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Old 06-25-2012, 11:59 PM   #1
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Want to measure some AMPS ...


Howdy all,

We are slightly Christmas-decoration-crazy in my family. The living room gets the Winter Wonderland treatment, complete with enough bulbs that you don't need heat.

I want to measure the amps all those lights are putting on the circuit. (20 amp, 12 gauge) While we aren't throwing the breaker, I am confident we are close to the capacity, and am wondering if the living room should be divided into two circuits.

I think what I want is a clamp meter to do this, correct? I'm not going to be a professional electrician, so I don't see the need for the high end, but I also detest buying junk.

Any recommendations for a modestly priced meter that isn't junk? I also understand most (all?) are also usable as regular multimeters? One of those is missing from my toolkit as well.

Thanks,
Jim

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Old 06-26-2012, 12:07 AM   #2
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Want to measure some AMPS ...


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Howdy all,

We are slightly Christmas-decoration-crazy in my family. The living room gets the Winter Wonderland treatment, complete with enough bulbs that you don't need heat.

I want to measure the amps all those lights are putting on the circuit. (20 amp, 12 gauge) While we aren't throwing the breaker, I am confident we are close to the capacity, and am wondering if the living room should be divided into two circuits.

I think what I want is a clamp meter to do this, correct? I'm not going to be a professional electrician, so I don't see the need for the high end, but I also detest buying junk.

Any recommendations for a modestly priced meter that isn't junk? I also understand most (all?) are also usable as regular multimeters? One of those is missing from my toolkit as well.

Thanks,
Jim

Ideal or Klein have some reasonably priced units. Try Amazon, Lowes, Sears, or Home Depot.

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Old 06-26-2012, 12:08 AM   #3
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Want to measure some AMPS ...


If everything you want to measure is plug in, you could use something like this:

http://www.amazon.com/P3-Internation.../dp/B00009MDBU

Now you'll have to get a multi-meter separately. However, the MM functions I've seen in the clamp on meters didn't seem to be nearly as inclusive as the options on a cheap $15 multimeter.
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Old 06-26-2012, 12:48 AM   #4
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Want to measure some AMPS ...


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If everything you want to measure is plug in, you could use something like this:

http://www.amazon.com/P3-Internation.../dp/B00009MDBU

Now you'll have to get a multi-meter separately. However, the MM functions I've seen in the clamp on meters didn't seem to be nearly as inclusive as the options on a cheap $15 multimeter.
The above is pretty solid advice. Those Kill O Watt units are a good value for the average home owner who does not have a clamp on amp probe in his pocket.

They have several advantages...

Safe

Easy to use

And fairly accurate since they are designed for the low end amps. My clamp on meter is good for about 400A....I doubt the average home owner is going to need that much range.
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Old 06-26-2012, 09:41 AM   #5
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Want to measure some AMPS ...


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Originally Posted by a_lost_shadow View Post
If everything you want to measure is plug in, you could use something like this:

http://www.amazon.com/P3-Internation.../dp/B00009MDBU

Now you'll have to get a multi-meter separately. However, the MM functions I've seen in the clamp on meters didn't seem to be nearly as inclusive as the options on a cheap $15 multimeter.
I did this a few years ago with all the Christmas lights as I was curious what my electric bill would uptick for the season. The device above is great and inexpensive. Gives you watt hours as well so you can compute electric bill easily. Also for irregular loads like computers, set top boxes, or a window AC you can run for 24 hours or a week to get an average reading.

I learned Christmas lights outside cost me $34.62 for the season and indoor $26.53 or $61.15 for both..... I concluded it was the cheapest part of the holiday....
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Old 06-26-2012, 09:50 AM   #6
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I did this a few years ago with all the Christmas lights as I was curious what my electric bill would uptick for the season. The device above is great and inexpensive. Gives you watt hours as well so you can compute electric bill easily. Also for irregular loads like computers, set top boxes, or a window AC you can run for 24 hours or a week to get an average reading.

I learned Christmas lights outside cost me $34.62 for the season and indoor $26.53 or $61.15 for both..... I concluded it was the cheapest part of the holiday....
Boy, is that not the truth.....you don't want to see our wine bill......
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Old 06-26-2012, 06:01 PM   #7
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Want to measure some AMPS ...


Thanks all! I should have thought of the Kill-A-Watt ... I own one. <sigh>

Jim
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Old 06-26-2012, 07:47 PM   #8
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Want to measure some AMPS ...


i remember the good ole' days.. dad would string up the tree plug it in to blaze the tree in to holiday glory. and whoa to you if you touched a light bulb, 2nd degree burn instantly.

yep.. you didn't care to measure anything.

anyway, just wanted to remind you that electrical considers 80% loaded as "max", so your 20A circuit can only run continuously 20*0.8 = 16A

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Old 06-26-2012, 11:34 PM   #9
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Do I understand correctly that "continuously" equates to 3+ hours? In other words, if everything is on for 3 or more hours and everything is 16 or more amps I have a problem?

Jim
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Old 06-27-2012, 12:28 AM   #10
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Want to measure some AMPS ...


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Do I understand correctly that "continuously" equates to 3+ hours? In other words, if everything is on for 3 or more hours and everything is 16 or more amps I have a problem?
Residential lighting loads are defined as non-continuous. The 80% rule doesn't apply to just any random thing that someone thinks is "continuous". A "continuous load" is a term of art defined by the NEC, and generally includes things that are expected to operate for more than 3 hours without any interruption, but has specific inclusions and exceptions. The base assumption is that a 20A circuit is good for 20A. The 80% derating is an exception to that under specific circumstances.

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