FLIR is a leader in thermal imaging for police and military applications. Now it has introduced the FLIR CM174 Imaging Clamp Meter – the world’s first thermal imaging clamp meter. FLIR calls the built in technology IGM™ – Infrared Guided Measurement. This combination of Lepton Thermal Imager with a 600A AC/DC clamp meter is certain to save electricians significant time – and increase safety – as it allows the user to scan the job without direct contact with wires or service panel.
It Hurts Right Here
The all-in-one device allows the user to identify hotspot areas from a safe distance and pinpoint those hotspots with a laser and crosshairs. The laser can then take centerpoint temperature readings. A tangled nest of wires is no longer a challenge with thermal imaging as problems can be easily seen on the screen. Once identified, the narrow jaws allow loads to be easily checked along with other advanced electrical measurements: True RMS, LoZ, VFD, Inrush, and Smart Diode with Disable.
With the obvious benefit of visualization, thermal imaging helps to identify problem areas and check work when you’re finished. Where the feature pays for itself over basic IR thermometers and clamp meters is in the ability to see the bigger picture – where more than one problem may exist. Seeing this from the beginning can save time and money by helping you understand the full scope of the work needed rather than having to come back to the same problem spot multiple times.
The One-Stop (Expandable) Meter Shop
The meter comes in with a 600 amp limit, but is expandable to 3000 amp AC with FLIR Universal Flex Probe accessories. Some other notable features include silicon gold-plated test leads, two LEDs to illuminate dark areas, automatic on/off with a selection of time choices, a tool-free battery compartment, and a 10-year warranty. The CM174 is priced at about $500 from most retailers.
FLIR CM174 Imaging Clamp Meter in the Hands of a Professional Electrician
Danny Carey is an electrician with over 30 years of both residential and industrial experience. After leaving the FLIR CM174 with him for a bit, I checked back in to see how it performs on the projects he was able to use it on.
Pro Tool Reviews: Tell us a little about your electrical career.
Danny: I worked for General Motors as a Journeyman Electrician. I spent a lot of time troubleshooting electrical data boards, display boards, 300 horsepower motors, AC/DC, and construction. I also worked for R&R Engineering Company as the maintenance superintendent .
Pro Tool Reviews: What projects did you use the CM174 on?
Danny: I worked on the electric panels on 440-volt air compressors and lighting panels. I checked for balance between lines, amps, volts, overall hot spots, and temperature.
Pro Tool Reviews: What first strikes you about the meter?
Danny: Everything can be operated with one hand.
Pro Tool Reviews: What’s different about it – good or bad – from other meters you’ve used?
Danny: The good – it gives you a lot more options than the one I used before. The bad – I needed the manual to get around all the options. The more I used it, the more I mastered it though.
Pro Tool Reviews: What features of the clamp did you use?
Danny: I used the clamp for amps and volts, the light – which is a very nice feature, the laser pointer, and the thermal imaging camera for hot spots and readings.
Pro Tool Reviews: Were there any features that you didn’t use?
Danny: Low impedance, resistance and continuity, capacitance and diode test weren’t functions I needed for these projects.
Pro Tool Reviews: What other jobs can you envision using this clamp meter on?
Danny: I think that preventive maintenance would use this daily. This one tool would replace 3 or 4 tools to do the same job.
Pro Tool Reviews: What did you like most about the meter?
Danny: It replaced taking extra tools with me to the job. Also, it’s slim and didn’t feel bulky.
Pro Tool Reviews: What did you dislike about the meter?
Danny: As I mentioned, the need to refer to the instruction book so much, but that is a dislike that would fade with more experience with the meter.
Pro Tool Reviews: Would you recommend the FLIR CM174 Imaging Clamp Meter to other professionals?
Danny: Absolutely. It covers such a wide variety of applications. Some would use this meter every day, others just once in awhile, but this one tool would be all you need to do the job. It’s a great tool.
Pro Tool Reviews: What do you think the value of this clamp meter compared to others you’ve used?
Danny: It’s just about the price that I though it would be. It’s affordable and I would buy this clamp meter.
The Last Word
The only real negative is the learning curve that has to be allowed to run its course. It will take some time at the beginning to learn how to use the tool, but that is a small price for the benefits that the FLIR CM174 Imaging Meter conveys. The addition of basic thermal imaging offers an MRO Pro or electrician the ability to see exactly where and how widespread the issue is – a perspective that’s nearly impossible to visualize with an IR thermometer alone.
As far as function goes, the FLIR CM174 met the needs of our electrician. It had some functions that he didn’t need on this particular job, but I wouldn’t say they tried to build too much into it. It just means that it’s versatile enough to cover a wide range of applications. Like any good multi-use tool, it replaces several other tools that a professional electrician would have to purchase and carry. We experienced no performance hiccups through the course of testing. Priced right around $500, the value adds up nicely as the meter replaces multiple tools while adding thermal imaging to the mix.
FLIR CM174 Imaging Clamp Meter Manufacturer Key Features
- Imaging 600A AC/DC Clamp Meter with IGM™
- Visually identify electrical issues with first thermal imaging clamp meter
- Helps conquer cluttered wires and cables through IGM guidance
- All-in-one tool makes it possible to carry just one device and always have access to thermal imaging
- Scans panel or cabinet for hazards using IGM without direct contact
- Confirms findings
- Verify problems, check load, and validate hot spots
- Center-point temperature confirms hot spot
- Amperage and voltage measurements check the load
- Laser and crosshair pinpoint location of problem found in thermal image
- Solves complex electrical issues
- Narrow jaw and built-in worklights help access difficult locations with lighting issues
- Advanced electrical features
- True RMS
- LoZ (Low Impedance)
- VFD (Variable Frequency Drive) Mode
- Smart Diode with Disable
- Expandable to 3000A AC with FLIR flex accessories
FLIR CM174 Imaging Clamp Meter Specifications
- 4800 pixels (60 × 80) Thermal Image Resolution
- 38.6° x 50.0° Field of View (V x H)
- Iron, Rainbow, Grayscale Color Palettes
- 9Hz Image Frame Rate
- Center point of thermal image Temperature Measurement
- -13°F to 302°F (-25°C to 150°C) Temperature Range
- 30:1 Temperature Distance to Spot Ratio
- ±5.4°F (3°C) or ±3% of rdg Temperature Accuracy
- 8 to 14μm Spectral Response
- 1000V AC/DC Voltage
- 600A AC/DC Current
- 60kHz Frequency
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