Sometimes I’m enamored by fancy features and new, advantageous inventions that call me to a higher realization of what a particular tool can do. Other times, I just like to grab what I need, know it will work, and go. Amprobe makes the aforementioned tool, but the Amprobe ACD-4 Compact Clamp Meter isn’t it – this is a tried and true device aimed at putting a simple-to-use clamp meter into the hands of just about anyone. And it works.
Amprobe ACD-4 Compact Clamp Meter Features
Take a close look at the Amprobe ACD-4 clamp meter – you see pretty much all of it in a single glance. There are no hidden features. It measures current, voltage (AC & DC), resistance and it can function as a continuity tester. It comes with a pair of test probes, a carry case, two AAA batteries, and an instruction manual. There’s no storage for the probes on the tool, so it’s likely you’ll just leave them in the carry case until needed. The tool is rated to CAT III 600V, but isn’t a TrueRMS meter. For that, you’ll want to look at Amprobe’s ACD-14 which sells for around twice the cost of the ACD-4 meter.
The tool is largely red and, like most of Amprobe’s clamp meters, has their signature interlocking yellow clamp. We really liked the way the clamp had a male and female structure that fit together in a way that ensures you’re not going to accidentally pull it off or have it drop away during a reading. The clamp also hangs on pretty tightly and we found that you could pinch it on your finger and have a real hard time shaking it off. With that said, it’s not going to fall off on its own and yet it was still easy to operate with the side-mounted trigger-style lever.
Editor’s Note: Please read our article on Test & Measurement Tool Category Classes
Controls are super-easy to use, with the primary functions being accessible from the central sliding switch that engages current, voltage and resistance/continuity modes. A separate button alternates between AC and DC voltage and there is a Hold button for storing the current value being measured. A small LCD screen gives you a 4-digit readout and some additional info like what mode the tool is in and whether functions like Voltage are in AC or DC mode.
Amprobe ACD-4 Clamp Meter Testing and Usage
We used the Amprobe ACD-4 Compact Clamp Meter to measure voltage in new circuits we were bringing online in an old Bungalow-style home from the 1920’s (there are a lot of these in the city where I live). Among other things, we had to verify some circuits we had installed in a renovated bathroom. To do this effectively, we inserted the included probes into the ACD-4 and set it to measure AC Voltage. As expected, the tool showed us the rather peaky power we’ve come to know and love from our local municipal service. We found the probes to be very standard, and the tool works easily. The sliding dial mechanism is simple to use and understand and the only thing that seemed odd was the relocation of the AC/DV mode button for Voltage. Our guess is that this simply helped slim down the tool, since Amprobe had decided to go with a sliding mechanism rather than a dial. The LCD screen is easy to read and the only potential problem, which we did encounter on more than one occasion, was the lack of a backlight – making the LCD all but impossible to read in low light situations.
Additional use of this tool included:
- DMM (digital multimeter functions for checking voltage)
- Current load to determine the existing circuit loads in a home
- Power tool current consumption
- Safety checks on the electrical box to ensure power was correctly disconnected
We loved using the Compact Clamp Meter to check real-world current load for several of our 15-amp rated power tools. To do this we simply took an existing extension cord and cut it carefully lengthwise, allowing us to separate the positive power lead and insert that within the jaws of our Amprobe ACD-4 Compact Clamp Meter. We felt it would be very easy indeed to use this tool to plan out and test an entire home’s worth of electrical circuits.
Amprobe ACD-4 Clamp Meter Conclusion
Amprobe’s entry level Amprobe ACD-4 Compact Clamp Meter is a great “gateway” tool for homeowners and the apprentice who needs a lightweight, quick-access clamp meter for on-the job situations that require non-contact current measurements. The fact that it comes with test probes and can function as a simple digital multimeter is a bonus and gives this tool a much needed boost in terms of its usefulness and ability to find itself picked up for more than one purpose. Our Value rating for this tool was a 7. There are some cheaper tools out there, but they aren’t from a well-known manufacturer who stands by their work. As for sheer Performance, the ACD-4 earned a 6/10 due to a general lack of features and position in the competitive marketplace.