Navy Electricity and Electronics Training Series (NEETS)
3—Introduction to Circuit Protection, Control, and Measurement
Chapter 1: Pages 1-21 through 1-30
Module 3—Introduction to Circuit Protection, Control, and Measurement
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Figure 1-22.—An ammeter with internal shunt resistors.
By adding several shunt resistors in the meter
case, with a switch to select the desired resistor, the ammeter will be capable of measuring several different
maximum current readings or ranges.
Most meter movements in use today have sensitivities of from 5
microamperes to 1 milliampere. Figure 1-22 shows the circuit of meter switched to higher ranges, the shunt an
ammeter that uses a meter movement with a sensitivity of 100 microamperes and shunt resistors. This ammeter has
five ranges (100 microamperes; 1, 10, and 100 milliamperes; 1 ampere) selected by a switch. With the switch in
the 100 microampere position, all the current being measured will go through the meter movement. None of the
current will go through any of the shunt resistors. If the ammeter is switched to the 1 milliampere position, the
current being measured will have parallel paths of the meter movement and all the shunt resistors (R1 , R2, R3,
and R4). Now, only a portion of the current will go through the meter movement and the rest of the current will go
through the shunt resistors. When the meter is switched to the 10-milliampere position (as shown in fig. 1-22),
only resistors R1, R2, and R3 shunt the meter. Since the resistance of the shunting resistance is less than with
R4 in the circuit (as was the case in the 1-milliampere position), more current will go through the shunt
resistors and less current will go through the meter movement. As the resistance decreases and more current goes
through the shunt resistors. As long as the current to be measured does not exceed the range selected, the meter
movement will never have more than 100 microamperes of current through it.
Shunt resistors are made with
close tolerances. That means if a shunt resistor is selected with a resistance of .01 ohms (as R1 in fig. 1-22),
the actual resistance of that shunt resistor will not vary from that value by more than 1 percent. Since a shunt
resistor is used to protect a meter movement and to allow accurate measurement, it is important that the
resistance of the shunt resistor is known very accurately.
The shunt resistors are inside the meter case
and selected by a switch. For limited current ranges (below 50 amperes), internal shunts are most often employed.
For higher current ranges (above 50 amperes) ammeters that use external shunts are used. The
external shunt resistor serves the same purpose as the internal shunt resistor. The external shunt is connected in
series with the circuit to be measured and in parallel with the ammeter. This shunts (bypasses) the ammeter so
only a portion of the current goes through the meter. Each external shunt will be marked with the maximum current
value that the ammeter will measure when that shunt is used. Figure 1-23 shows an ammeter that is designed to use
external shunts and a d’Arsonval meter movement. Figure 1-23(A) shows the internal construction of the meter and
the way in which the external shunt is connected to the meter and to the circuit being measured. Figure 1-23(C)
shows some typical external shunts.
Figure 1-23.—An ammeter employing the d'Arsonval principle and external shunts.
A shunt resistor is
nothing more than a resistor in parallel with the meter movement. To measure high currents, very small resistance
shunts are used so the majority of the current will go through the
shunt. Since the total resistance of a
parallel circuit (the meter movement and shunt resistor) is always less than the resistance of the smallest
resistor, as an ammeter’s range is increased, its resistance decreases.
This is important because the load
resistance of high-current circuits is smaller than the load resistance of low-current circuits. To obtain
accurate measurements, it is necessary that the ammeter resistance be much less than the load resistance, since
the ammeter is connected in series with the load.
Q20. What electrical property does an ammeter measure?
Q21. How is an ammeter connected to the circuit under test?
Q22. How does an ammeter
affect the circuit being measured?
Q23. How is the ammeter’s effect on the circuit being measured kept to a minimum?
Q24. What is ammeter
Q25. What is used to allow an ammeter to measure different ranges?
Part of the correct use of an ammeter is the proper use of the range selection
switch. If the current to be measured is larger than the scale of the meter selected, the meter movement will have
excessive current and will be damaged. Therefore, it is important to always start with the highest range when you
use an ammeter. If the current can be measured on several ranges, use the range that results in a reading near the
middle of the scale. Figure 1-24 illustrates these points.
Figure 1-24.—Reading an ammeter at various ranges.
Figure 1-24(A) shows the initial reading of a
circuit. The highest range (250 milliamperes) has been selected and the meter indication is very small. It would
be difficult to properly interpret this reading with any degree of accuracy. Figure 1-24(B) shows the second
reading, with the next largest range (50 milliamperes). The meter deflection is a little greater. It is possible
to interpret this reading as 5 milliamperes. Since this approximation of the current is less than the next range,
the meter is switched as
shown in figure 1-24(C). The range of the meter is now 10 milliamperes and it is
possible to read the meter indication of 5 milliamperes with the greatest degree of accuracy. Since the current
indicated is equal to (or greater than) the next range of the ammeter (5 milliamperes), the meter should NOT be
switched to the next range.
AMMETER SAFETY PRECAUTIONS
When you use an ammeter,
certain precautions must be observed to prevent injury to yourself or others and to prevent damage to the ammeter
or the equipment on which you are working. The following list contains the MINIMUM precautions to observe when
using an ammeter.
• Ammeters must always be connected in series with the circuit under test.
• Always start with the
highest range of an ammeter.
• Deenergize and discharge the circuit completely before you connect or
disconnect the ammeter.
• In dc ammeters, observe the proper circuit polarity to prevent the meter from
• Never use a dc ammeter to measure ac.
• Observe the general safety precautions of electrical and
Q26. Why should you use the highest range of an ammeter for the initial
Q27. What range of an ammeter is selected for the final measurement?
Q28. List the six safety
precautions for the use of ammeters.
Q29. Why will an ammeter be damaged if connected in parallel with the
circuit to be measured?
All the meter movements discussed so far
react to current, and you have been shown how ammeters are constructed from those meter movements. It is often
necessary to measure circuit properties other than current. Voltage measurement, for example, is accomplished with
VOLTMETERS CONNECTED IN PARALLEL
While ammeters are always connected in series,
voltmeters are always connected in parallel. Figure
1-25 (and the following figures) use resistors to represent
the voltmeter movement. Since a meter movement can be considered as a resistor, the concepts illustrated are true
for voltmeters as well as resistors. For simplicity, dc circuits are shown, but the principles apply to both ac
and dc voltmeters.
Figure 1-25.—Current and voltage in series and parallel circuits.
Figure 1-25(A) shows two
resistors connected in parallel. Notice that the voltage across both resistors is equal. In figure 1-25(B) the
same resistors are connected in series. In this case, the voltage across the resistors is not equal. If R1
represents a voltmeter, the only way in which it can be connected to measure the voltage of R2 is in parallel with
R2, as in figure 1-25(A).
A voltmeter has an effect on the circuit being measured. This
is called LOADING the circuit. Figure
1-26 illustrates the loading effect and the way in which the loading
effect is kept to a minimum.
Figure 1-26.—The loading effect.
In figure 1-26(A), a series circuit is shown with R1 equaling 15 ohms
and R2 equaling 10 ohms. The voltage across R2 (ER2) equals 10 volts. If a meter (represented by R3) with a
resistance of 10 ohms is connected in parallel with R2, as in figure 1-26(B), the combined resistance of R2 and R3
(Rn) is equal to 5 ohms. The voltage across R2 and R3 is now 6.25 volts, and that is what the meter will indicate.
Notice that the voltage across R1 and the circuit current have both increased. The addition of the meter (R3) has
loaded the circuit.
In figure 1-26(C), the low-resistance meter (R3) is replaced by a higher resistance meter (R 4) with a
resistance of 10 kilohms. The combined resistance of R2 and R4 (Rn) is equal to 9.99 ohms. The voltage across R2
and R 4 is now 9.99 volts, the value that will be indicated on the meter. This is much closer to the voltage
across R2, with no meter (R3 or R4) in the circuit. Notice that the voltage across R, and the circuit current in
figure 1-26(C) are much closer to the values in 1-26(A). The current (IR4) through the meter (R4) in figure
1-26(C) is also very small compared to the current (IR2) through R 2. In figure 1-26(C) the meter (R4) has much
less effect on the circuit and does not load the circuit as much. Therefore, a voltmeter should have a high
resistance compared to the circuit being measured, to minimize the loading effect.
Q30. What electrical quantity is measured by a voltmeter?
Q31. How is a voltmeter connected to the circuit
to be measured?
Q32. What is the loading effect of a voltmeter?
Q33. How is the loading effect of a
voltmeter kept to a minimum?
MAKING A VOLTMETER FROM A CURRENT SENSITIVE METER MOVEMENT
The meter movements discussed
earlier in this chapter have all reacted to current. Various ways have been shown in which these movements can be
used in ammeters. If the current and resistance are known, the voltage can be calculated by the formula E = IR. A
meter movement has a known resistance, so as the movement reacts to the current, the voltage can be indicated on
the scale of the meter.
In figure 1-27(A), a voltmeter (represented by R2) connected across a 10-ohm
resistor with 10 volts applied. The current through the voltmeter (R2) is .1 milliamperes. In figure 1-27(B), the
voltage is increased to 100 volts. Now, the current through the voltmeter (R2) is 1 milliampere. The voltage has
increased by a factor of 10 and so has the current. This illustrates that the current through the meter is
proportional to the voltage being measured.
Figure 1-27.—Current and voltage in parallel circuit.
SENSITIVITY OF VOLTMETERS
Voltmeter sensitivity is expressed in ohms per volt (W/V). It is the
resistance of the voltmeter at the full-scale reading in volts. Since the voltmeter’s resistance does not change
with the position of the pointer, the total resistance of the meter is the sensitivity multiplied by the
full-scale voltage reading. The
higher the sensitivity of a voltmeter, the higher the voltmeter’s resistance.
Since high resistance voltmeters
have less loading effect on circuits, a high-sensitivity meter will provide a more
accurate voltage measurement.
To determine the
sensitivity of a meter movement, you need only to divide 1 by the amount of current needed to cause full-scale
deflection of the meter movement. The manufacturer usually marks meter movements with the amount of current needed
for full-scale deflection and the resistance of the meter. With these figures, you can calculate the sensitivity
and the full-scale
voltage reading full-scale current (full-scale current x resistance).
For example, if a meter has a
full-scale current of 50 μA and a resistance of and a resistance of 960 Ω, the sensitivity could be calculated as:
voltage reading would be calculated as:
Full-scale voltage reading = full-scale current x resistance
Full-scale voltage reading 50 μA x 960 Ω
Full-scale voltage reading = 48 mV
Table 1-1 shows the figures for most meter movements in use today.
Table 1-1.—Meter Movement Characteristics
CURRENT TO DEFLECT FULL SCALE
VOLTAGE FULL SCALE
Notice that the meter movements shown in table 1-1 will indicate .029 volts to .I
volt at full scale, and the sensitivity ranges from 1000 ohms per volt to 200,000 ohms per volt. The higher
meters indicate smaller amounts of voltage. Since most voltage measurements involve voltage larger
than .1 volt, a method must be used to extend the voltage reading.
Figure 1-28 illustrates the method of
increasing the voltage range of a voltmeter.
Figure 1-28.—A voltmeter and a range resistor.
In figure 1-28(A), a voltmeter with a range of 10 volts
and a resistance of 1 kilohm (R2) is connected in parallel to resistor R1. The meter has .01 ampere of current
(full-scale deflection) and indicates 10
volts. In figure 1-28(B), the voltage has been increased to 100 volts.
This is more than the meter can
measure. A 9 kilohm resistor (R3) is connected in series with the meter (R2).
The meter (R 2) now has .01 ampere of current (full-scale deflection). But since R3 has increased the voltage
capability of the meter, the meter indicates 100 volts. R3 has changed the range of the meter.
can be constructed with several ranges by the use of a switch and internal resistors. Figure 1-29 shows a
voltmeter with a meter movement of 100 ohms and 1 milliampere full-scale deflection with 5 ranges of voltage
through the use of a switch. In this way a voltmeter can be used to measure several different ranges of voltage.
Figure 1-29.—A voltmeter with internal range resistors.
The current through the meter movement is
determined by the voltage being measured. If the voltage measured is higher than the range of the voltmeter,
excess current will flow through the meter movement and the meter will be damaged. Therefore, you should always
start with the highest range of a voltmeter and switch the ranges until a reading is obtained near the center of
the scale. Figure 1-30 illustrates these points.
Introduction to Matter, Energy, and Direct Current, Introduction
to Alternating Current and Transformers, Introduction to Circuit Protection,
Control, and Measurement, Introduction to Electrical Conductors, Wiring Techniques,
and Schematic Reading, Introduction to Generators and Motors,
Introduction to Electronic Emission, Tubes, and Power Supplies,
Introduction to Solid-State Devices and Power Supplies,
Introduction to Amplifiers, Introduction to
Wave-Generation and Wave-Shaping Circuits, Introduction to Wave Propagation, Transmission
Lines, and Antennas, Microwave Principles,
Modulation Principles, Introduction to Number Systems and Logic Circuits, Introduction
to Microelectronics, Principles of Synchros, Servos, and Gyros,
Introduction to Test Equipment, Radio-Frequency
Communications Principles, Radar Principles, The Technician's Handbook,
Master Glossary, Test Methods and Practices, Introduction to Digital Computers,
Magnetic Recording, Introduction to Fiber Optics