Electrical instruments and classification of electrical measuring instruments

What is an electrical measuring instrument

Electrical instruments are instruments that use the mechanical movement of electromagnetic meter to measure voltage, power, current… Electrical technicians require electrical measurement equipment to check the electrical activity and to detect the presence of voltage or current. By using this instrument we can measure electrical parameters such as voltage, frequency, current, power factor, and resistance. Electrical measurements are depended upon either current or voltage while measuring the frequency we will be measuring the frequency of a current signal or a voltage signal.

Classification of electrical instruments

Electrical instruments are classified according to the electrical quantity or the measured characteristics. It is also classified according to the type of test function, according to the current that can be measured by them.


An ammeter is an instrument which is used to measure the electric current in amperes in a branch of an electric circuit. In order to measure the current it must flow through the ammeter, so the ammeter must be placed in series with the measured branch and it must have very low resistance so that the alteration of the current can be avoided which is measured. Instruments which is used to measure smaller currents are micro-ammeter. The ammeter is connected in series to the device which is to be measured because objects in series have the same current.

Types of ammeter

Moving iron ammeter

In a moving iron, ammeter can measure the AC and DC, it has an iron piece instead of the spring and pointer system of the galvanometer. The iron will act by the magnetic field created in the coil.

Zero center ammeter

Zero center ammeters are used where the voltage needs to be monitored in two directions and they are used along with a battery. In this the charging of battery deflects the needle in one direction and discharging of the battery deflects the battery in the other.


Galvanometer was the first type of ammeter, it is used to detect and measure electric current. It is an analog electromechanical transducer which makes a rotary deflection in response to the electric current flowing through the coil. A galvanometer can read direct current flow, the magnetic field created as current flows through a coil acts on a spring, which will move the needle indicator.


A shunt can be used in ammeters to measure large currents, shunt acts as a resistor the known quantity of resistance is used to obtain an accurate reading. Digital ammeters use analog to digital converter to measure the current across the shunt.

Clamp meter

Clamp meters are used to measure the current flowing through a conductor, AC clamp meters have a current transformer in it. With the help of the current transformer the reading will be taken. There are two types of clamp meters AC clamp meter which is used to measure the AC and the DC clamp meter which is used to measure the DC.


The voltmeter can be considered as a kind of galvanometer, which can be used to measure the voltage potential of an electrical circuit or the potential difference between two points. A voltmeter can also be considered as an ammeter they also measure the current, voltage is only measured when the current is transmitted in a circuit through resistance. Voltmeters are capable to measure the current, voltage and resistance. Voltmeters are also termed as high resistance ammeters they can also measure DC and AC. A voltmeter can measure the change in voltage by two points in an electrical circuit and they are connected in parallel with the portion of the circuit on which the measurement is made. Voltmeters must have high resistance so that it won’t have any effect on the current or voltage associated with the circuit.

Types of voltmeter

Digital voltmeter

Digital voltmeters can measure the AC and DC voltages and it displays the result in converted digital form with decimal point and polarity. It can provide accurate details about the current draw and current continuity and this will help the users to troubleshoot erratic loads.

What are the advantages of digital voltmeter

  • Outputs are accurate without any error
  • Readings are taken quickly
  • Versatile and accurate
  • Less power consumption
  • Portable instrument

Electrostatic voltmeter

These voltmeters are instruments that can accurately measure the voltage without any charge transfer. Whereas conventional voltmeter needs charge transfer to the voltmeter and it will lead to loading and adjustment of the source voltage. The main advantage of an electrostatic voltmeter is that it can do the surface potential measurement on any type of material without any physical contact.


An ohmmeter is an instrument that is used to measure the resistance and they can measure the value of resistance accurately. According to their measurement and construction, these instruments are classified into the series type and shunt type ohmmeter. It can be used to check the continuity of the electrical circuits and components. Series type ohmmeters are used to measure the high resistance values while the shunt type is used to measure low resistance values.


Potentiometers are instruments that can be used to measure the unknown voltage. The known voltage will be supplied from a standard cell or any other known voltage reference source. Potentiometer measurement has high accuracy because the measurement is done by the comparison method and the obtained result is not by the deflection of the pointer. Potentiometers can be used to compare the E.M.F of the two cells, it can be used to determine the E.M.F of a cell, it can be used to determine the internal resistance of a cell and to calibrate the voltmeter and ammeter.


Watt-meters are used to measure power, these instruments are similar in design and construction of an ammeter. It can be used to measure the average electric power in watts. Wattmeter has two coils they are current and pressure coil. Wattmeter can be used to measure the gain in amplifiers, bandwidth in filters.


Multi-meters can be used to make various electrical measurements, they can be used to measure AC and DC voltage, AC and DC current, and resistance. It is known as multi-meter because it can do the functions of various meters such as voltmeter, ammeter, and ohm-meter. Multi-meters can also be used to check the continuity. Multi-meters are of two types they are analog and digital multi-meter analog multi-meter has an analog scale and they are less accurate, while the digital multi-meter and the reading are in digital and they are more accurate.


post-graduate in Electronics & communication.

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