Author Topic: Agilent clamp meter letdown :(  (Read 7153 times)

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Offline PetrosATopic starter

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Agilent clamp meter letdown :(
« on: May 15, 2010, 01:00:47 am »
A few months ago I started doing research on clamp meters because my old Extech EX 830 was ready for an upgrade. After a LOT of reading and price comparing, I decided on the Agilent U1211A which is the cheapest (at $250 USD) in their new line of industrial clamp meters. It seems they want to go up against Fluke and AEMC which are sort of the heavy hitters in this market (aside from Extech and Ideal). The U1211A had the best AC current specs of the three, but didn't have the bells and whistles that the $350 U1213A has which include DC current, temperature, etc. Dave's review of the Agilent DMM gave me a decent impression of what kind of quality to expect, and the meter does seem very accurate indeed.

Now for the kicker. What I didn't pay any attention to in spec sheets when I was comparing different meters is the resistance range. I guess I just assumed that in the price range I was looking at they would all satisfy my needs. To my dismay, I found out yesterday at a jobsite that I was wrong. One of the things I install is electric floor heat. The thermostat uses a thermistor buried in the mortar to sense temperature. Before they can pour the mortar bed I have to check the heating element and sensor to make sure they are both within spec and give the OK. The sensor had a tag indicating I should get between 8k and 12k ohms depending on ambient temp., but my meter was showing an open circuit!!! I heated the sensor up again with a light bulb and it started showing me 2k... 3k... 4k... 4.5k and 0L. So I call tech support to find out whether the reading indicates a bad sensor and the guy says "Maybe your meter doesn't have the right range." After getting online to get the specs (there aren't any provided for the meter case) sure enough, it maxes out at 4k ohms. I had to borrow another meter ($125 Ideal) that goes up to 200k ohms and was able to give the tile guys the green light. It was an embarrassing situation for me to say the least.

So as fair warning to electricians - if you're considering an Agilent clamp meter, you need to get the U1213A. The other two don't have the ohms range needed for our work which is ridiculous for a so-called "industrial" meter.

Because of all this, I'm going to need to get a second meter (DMM) sooner rather than later, so I'm eagerly awaiting Dave's reviews!
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Offline rossmoffett

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Re: Agilent clamp meter letdown :(
« Reply #1 on: May 15, 2010, 01:07:33 am »
Seems like it must have been designed to test motors, since 4k is well above the coil resistance of most.

That's a ridiculous limitation for almost any other application, though.
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Offline PetrosATopic starter

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Re: Agilent clamp meter letdown :(
« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2010, 02:11:22 am »
Seems like it must have been designed to test motors, since 4k is well above the coil resistance of most.

That's a ridiculous limitation for almost any other application, though.

There's nothing in the literature that indicates it was designed specifically for motors or any other specific kind of troubleshooting. In fact, they state:

"The U1210 Series handheld clamp meters provide basic functions of a multi-
meter with wide measurement ranges to cater for a broad range of applications
(ACA, DCV, ACV, OHM, audible continuity, diode and frequency tests)."

Even the fact that it's a CAT IV rated meter would lead you to believe that you're not going to get surprised with this kind of limitation. Still, it's my bad for not thinking of that particular need and checking the specs. It's not something I have to do on a regular enough basis and it slipped my mind.
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Offline EEVblog

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Re: Agilent clamp meter letdown :(
« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2010, 02:27:19 am »
4K ohms range limitation is madness!
I don't think I've ever seen a meter that crippled!

Dave.
 

Offline PetrosATopic starter

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Re: Agilent clamp meter letdown :(
« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2010, 03:27:07 am »
The more I think about how big a fool I looked to the Honeywell tech support and the fact that I held up a crew of tile installers plus the reactions I read here, the angrier I'm getting at Agilent.

In my opinion, this is as big an oversight as the 8 hour battery life on the OLED display meters. Agilent really need to do more market research if they're serious about being a player in the clamp meter market for electricians. There are a lot of really good clamp meters out there in that price range that wouldn't have embarrassed me like that...
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Offline switcher

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Re: Agilent clamp meter letdown :(
« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2010, 09:53:43 am »
That is pretty ludicrous.
But, as the old saying goes, RTFM!
 

Offline Kiriakos-GR

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Re: Agilent clamp meter letdown :(
« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2010, 01:05:21 pm »
RTFM!

No in this case its LTFM !   Look The F$#@  Money .....  That I had spend , and what I got.  ;D

But hey, where is the problem if you have always with you and a proper DMM ?
« Last Edit: May 15, 2010, 01:10:22 pm by Kiriakos-GR »
 

alm

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Re: Agilent clamp meter letdown :(
« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2010, 01:29:14 pm »
This seems quite common for tools designed for electricians. The Fluke T5 goes up to 1kohm, and the Fluke T+ PRO up to 10kohm. I'm sure Fluke did their market research and found out this was enough for most customers, I believe at least the Fluke T5 is quite popular. Only the top model of the Agilent clamp meters (U1213A) features full resistance ranges. They don't do a great job of advertising this, although they do list the 1213 as 'its broad measurement ranges makes it a full-featured DMM'. This is quite typical for marketing: you only mention positive features. Fluke doesn't market the Fluke 77-IV as 'this meter has an average-responding AC function that will read incorrect for non-sinusoidal signals' either, or the 115 as 'this doesn't have low current ranges'. You have to dig in the datasheet to find that out.
 

Offline switcher

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Re: Agilent clamp meter letdown :(
« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2010, 01:36:30 pm »
I really don't see the point in the 77-4s existance, you might as well buy a 175 or a 177, and they're cheaper!
 

Offline PetrosATopic starter

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Re: Agilent clamp meter letdown :(
« Reply #9 on: May 15, 2010, 04:14:34 pm »
Some of the meters mentioned like the T5 are basic "starter" meters and can be had for around $100, way less than the Agilent I got. The 77 IV reads up to 50M Ohms, the T+Pro is a completely different meter (intended to show voltage presence and range like a solenoid meter). I'd say that even the 6k ohms limit which some of Fluke's better meters has is crippling at this point, since installing things like floor heat is not exotic at all nowadays. With Fluke, you could argue that they are interested in selling multiple meters to electricians (hell, they even have kits like that) because they have such a huge product line. With Agilent, there are only three clamp meter models, and about 10 handheld DMMs total, none of which are even close to the low prices that Fluke offers. It just doesn't make sense.
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alm

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Re: Agilent clamp meter letdown :(
« Reply #10 on: May 15, 2010, 06:24:10 pm »
My point was that a <10k limit is apparently at least somewhat common in electricians tools, so there must be a market for it, they could easily have skipped the resistance function or increased the range. I don't believe that it's just to sell more DMM's, plenty of people carry just a T5 for troubleshooting industrial stuff. Whether it's suitable for this price class, I don't know, I'm not that familiar with clamp meters.

From a quick look at the Fluke line-up, the Fluke 32x has resistance up to 400ohm, 333 up to 600ohm, 334-337 up to 6kohm, Fluke 902 (marketed for HVAC) 10kohm, so 4kohm doesn't seem very low. It seems that they don't even have a clamp meter with full DMM ranges.

My guess is that many electricians (excluding the HVAC crowd) don't need more than a few kohm. I agree that it probably doesn't cost an extra $100 to add the higher ranges (not sure what the other extra features of the U1213A are), that's just product differentiation. Everybody does it, it's not like it costs Fluke that much to drill a few extra holes and put in a few extra buttons.

Don't hesitate to complain to Agilent that you need more than 4kohm for your work.

I really don't see the point in the 77-4s existance, you might as well buy a 175 or a 177, and they're cheaper!
I'm not sure either, it looks just like a 175 with a few buttons less, so it's not even any easier to use. The 11x series have replaced the 7x series as low-end electricians/electronic troubleshooting meters, and the 17x is better in almost every way (except that it's really slow to respond). I believe that Fluke introduced the 77-IV at least a few years after the 175/177, so there must have been demand for them.
 


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