Guide for Using a Multimeter (VOM)

Multimeter Guide for DIY Home Maintenance

A multimeter can be a handy item to have around the home. If you’re embarking on DIY maintenance, we have a few tips on how it can help out!

You may not know it, but digital multimeters can make the work around your home a little easier! There are a variety of maintenance items you can use it for, like testing batteries and checking for continuity. However, it’s important to be aware that extreme safety precautions are required prior to taking electrical measurements. To get started, read the instructions carefully and be sure to work on a non-energized system. Share your home maintenance tips on your favorite family app!

What Is a Digital Multimeter Used For?

A multimeter is an electrical tester that can assist with troubleshooting and testing electrical circuits and their associated components. Multimeters also go by the name Volt-Ohm-Milliammeter (VOM). They can measure alternating current (AC voltage) and direct current (DC voltage) in everything from car batteries and capacitance to extension cords.

There are two types of meters available, both digital and analog. An analog multimeter is easy to use and is a more economical way to get the measurement you require. A digital meter is perfect for people who want to do their own home maintenance. Digital meters were introduced in the 1970s and have proven to be more reliable than the analog version.

How to Use a Multimeter

There are a number of multimeter basics you can do around the home! It’s just important to be aware that every multimeter appears differently and has different features. Share your own uses on FamilyApp!

digital meter voltage electrics car battery

Battery Testing

This is one of the easiest ways to start using your multimeter!

  1. Start by plugging the meter’s black probe into the jack that is marked COM for common.
  2. You can then insert the red probe into the jack labeled +V (Volts). Fortunately, many meters will be color-coded so you can easily determine this.
  3. Once both probes are plugged in, turn the dial to Volts DC.
  4. Hold the red probe’s tip to the battery’s positive side and the black probe’s tip to its negative side. The voltage will appear on the digital multimeter display.

Electrical Outlets

It’s important to be extremely cautious when testing electrical outlets as the potential exists for electric shock. Unlike European or Asian households, most North-American homes have a voltage of 120 volts.

  1. To determine voltage, plug the black probe and red probe into their applicable jacks.
  2. Turn the multimeter dial or rotary switch to Volts AC.
  3. Push the red probe into the shorter of the two vertical slots and the black probe into the longer slot.
  4. Once the reading appears, remove the black probe and insert it into the hole below both slots. If the number doesn’t stay the same, the outlet may be improperly wired.

Wall Switch

If you’re having issues with lights, you can do a test through your wall switch.

  1. Starting by turning off power to the switch.
  2. You can then remove the cover plate and unscrew the switch. Be sure to label the wires before you disconnect them to avoid confusion later.
  3. Turn the dial to the Ohm setting and set the resistance to X1. If you have an auto-reading meter, you don’t need to set resistance.
  4. Plug the black probe and the red probe into their applicable jacks.
  5. Ensure the switch is in the OFF position and touch either probe to the screw terminals. The multimeter may read O.L., which means Over Load/Over Limit.
  6. Flip the switch ON and the reading should then be less than one Ohm. If so, you will require a new wall switch.

For the DIY handyperson, there are plenty of at-home uses for a multimeter. Whether you choose an analog or digital multimeter, it can help you fix a variety of household issues. Do you have any tips for using a multimeter? Share them with other users in our comments! Whatever you’re going to do, just remember that safety is most important. If you’re not comfortable, you may want to rely on a professional!

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