When I am pressed for time, nothing frustrates me more than reading a long, drawn-out articles recommending 10+ products.
Instead, this article focuses on 3 best (IMHO) digital multimeters:
- Fluke 117 Electricians True RMS Multimeter ($~150)
- Klein Tools MM6000 Electrician’s Multimeter (~$270)
- Extech Instruments EX330 Autoranging Mini Multimeter with NCV and Type K Temperature (~$60)
Buy the one that you can afford and get back to your home DIY troubleshooting.
I ended up getting the Klein DMM because Fluke was out of stock and I really needed a DMM at the time. If you can swing it, buy Fluke 117. You won’t regret it.
PS. You may also want to consider purchasing a separate test lead kit (like this one) which will give you a variety of clamps and connectors that will make your life infinitely better when troubleshooting appliances.
Even one of those cheapo RadioShack analog multimeter (i.e. voltmeter, ohmmeter, milliammeter or VOM for short) can be useful in solving DIY home projects. Obviously, the cheaper quality multimeters don’t generally last very long, it can provide useful information like resistance and voltage readings.
However, cheaper units may also limit the kinds of sensitive and accurate readings your DIY project requires.
Of course, that does not mean I support spending $500+ on the latest and the greatest digital multimeters either for what an average DIYer needs.
PURCHASE CRITERIA / REQUIREMENTS
- Digital multimeter (DMM) – Though I grew up with an analog multimeter, I now prefer DMM over VOM, due to the simple fact that when I am troubleshooting appliance circuits, a large digital readout makes it easy for me to take a quick reading. I find features like auto-range to be very useful where I don’t have to mess with multimeter unit selectors to take proper measurements.
- Price – As a home DIYer, it does not make sense for me to buy something that costs a lot of money simply because I don’t use it that often. So I set my budget around $150 or below.
- Accuracy – when dealing with control voltages, having a DMM with accuracy will make it easier for me to differentiate between a poorly working circuit versus the one that is working well.
- Functionality – having a feature like True RMS and temperature measurement is something that I highly recommend because they offer additional flexibility.
- Build Quality – nothing is worse than having a feature-rich but inexpensive DMM that gets broken due to slight moisture or gravity (being dropped).
# 1 Top Choice – Fluke 117 Electricians True RMS Multimeter
Although Fluke 117 is on the ‘budget’ side of Fluke multimeter spectrum, it is nonetheless solidly built like its more expensive cousins with wealth of features:
- Measures resistance, continuity, frequency and capacitance, and has the mix/max/average functions to test fluctuating signals.
- Backlit display makes it easy to read in any kind of light. T
- Eliminate ghost voltage with low impedance input which helps give accurate readings.
- Can handle up to 600V and 10A, which should exceed the needs of an average home DIYer.
Though it is a bit pricey (around $150 at Amazon), but with its 3 year warranty and reputation for building DMMs with quality components, Fluke 117 is an excellent investment. I personally own and use Fluke 117.
# 2 Lots of Extra Features – Klein Tools MM6000 Electrician’s Multimeter
Upgraded from Klein MM5700, Klein MM6000 continues to provide good tactile feedback and lots of features:
- True RMS measurements
- Backlit display
- Analog bar graph
- Low impedance
- Measures AC/DC Voltage – 1000V
- Measures AC/DC Current – 10A
Klein MM6000 also includes extra accessories like thermocouple and test leads (both probes and alligator clips) along with a 2 year manufacturer warranty.
I personally own the Klein MM6000 DMM while it was one sale at $180. The MM6000 unit can normally be had for around $270 at Amazon.
# 3 Budget Category – Extech EX330 12 Function Mini Multimeter
The Extech EX330 has won countless awards with its amazing array of features and competitive price, making it one of the top choice in this budget category:
- Autoranging DMM with 12 functions and 0.5% basic accuracy
- AC/DC Voltage & Current, Resistance, Capacitance, Frequency, Temperature, Duty Cycle, Diode/Continuity
- Built-in non-contact AC voltage detector (NCV) with red LED indicator and audible beeper
- Large-digit 4,000 count LCD display
- 10A max Current
- Max Hold, Data Hold, Relative and Auto power off
- Type K temperature measurements
Two small drawbacks:
- EX330 does not have a backlit display, making it difficult to read under certain lighting conditions
- One year warranty
Extech EX330 comes complete with test leads, tilt stand, protective holster, and a general purpose Type K bead wire probe. For For 60 bucks at Amazon so EX330 is a solid choice for many home DIYers.
Fluke 117, Klein MM6000 and Extech EX330 are excellent choices in their respective categories.
No matter which one you decide to choose, make sure to scan the receipt and take detailed photos of the packaging (i.e. UPC, model name etc.) and buy it with a credit card to get a free one year extended warranty (I prefer the free extended warranty provided by American Express because its claim process is simply awesome).
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