partner-in-power

A good power analyzer can serve as an effective replacement to several one-sided testing tools. This is not to say that every power analyzer is a form, fit, and function replacement for any of these tools, but most power analyzers perform some of the measurements better and they go much farther in certain areas of measurement. Here are some of the tools whose capabilities can be greatly extended with a power analyzer.

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1. Multimeter

Spot testers like multimeters provide a glimpse into limited power measurements for a single phase. This scratches the surface of the testing capabilities in a power analyzer, which logs and analyzes dozens of measurement types for several phase configurations. If you attempt to measure AC power with a multimeter, you are most likely wrong in what you measure due to phase lag and harmonic considerations.  Analyzers can complete simple spot tests, too, while also doing the sophisticated monitoring that you need for any study of power. A good power analyzer will also include sophisticated analysis software that provides capabilities you cannot find on a multimeter.

 

2. Ammeter

Although a great tool for spot checking, the ammeter is confined to only measuring current. A power analyzer can cover a much wider range of current than most ammeters and provides readings related to current (like harmonics). An analyzer can also log current data and show trend lines that reveal the whole story, not just a snapshot.

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3. Oscilloscope

Handheld oscilloscopes present waveforms and can have pretty sophisticated capabilities depending on the model. However, a graphic display power analyzer can also present waveforms on the device itself. Generally, power levels present in three phase power cannot easily or safely be presented on the oscilloscope and capabilities like phasors diagrams, harmonics analysis, and advanced power measurements will not be found on the oscilloscope. Even non-graphic display analyzers include analysis software that allows the user to view waveforms on their computer in high resolution, during and after monitoring.

 

4. Power & Energy Logger

Power loggers are like “diet” power analyzers because they can record similar measurement types but with fewer features than a power analyzer. Loggers do not always come with analysis software, but even the ones that do still usually lack an intuitive handheld experience (small or no screen, limited options, no keypad, etc.).

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5. Harmonic Analyzer

These are less common now but any device that only measures harmonics is easily replaceable with a power analyzer. Power analyzers normally measure harmonic magnitude and THD up to at least the 50th harmonic.

 

Conclusion

Each tool has its place in an electrical contractor’s tool kit, depending on the variety of services (or particular specialty) that the electrician provides. These basic tools are convenient and have their advantages. Nonetheless, if you measure power, especially 3-phase power, you need a power analyzer. Anything less puts you at a disadvantage in answering the questions and getting the measurements that you need.