Uses for Electrical Meters Part 1

by Andy on November 30, 2011

There are many types of electrical meters, but their uses are not always clear. It can be especially confusing for people who are just starting to work on electrical projects, who may not know what each meter is for. As always, we are here to help with a guide to different meters and their typical uses. This week we are going to focus on voltmeters, resistivity meters, and nanocoulomb meters. Be sure to check back next Monday for more!


Monroe Electronics Voltmeter As the name suggests, these meters measure voltage. Voltage is the “power” of the electricity going through the wire. If you think of it in terms of a pipe full of water, it would be similar to the water pressure. Voltmeters can be used to test if a circuit is working, such as a wall plug in your house. If you test the voltage in a socket in typical US houses, it should come out to 110-120 volts.

These meters are very flexible and can be used in a large number of other situations as well. Not only can voltmeters test electrical objects, but with the proper equipment, they can also be used to monitor bioelectric processes such as nerves firing. Very sensitive equipment is needed for this type of application (as well as extremely clean standards if working with live samples), but the general properties are similar to the voltmeters that are found in an electrician’s tool belt.

Resistivity Meter:

SCC Resistivity Meter Again we luck out with products being labeled literally, as this meter measures resistance. Resistance is how hard it is for an electrical current to flow over a specific area. If you use the water pipe analogy, a place with high resistance would be a smaller diameter. As resistance goes up, it is harder for the current to flow (like a pipe whose diameter keeps getting smaller).

These meters can be used to check how much resistance a component in a circuit provides. Another type of this meter is the surface resistivity meter. This can measure the resistance of a surface, which is important for testing ESD-safe mats or work surfaces. Using a surface resistivity meter can help you tell if a surface is insulative, dissipative, anti-static, or conductive.

NanoCoulomb Meter:

Monroe Electronics Nanocoulomb Meter This meter is a bit less common than voltmeters and resistivity meters, but it is an important piece of equipment. Its name again points towards its use, as it measures nanocoulombs. Coulombs are the standard unit of electric charge, defined by how much charge is transported by a current of one ampere per second. A nanocoulomb is one billionth of a coulomb, so this device is able to measure very small charges.

A nanocoulomb meter can typically test objects using either a Faraday cup or a contact probe. With the Faraday cup, you just place the object inside the cup and take a reading to find the item’s total charge. It also has the benefit of being able to tell you the mobile charge if you lift the item out of the cup with wooden or insulative tongs. With this, you can even calculate the immobile charge of the object by subtracting the mobile charge from the total charge. The contact probe is better for getting the charge of a specific point on an object. This is particularly useful if you are testing individual pins on a circuit board.

These are just a few of the many meters that we have at Be sure to check them out, especially our upcoming Monroe Meters! Also next Monday we will have another article on more meters and electrical testing equipment, so keep an eye on our site for information.

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