Alternating current flows periodically first in one direction and then in the opposite direction. One direction is called a positive alternation and the other direction is called a negative alternation. A complete positive and negative alternation is called one cycle. The number of complete cycles that occur each second is the frequency and is designated in hertz, abbreviated Hz. Therefore, if one complete cycle occurs per second, the frequency is 1 Hz; if 5 cycles are completed per second, the frequency is 5 Hz, and so on.
The moving-coil meter movement can only be used to measure dc, however; there is no way that it can be used to measure ac directly. If ac was applied directly to the meter, one half of the cycle would try to make the meter pointer move in one direction and the other half would try to make the pointer move in the opposite direction. Even at very low frequencies, the pointer would not be able to move fast enough to follow the positive and negative alternations of the ac wave. Therefore, instead of moving across the scale, the pointer would simply vibrate about zero. But, if the ac is first changed to DC before applying it to the meter movement then the moving-coil meter can be used in AC applications as well as DC.
The Basic Meter
Meters, except for the few that operate on electromagnetic principles can only measure the amount of current flowing through them. However, they can be calibrated to indicate almost any electrical quantity. For example, you know that according to Ohm’s law, the current that flows through a meter is determined by the voltage applied to the meter and the resistance of the meter: I= V/ R
There are two methods of calculating the values of multiplier resistors for a multirange voltmeter. In the first method, each multiplier is calculated the same as for a single-range voltmeter. Assume that you wish to extend the range of a 1-mA movement to measure 0- 10, 0- 100, and 0- 1000 volts, and you also want a 0- 1-V range. Since full-scale deflection equals 1 Von the 0- 1-V range (V = IM RM = 0.001 A x 1000 Q = I volt), no multiplier is needed. The total resistance (RT OT) needed to limit meter current (IM) to 1 mA on the 0- 10-V range is RrnT = V w vJ IM = 10 V/ 0.001A= 10,000 Q
Current tests are somewhat more difficult than voltage tests because although voltage tests are done while the circuit is energized, the test probes need only touch test points to get a voltage reading. Using the clamp-on ammeter is similarly easy since it needs simply to be clamped to the energized wire. With the in-line ammeter, though, a current test requires the power to be shut down, the circuit opened, the meter connected in place, the circuit closed again, and the power turned on to get a reading. There are similar steps when the test is completed and the wiring must be reconnected. Care must be taken in handling disconnected, loose wiring, and the ammeter must be firmly wired into the circuit with good resistance-free connections. Be sure the meter is firmly supported.
The Wheatstone Bridge
When extremely accurate resistance measurements are required, a Wheatstone bridge is used. A Wheatstone bridge consists of four resistors connected in a diamond-shaped array. One of the resistors is the unknown one to be measured. A current source is connected to two opposite junctions and a sensitive meter is connected between the other two junctions. The meter has a zero-center reading.
Analog meters are so called because they do not measure the electrical characteristics directly. They do their measuring indirectly by measuring the effect of what is being measured. The effect and the amount of the effect are considered analogous to the original characteristic being measured. Usually, the current is the first characteristic tested and the effects of the current, either magnetic or thermal, are converted to movement with a deflected pointer. The greater the current being measured, the greater is the magnetic or thermal effect, and the greater the pointer deflection. The movement or distance of the pointer action, then, is analogous to the amount of current being measured.