for beginners. Additionally, the readings may not be nearly as accurate.

Technology

testing

There are a couple of styles of multimeters; digital and analog. With analog devices, a constant deflection of a pointer will represent the value of power quantity that’s being measured. It will measure the resistance, voltage, current, and duty cycle. They’re also able to measure capacitors and transistors. The resistance of these devices will depend on the range chosen and the multimeter’s sensitivity.

Digital models feature a digital decimal display. The measurement will be displayed via an analog to digital converter. When it comes to varying voltage measurement, a bar circuit will hold the current samples, before new samples are measured, then displayed. For beginners, digital models are the way to go, since they’re much easier to read and considered more accurate.

Analog Vs. Digital: Pros and Cons

A multimeter is necessary for any type of electrical work ranging from installing a ceiling fan to changing a junction box. Using one of these devices can help you determine whether a connection is good or not. These gadgets are designed to measure a few central elements of electric energy; volts, ohms, and energy. In order to measure electrical energy, there are a couple of wire leads in these devices that you will touch to exposed wire to get a power reading.

These devices offer automatic reading displays, so it will be much easier to measure readings because the output is automatically relayed in digits via a seven-segment display. An analog multimeter requires you to take a closer look into scales when you need to read the value.

Digital models are much faster and are not susceptible to human errors, unlike an analog device.

Digital models are more accurate than an analog multimeter because it can provide reading with up to four decimal places, whereas the analog models don’t show any decimals.

A digital multimeter can read negative values. By placing each probe on the opposite polarity, it will return a negative output. Clearly, this is a big advantage over an analog model since doing the same task using an analog model could cause the device to break.

Other Important Features

These devices are commonly used in installing, repairing, and testing electrical devices. With the increase in demand for testing equipment and the increase in brands that make them, you may find it difficult to choose the best model to suit your needs. Below, you’ll find some must-have features you need to pay close attention to when you’re shopping around for a new multimeter.

Specification

Specification is what will determine the performance of a multimeter. Specification refers to the device’s understanding of the abilities of different types of multimeters in regards to its resistance, DC voltage, AC voltage, DC, and AC. Choose a model with a CAT safety rating that’s needed to operate electrical devices. It’s crucial that you choose a model that can handle more current than what a specific power source can withstand. This will prevent serious issues. When you purchase a high-quality multimeter, be sure that it has low input impedance and true RMS value for DC components.

Accuracy

Be sure to check how accurate a multimeter is. In this case, accuracy is the max permissible error limit that’s allowed in readings.

Measurements

Some models are able to monitor the voltage and current within a specific frequency range and can also measure the frequency.

Capacity

Before you buy, always take a look at a model’s energy capacity. This helps you to know the max transitory voltage that each specific device can handle without becoming damaged.

Resolution

This refers to the number of digits that a signal strength can be measured. It also represents the changes in an output single that’s brought on by slight fluctuations in the input signals.

Input Impedance

By selecting a model that has a wide range of input impedance, you can get precise measurements that are very easy to read. If you measure sensitive electronics, then this will be crucial.

Temperature

If you need thermocouple monitoring capabilities, then go with a digital model that comes with dual differential temperature functions. This allows users to take one to two temperature readings at the same time.

CAT Ratings

A digital model will come rated for specific electrical parameters. Because of this, you will need to check for CAT ratings, independent verification symbols, and IP codes, to ensure the meter you want to buy has been tested by a third party and is safe to use for your specific measurements. When you’re determining the right overvoltage installation category rating, you will want to keep in mind that you should always choose a model that’s rated for the highest category you could use the device on and find a voltage rating that will exceed or match those situations. Models that are CAT rated are designed to reduce the chances of an arc flash occurring inside the device. These ratings are often found near the input jacks. As an example, if you want to measure a 480-volt panel, then you’ll need to use a device that has a CAT rating of lll-600 volts.

Safety Precautions

  • The incorrect use of a multimeter can result in damage or injury. Before you take a measurement, make sure that you check out the test probes and the meter’s other accessories for any signs of damage. Take a look at the plugs and make sure they fit securely. Keep an eye out for any cracks in the casing or exposed metal. Never use a meter if the test probes are damaged or there are signs of damage on the casing. If the meter passes your visual inspection, check to ensure the meter itself is working properly. Try a known voltage source to verify that it’s working. When you work with electricity, there will always be risks. It’s important to know what those hazards are and use the right safety precautions before you start taking measurements. Always be aware of the chances of spikes such as arc blasts, arc flashes, and transient overvoltage.
  • During use, discharge and deenergize the circuit completely before you disconnect or connect a multimeter.
  • Avoid applying power to the circuit as you measure resistance
  • Connect the device in series with the circuit when measuring current and use parallel for measuring voltage.
  • Make sure that the device is turned to AC before you measure AC circuits
  • When measuring DC observe proper DC polarity
  • When you’re done using a multimeter, make sure you turn it to the off position. If there isn’t an off position, then you can switch it to the highest AC voltage position.
  • Always begin with the current range or highest voltage
  • Choose a final range that will allow a reading near the middle of the scale
  • Adjust the OHM reading after you change the resistance range and before you measure resistance.
  • Make sure that you read the AC measurements on the scale of the multimeter
  • Always observe the basic safety precautions for electronic and electrical devices.

How to Use a Multimeter

electrician working

These devices allow you to understand what’s going on in circuits. When something in a circuit isn’t working correctly, this device helps you troubleshoot these problems.

These gadgets can be helpful in the following scenarios:

  • How much power is left in a battery?
  • How much current is flowing through the led?
  • Is the wire broken or is it still conducting electricity?

Multimeters can help you answer these questions and more.

Design

Multimeters are made up of four sections:

Ports: This is where you’ll plug in the probes.

Selection knob: The knob is used to choose what you want to measure.

Display: This is where you can read the measurements.

Probes: These devices come with a couple of probes. For more models, one probe will be black, while the other probe is red. The black probe connects to the COM port, while the red probe connects to one of the other ports, based on what you want to measure.

Ports

The “-“ or “COM” port is where the blade probe is connected. The COM port is often black. The type of ports you’ll find on a multimeter can vary from model to model.

Below, you’ll find the standard port options most multimeters offer:

You can measure AC or DC voltage. The V that has a single line is for DC voltage, while the V with the wavy line through it refers to AC voltage.

Voltage

In order to measure the voltage, you’ll adjust the dial to the V with a wavy line if you want to measure AC, or you can set it to the V with the straight line if you want to measure DC. Be sure that the red probe is placed on the port with a V next to it. The red probe should be connected to the positive side of the device, which is where the current comes from. Next, connect the black probe to the other side of the device, then wait for the value on the display screen.

When you’re measuring voltage, you’ll need to connect the device in parallel with the component you want to measure.

Many beginners are worried that they’ll use the wrong color probe, but you can rest assured that if you do connect the wrong probe, nothing dangerous will happen. The reading on the device has the same value, however, it’s negative.

Current

In order to measure current, you’ll need to keep in mind that components in series will share a current, so you’ll need to connect the device in series with the circuit. To place the device in series, you’ll need to put the red probe on the lead and the black probe next to the component lead. The multimeter will work as if it’s a wire in your circuit. If you disconnect the device, the circuit will not work. Before you measure the current, make sure that you have plugged the red probe in the correct port.

Resistance

To measure resistance, the red probe should be plugged into the right port as you turn the selection knob to resistance. Next, connect the probes to the resistor leads. The results will be the same, regardless of how you connect the leads.

Continuity

Most models provide an option that will allow you to test continuity in a circuit. This is done so you can easily detect issues such as faulty wires. It will also allow you to determine if two points in a circuit are connected. In order to use this feature, choose the mode on the device that looks like a speaker. If there’s low resistance between a couple of points, the two points are connected electrically, then you will hear a continuous sound. If the sound you hear isn’t continuous or if you can’t hear anything at all, then this means that what you’re testing isn’t connected at all or it has a faulty connection.

Frequently Asked Questions

Electrical diagrams

What Does ACV Measure on a Multimeter?

AVC, or alternating current voltage will be denoted as a V with a wavy line next to it. This setting should be used to measure the voltage from an alternating current source. This can be anything that plugs into a standard outlet, or it can be the power the comes directly from the outlet.

Can I Get Shocked Using a Multimeter?

Shocks can occur if the device and test probes have not been maintained properly. Arc flashes can also occur if the meter isn’t properly rated for the voltage or the device is exposed to transient voltage outside of the multimeter’s operating condition or if there are defective components or parts.

How do You Check if a Fuse is Blown with a Multimeter?

If the device you have doesn’t have a continuity mode, then you can check for a blown fuse with the OHM meter on the device. To do, place the multimeter on the OHM meter setting, then attach the probes across the two ends of the fuse. If you get a very low reading of just a few OHMs, then then the fuse is continuous, which means it’s good.

Can a Multimeter Cause a Short?

When you’re measuring circuit current by putting the device directly in the current’s path, it’s a good idea to have the meter offering little to no resistance to current flow. The result will be a short circuit through the meter, if the meter is connected across a source of substantial voltage.

What Does Negative Voltage Mean on a Multimeter?

Negative voltage on a multimeter means the flow of electrons has changed direction. For example, if the multimeter is attached to a car battery black to black and red to red, then you’ll read the positive voltage.

Final Thoughts

The best multimeter is easy to use and highly accurate. Every homeowner and electrician should have one of these devices. They can also be useful for household and industrial applications. By following a few simple steps, a multimeter will allow you to measure resistance, volts, and current in batteries, fuses, bulbs, circuit boards, and other types of electrical components. You can choose from analog or digital devices, but digital tends to be the better choice since they’re easier to use and more accurate. You can also use them to download data to your PC or phone for analysis. This guide and the products that I’ve included here are designed to help you choose the perfect model for home or work use, based on how you intend to use the device, your experience and skill level, and whether you need a model specifically for home use, or you’re an electrician in search of a pro-quality model you can rely on daily.