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Measuring Electricity

What is the meaning of all those settings!?

If you have read thru my basic electricity article, you probably already know a lot of what is on the controls of your meter. Each meter will be different of course, but the basics will be on almost all of them.

Those basics should include the following:

Depending on design, you may have different ranges of each of these; on the other hand if your meter is auto-ranging you may not have any or only have a couple options.

More advanced meters might include a few other things such as:

Lets start out with the voltage setting. As the name says, your meter can measure voltage when set to this setting. I know, that's pretty obvious - but what is this AC and DC stuff about? Well, there is two types of power supplying electricity; one called AC and one called DC. The DC is the type of electricity discussed in my Electricity articles, and the most common for small electronics. It is what is found coming from batteries, most 'wall wart' power supplies, and what most all circuit boards operate on.

DC is also the easiest to learn; thus why I have chosen to work with it exclusively in this series of basic articles. Just for a glimpse of what is ahead, AC is simply electricity that reverses direction at some constant rate. Standard household electrical is AC electricity; and reverse at a rate of 60Hz (60 cycles per second) here in the United States. In many other countries, this rate is 50Hz; but still the same principle.

In keeping with my entry level target, I don't want to go any further here with AC.The additional considerations would only serve to confuse at this point, but I do plan to write a seperate article in the near future.

For now, just know that you need to select the type you are working with. Keep in mind that many electronic devices actually convert the AC house current into DC current for use on the circuit board. Its beyond the scope of this article how to determine that, but I thought it worth knowing that it is a common practice.

Up next, we'll step thru an actual, useful voltage measurement ...

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