Current clamps are also known as current probes. They may also be known as clamp meters, amp clamps, or tong testers.
This is a more advanced version, with a significant difference. If you’re familiar with regular multimeters, you will find it quite easy to understand and use the current clamp. In multimeters, you have to plug the tester or probe into the live circuits manually, but the current clamp is a device that works on the principle of magnetic induction and can be used to measure AC without actual contact with a circuit in series. Current clamps combine the functions of a digital multimeter with a current sensor and provide measurement in amperes.
While it is a simple device, it is extremely useful to electricians, tradespersons, and technicians working in specific areas of industry. They have gained huge popularity with professionals in the field and have become indispensable to them.
There are different types of current clamps, and they are used for slightly different purposes or to give different outputs. They include current transformers, iron vane, Rogowski coil, Hall Effect type, and more. The iron vane and Hall Effect types can also measure DC.
Parts of the Current Clamp
Most modern clamp meters have certain basic parts in common. They include:
1. Jaws or Clamps: These are transformer clamps that can detect the magnetic field in the current flow
2. Opening/Closing Trigger and/or Jaw Release lever: They help to open/close the jaws around the conducting medium
3. Power Switch: enables the function or stops it
4. Button for Back Light: helps to display values in dark places
5. Button for Hold: holds the display in place while you read it
6. Tactile Barrier: protects the user
7. Input for Flexible probe
8. LCD Display: shows measured values
9. Rotary switch: helps users to choose different currents for measurement
There may be variations based on pricing, brands, and technology used. Single clamps are used to measure single-phase measurements, while three clamp instruments can measure three-phase power.
It’s important to check the device thoroughly before you purchase. Look for good-quality plastic that’s tough, durable, and has high insulation properties. There should be no metal parts on the surface of the device. Ensure that the batteries that are compatible with the device are easily available so that you can replace them quickly and conveniently.
Why Are They Used?
- Current clamps are most useful when the current flowing through a system or network has to be measured without interrupting the power supply or disrupting operations.
- They can be used to restore or repair electrical connections of systems and devices.
- You can also use them for troubleshooting and problem-solving in new devices or calculating interference and leakages.
- Current clamps can also help in readjustment/maintenance procedures in faulty appliances.
- Supervisors can use them in routine maintenance tests.
Benefits Of Current Clamps
- The main benefit of using current clamps is that you can measure the current flowing through a device without cutting wires, breaking circuits, or interrupting operations. It doesn’t disturb the conductor that carries current because the clamps can be wrapped around the solid wire. This non-contact method of measurement is useful for technicians and electricians.
- They’re also good support for home electricians, DIY enthusiasts, and even people with minimal skills, though the interpretation of results needs more expertise.
- Many technicians use multimeters regularly for more or less the same purpose. However, the disadvantage with multimeters is that the electrician or technician has to cut the wire when connecting to the circuit.
- It is easy to use because all you need is to clamp the instrument to the conducting medium or wire to get the measurement.
- You can use them with active devices and appliances to measure the current as it is working. Current clamps help you to measure high-level current.
- Current clamps are convenient to transport to your worksite. They are easy to carry in your toolbox because they are lightweight.
- You don’t need a power source to use this device because it runs on batteries.
- The readings are usually accurate, and they provide a variety of functions that can be applied to various purposes because it provides a wide range of measurements.
- It can be used in noisy, dark, and difficult-to-use environments.
- The current clamp is based on ergonomic design, so it fits well in your hand and is also insulated and protected for your safety.
- You get very quick measurements in a short time. You don’t need to cut wires or disrupt operations, saving you time and effort. You can take follow-up action immediately. This can also save the client money and inconvenience.
- Current clamps are constantly being upgraded and updated with new features and conveniences. This helps you to use it continuously in your work.
- It helps you to spot leakage and interference.
- Current clamps are very safe to use, and they offer a greater range of safety compared to multimeters, even when you use them with conductors connected to live power supplies.
- The small size, stability, safety, and good precision of outputs make the current clamp a handy tool in industrial and household environments, engineering, HVAC, business equipment, and commercial electrical systems of all types.
- The measurement capacity of current clamps is in the higher hundreds of amperes, making it safe to measure thousands of volts.
- It usually comes pre-loaded with different burden resistors that can be scaled according to your measurement. It offers feedback-free results in the specified measuring range.
- The measuring range usually has a broad bandwidth for troubleshooting, performing last circuit checks, and executing programmed protective safety.
- The ferrite core of the device’s head makes it unnecessary to hold the clamp at any specific angle to the conducting medium.
- Intelligent current clamps have the advantage of independently detecting, assessing, and recording interference in large plants and industrial networks.
There are several different types available on the market, and you can select the right one based on your unique needs, working environment, preferences, and budget. Some high-end ones have extra features for special measurements, for instance, to test transistors or diodes, monitor thermocouples or resistance values. Other current clamps may be programmable with internal data storage and can interface with computers. They may also have external storage device facilities with disk drives.