Voltmeters – Buying guide & Comparison
If you’re short on time and just want to know what we find to be the best digital voltmeter to place on a boat or motorcycle instrument panel then look no further than the Blue Sea Systems Mini 1733. As the name suggests, this little thing snugly fits in any standard sized-socket, giving you little trouble to install. Its tester is sensitive enough to require a four digit (two units and two decimal) display and the +/-1 accuracy when recording DC voltage will make those small decimal figures really matter. After all, it’s always good to have precise knowledge of the workings of your battery when on the road. If not the motor traveling sort, then you might like the Field Guardian Digital Voltmeter, an item dedicated to measuring electric pressure into the high ranges, such as given by electrified fences.
There are many applications one might find for a voltmeter. After all, most units bearing the name don’t even measure the same type of current, so there’s hardly one to fit all purposes. With this in mind, we’ve narrowed down a few criteria to have in mind when shopping for the “best volt meter”.
Type of voltmeter
Why would you want to know the voltage that your power generator puts out? In a battery’s case, to know that it has enough charge in it to charge the electrical parts of your vehicle, or if there’s some malfunction affecting it. When AC current is concerned, the purpose is to check for compatibility with various electrical appliances and problem diagnosis.
The first instance applies primarily to people that enjoy long distance travel in some motor vehicle that is dependent on a perishable battery. It might be a classic bike, a motorboat, or even a car whose standard issue voltmeter is faulty.
When it comes to bigger vehicles, such as boats or trucks, the voltmeter is there to tell you if all the heavy-duty attached electrical equipment will impose too much of a strain on the electrical system. Voltmeters for car batteries (which applies to all of the above) work with DC current at small amp ranges and at somewhere close to 12V or 24V in intensity.
Switching to AC voltmeters now, a not somewhat niche but nevertheless important application for such an instrument is checking out whether an electrified fence is “charged” or not. These devices must provide accurate readings for tension on the highest ends of the scale (over 9000 or so) for the user to know whether the whole system is working as intended.
You can also use voltmeters to check if your home wiring is in good working order. Connectors might be oxidized, electrical cables might have fallen victim to the teeth of squirrels and a myriad of such nuisances might be affecting the performance of your very own home’s electrical system. As a result, your high specs computer might turn off unexpectedly or your washing machine will struggle — voltage might be as good a cause as any and it’s always convenient to have a couple of cheap plug-in voltmeters around to check things out.
As with everything else, convenience is one of the factors to have in mind when buying a voltmeter, but not all applications demand the same ease of use. A control panel voltmeter must be first and foremost easy to read but also easy to install. There is no golden rule in regards to its readability and to how much light the display must put on. The best voltmeter for a motorcycle, for example, will prove jarringly blinding inside the shaded cabin of a boat or at night.
An electrified fence checker must be easy to carry around, easy to read in bright daylight and its buttons must be firm to prevent accidental switching during one of the many trips it will take during its lifetime. For the same reason, it has to be durable in order to handle the impact if falling from its pouch.
The plug in meter must first and foremost be cheap, because you’ll probably be handling a number of them at the time, and small, to facilitate storage when not in use.
Probably the king of convenience, if you will, is the digital multimeter, simply because its wide range of functionality will make it an extremely useful tool to have. It’s usually able to read both AC and DC current.
Range and accuracy
Accuracy is primarily important for control panel voltmeters but also for plug-in readers, simply because they work at mid to low ranges. Fence checkers can do their job well even if their readings are off by a little due to its extremely high operational range. Accuracy is more or less important for the voltmeter on the digital multimeter, depending on what you primarily employ it for.
Top voltmeters reviews in 2017
If you’re still undecided on what to buy our research team scoured through dozens and dozens of internet voltmeter reviews and found the following products to come on top from what’s available for sale.
Blue Sea Systems 1733
Despite being primarily advertised to boat owners, where its waterproof capabilities should come most in handy, this Blue Sea Systems voltmeter can also prove of great use to land vehicle owners.
Its size makes it suitable to mount in any 29 mm hole, which is the standard for 12V sockets and it’s versatile enough to work with both 12V and 24V system, with a specific range between 8 and 36V at 15 milliamps of DC current.
Its high-quality OLED screen can be seen easily from any angle and customers praise the fact that its glare isn’t bothersome in low light conditions while still putting out enough light to be workable during the day.
With a resolution of .01V, the indicator goes into the four digits and its accuracy doesn’t go below +/- 1%.
As an additional safety measure, the unit is also reverse polarity protected.
This well rated Blue Sea Systems product is well suited for the control panels of boats of any size, motorcycles, and other types of vehicles.
It has a good resolution of .01V and sufficient accuracy to ensure that any problem with your electrical system is reliably diagnosed.
The OLED screen has been praised for the great functionality it offers in low light condition, it can also be easily read from any angle and if the user is wearing polarising glasses.
It has a good operational range suitable for all common electrical systems found on vehicles and is also reverse-polarity protected as an additional safety measure.
Some users note that it doesn’t handle high luminosity conditions very well, it is recommended to be associated with a proper shading device when used from open vehicles.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($40.12)
Field Guardian Digital Voltmeter
While a niche product, this electrified fence tester will prove invaluable for farmers or night watchmen. The device looks remarkably sturdy, made to be carried around, and also comes with its own convenient pouch.
It’s quite easy and straightforward to use: the short probe at the top of the meter must be connected to the alligator clip and then put into contact with either the charging pole, the fence itself, or the ground to provide an accurate reading.
Since it ranges from 10 V to 9,900 KV it can be used effectively to take measurements of even the highest voltage electrical posts but can conceivably be employed to wider applications as well. Just don’t expect it to do miracles when reading your home’s 120-220V installation.
Its power source, a 9V battery, can basically be found in any electrical and electronics store in the world.
Specifically intended for field use, this product is sturdy enough to handle being dropped and comes with its own convenient pouch for safekeeping when on the go.
Very easy and safe to use, the only thing it requires to work is the metal short probe at the top to be connected to an electrically charged pole, a section of the fence or ground nearby.
Since it works equally well on different sections of the electrified fence as well as the ground, it can be used accurately diagnose potential problems by helping to narrow down the particular place where the fault might stem from.
It has a good range which makes it suitable for displaying readings of most commonly employed voltages in electrified fences but also can be employed for off-label uses.
Since it has a narrow intended application it might be hard to find something wrong with it. We note that its design isn’t the most ergonomic, but this can be said to be a minor issue.
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DROK Flat Plug 090538
This DROK product is a cheap and highly convenient way to take accurate measures of your residential electrical installation. It works either by getting plugged in straight in the socket or through an extension cord.
It’s particularly well appreciated by RV owners where the risk of electrical issues caused by various appliances is significantly increased, but it’s also a highly useful item to own for people whose home installation isn’t all that reliable.
It ranges from 80 to 300V of AC which basically covers all common uses, it has an adjustable potentiometer and the resolution goes into the three digits. Its reported accuracy is of +/- 1.5% with a +/- 2 effective reading.
The backlit display can effectively work as a nightlight, which gives this product an added degree of functionality at next to no added energy cost.
Very useful when calculating the required voltage for fitting and using trailer appliances but also very helpful for homeowners who wish to avoid or remedy voltage specific problems.
It has a wide range for home and RV use (80-300V) and also features an adjustable potentiometer which highly improves its versatility.
The relatively large LED screen is easy to read even from a distance and it’s backlit, which makes it double as an effective nightlight.
The DROK Flat Plug is a very affordable product, which opens it up to being bought in bulk to give you the capability of taking multiple readings at the same time — something well appreciated by motorhome owners.
A number of owners note that the accuracy could be better, with some units being regularly of by 1 or 2V. Not really a vital issue, this can be remedied with buying multiple meters to work at the same time.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($9.99)
An LED display panel voltmeter, this MICTUNING product does have some advantages over its Blue Sea Systems competition and not just limited to its significantly lower purchase price.
All satisfied customers find that its 3 digits LED display works very well in bright light conditions, which makes it ideal for open boats, motorcycles, and ATVs if you can’t or don’t want to fit a shading element around it.
Its resolution only goes to three decimals (00,1V) which might affect its usefulness as a diagnosis tool although users have commented that it’s very accurate.
It works at the standard 12V and might work on some lighter vehicles that use a 24V system, although the manufacturer really doesn’t recommend this application because of the increased risk of an overcharge resulting in a burnt unit.
This MICTUNING is a very affordable product, both when it comes to initial buying price and its low energy consumption.
The last one might not really affect you financially, but it does make for some extra convenience since it will allow you to keep the unit on without facing the risk of draining the battery.
It’s three digits LED display, coming in both green and blue is reported to be extremely bright and works very well under intense light conditions such as you might find in summer days.
Users also consider it accurate and easy to install on most dashboards, since its connecting element is only ) 0,25” thick.
It can’t be used with heavier vehicles, but this only slightly decreases its versatility since very few people employ it as such anyway.
There are some issues regarding its waterproofing. While the manufacturer claims it as such, an IP rating is not provided.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($12.99)
A digital multimeter has such a wide range of applications that we believe it shouldn’t be absent from any household or garage. One of its most common uses is that of energy checker since it has a high enough range for voltages to cover anything from AA batteries in DC to AC solar power chargers.
This affordable DT830 product makes no exception. It has multiple test ranges for voltage as well as everything else, each giving it the adequate resolution for taking readings out of either 1.2 V c batteries, large 12 and 24 V car or truck batteries, as well as your home’s electric supply. But does it do it well?
Apparently yes, even users that are only lukewarm to the product appreciate its accuracy in regards to both AC and DC readings.
It’s a digital multimeter, so it has a good deal of versatility ensuring that you won’t be disappointed with the value you’ll take out of it.
It has enough range to cover practically all household uses when it comes to tension readings, and a number of pre-set ranges means its resolution will be adapted to the task at hand, which increases potential accuracy.
Customer reviewers spoke well of its accuracy when measuring volts, finding it a surprisingly good meter for its price.
It’s particularly easy to use, all you have to do is choose the correct setting with the dial and place the two leads at the appropriate spots.
Users report that the leads are a little bit too electrically resistant themselves, at around 1 ohm to accurately take this measurement. This doesn’t apply to measuring voltage, however, and can be worked around if the exact resistance of the leads is known.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($7.29)