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cheap multi meter


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Hey folks, I'm after a cheap multi-meter primarily for occasional domestic use. Initially to test fuses and bulbs, but perhaps later on for assistance when fitting ceiling light roses (for instance).  A look on amazon shows many for £15 or less ... often from unknown chinese brands with bizarrely phrased straplines (happy testing give good love of life).  Are these worth a punt for my purposes? They all have plentiful positive reviews, but these probably came from some automated review placing bunker!

I'd also like to learn the basics of lighting circuits etc etc. Reading a book just wont do it for me ... I'm after some way of "building" a circuit to test it out. At school (25 yrs ago!)  we had a circuit board with lights and buzzers etc which you could add switches etc to ... has anyone come across an app or website that does the same?

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Multimeters, even expensive ones, suffer from drift. If you want accuracy, you will therefore need to have your meter re-calibrated at least once a year, and that will cost you dear - maybe £50-£100.

So you might as well forget the relative accuracies of a £5 multimeter and a £50 multimeter.

If you do want accuracy, you should probably buy something so dear that the annual re-calibration seems immaterial.

My inclination is to spend maybe £15 on a meter and then £10 on a voltage standard and a high quality resistor, allowing you to keep an eye on your cheap meter's accuracy. You may well find on cheaper meters you might be able to do some limited re-calibration when necessary by tweaking an internal potentiometer. Tweaking potentiometers is also how one re-calibrates expensive machines, but as they have multiple potentiometers for this purpose,. it's dead easy to send your meter out of whack by tweaking them in the wrong order. It'll probably never come back from that.

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Unless you really get into it a cheap one will do fine.   My “garage” one cost about £20 7 years ago, I also have a Fluke one (expensive...) for household work - no difference in accuracy, the Fluke one does insulation testing and can find earth leaks etc.

Key features:

- backlight.   Useful when working in the dark....

- a hold button - very useful when working on cars.  It locks the display and shows the reading at the time of the button press.   Typically used when you,have your head in a footwell positioning the probes and can’t actually see the screen.

- audio continuity signal.  Also handy in the head in the footwell scenario.

I’d be wary of the insulation on the really cheap ones - but anything from a half reputable U.K. supplier will be fine.  The thing that usually breaks is the rotary dial.    

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