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Agilent clamp meter letdown :(

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PetrosA:
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!

rossmoffett:
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.

PetrosA:

--- Quote from: rossmoffett 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.

--- End quote ---

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.

EEVblog:
4K ohms range limitation is madness!
I don't think I've ever seen a meter that crippled!

Dave.

PetrosA:
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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