In two recently published proﬁles of electrical contractors in Sparks Electrical News, both electricians said the one tool they could not live without, was a multimeter. Digital multimeters are designed to help tradespeople do their jobs faster, more efficiently and with greater accuracy. There are models available for every budget and application, and with the ever-changing technology of electronic circuits, multimeters have advanced to include Bluetooth connectivity, graphic display and built-in scope meters as well as thermal detectors.
“Complete multimeters are the way to go,” agrees Werner Grobbelaar, General Manager of the Major Tech division. “They give you all the features you need; volts, amps, resistance, continuity and, with Bluetooth, they offer instant reporting via your phone, which can prevent costly downtime. “We launched the MT2005 and MTi11 at Electra Mining 2018. The MT2005 is a True RMS Industrial Digital Multimeter with built-in Thermal Imager and comes in a hard carry case, with charging station and extra battery,” he notes.
The built-in Infrared Thermal Imager offers electrical contractors the option of taking non-invasive measurements of potential hot spots. These images can be transferred via Bluetooth to a smartphone for analysis. Thermal imagers allow electricians to predict potential trouble spots and help identify faults. “The temperature component was something that was not measured in the past,” says Grobbelaar. “This was because, for instance, ﬁve years ago our cheapest thermal imaging camera was R35 000, now it is R7000.” The MTi11 Compact Thermal Imager is an ideal add-on for electricians who already own a multimeter. The MTi11 can be used for predictive maintenance, equipment troubleshooting, and veriﬁcation.
Thermal images are displayed on the LCD and can be saved to internal memory. Designed to make work easier, and more productive, the MTi11 comes with a Bluetooth instant share function so thermal images can be transferred to a smart phone to be analysed, shared and reported quickly.
“While it is not a requirement for electricians to take a thermal image, the technology is available and has become affordable enough for most electricians to acquire,” says Grobbelaar. “Once linked to a phone via Bluetooth, an electrical contractor can immediately generate a report, and see and rectify any hot spots as a value-add for clients. As electricians include this type of technology in their daily offerings, they can charge for the service and recover the initial costs over time,” he says. Grobbelaar notes that a further benefit is the electrician now has proof of what he or she has worked on. “They have the image on record, which is dated, so if anyone working on the installation after them raises an issue, he or she has a record, which is valuable in terms of current legal implications associated with the Certificate of Compliance.”
While he believes there is still a market for standalone testers, Grobbelaar says that every electrician needs a full multimeter. “Equipment has become better and faster, with enhanced displays, improved response times and more features. With Bluetooth integration, digital meters have taken away the need for someone to walk alongside you and write down everything you measure. Meters these days are also more accurate as most entry level meters are equipped with True RMS,” he explains.
In January 2019 Major Tech will launch the MT1003 and MT1005 True RMS, full graphical heavy duty industrial multimeters with 320x240 TFT display. Both instruments measure 4-20mA process loop and offer data logging with Trend Capture. The MT1005 has a 50 000 count display and comes with Bluetooth. As Grobbelaar says, “The technology is there – why not use it?” With modern tools it becomes easier to maintain an electrical installation, whether residential or industrial, and professional workmanship on the part of the electrical contractor could lead to more referrals, and more business. Having this technology will allow electricians to offer a predictive, and therefore, preventative service. Checking for temperature is something they have not done in the past. New technology will save time as it will limit returns to the site and will ensure that electricians carry out a thorough job.
BASIC TOOLS FOR EVERY ELECTRICIAN
Pliers are a staple of any toolbox, but they’re especially critical for electricians who regularly manipulate and cut wire. Electrical contractors should have an array of pliers on their belt or in their truck, but they will most frequently work with needle-nose pliers, side-cutting pliers, and reaming pliers.
Another toolbox staple, electricians should be armed with a variety of screwdrivers for loosening and fastening various pieces of hardware. Many professionals now carry versatile, adaptable screwdrivers with interchangeable bits so they are never stuck without the tool they need.
When working with wiring, it’s essential to know lengths when you’re cutting and stripping. A simple retractable tape measure does the trick, but there are models with magnetic tips, multi-step locks, and other features to make this process easier.
Electricians regularly install new lighting ﬁxtures or need to disassemble installed hardware to access wiring and other electrical components. A handheld electric drill with various bits can help expedite these tasks – and allow professionals to affix specialty bits for industry speciﬁc purposes.
When installing light ﬁxtures, ﬁnding precise points for placement is key. A standard level helps electricians make sure that ﬁxtures, screws, and other installations are where they need to be.
Professional electricians regularly to have to strip the plastic coating on wires to expose the copper and make customised connections with other wiring or components. There are many wire stripper types and models out there and the prepared electrician should have various versions at the ready.
Sooner or later, electricians have to work in the dark, which is why electrical contractors should always carry various ﬂashlights or other work lights with them.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SAFETY
“Safety is imperative and electrical contractors should always use the right tool for the job,” says Grobbelaar. “Buying cheap tools, or using damaged tools, is unsafe. Our tools, for example, are certiﬁed tested up to 10 000 V. Electricians, if they buy cheap tools and the insulation is not tested – or it is not correctly CAT rated – put their own safety at risk,” he says. Because of the possibility of electrocution, electricians need to take several precautions as a matter of course.
Prepared, safe professionals will have insulated gloves on them for every job. There are various kinds and styles available so electricians can search and ﬁnd gloves that are comfortable and will not get in the way of getting work done. Also, electricians are trained to protect themselves against dangerous arc ﬂashes, electrocutions, and ﬁres. Part of this means making sure that their shirt material can resist ﬁre-starting sparks and prevent serious burn injuries.
Whether electricians are closely examining wiring or operating power tools, they are going to need to protect their eyes. Apprentices and seasoned veterans alike should have a pair of safety glasses on hand at every job site.