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How to Use a Solderless Breadboard
Written By: John R. Sewell

There are 2 types of Panel Meters, Analog Panel Meters and Digital Panel Meters. The use of each requires you to understand the basic workings. Each has its own advantages as well as disadvantages. Analog Panel meters require no power to operate so no batteries, power supplies or cords are needed, do not degrade with time, resist static discharge and are less temperature sensitive. The digital Panel Meter is easier to read in low light, be read at longer distances and generally is more accurate. In applications you must consider what parameter you are monitoring, location of the meter, and weather a power supply is needed.

Analog Panel Meters depend on the torque produced by a current flow in a magnetic field. DC analog Volt Meters use the current developed through series resistors or by voltage dividers. Volt meters are available pre scaled & with the resistors built into the unit to provide some basic standard ranges such as 5V, 15V 0-150VAC Class 2.5 Analog Panel Meter etc. Amp meters use the current developed by a Voltage Drop across a known resistance of an internal or external resistance (Shunt) for standard values such as 100mA, 1A, 5A, 25A etc. AC analog volt meters vary, some measure the average magnetic field generated and scale accordingly while others have a rectifier and are really a DC type meter. AC Current Panel Meters usually have a current transformer (CT) built in or external that converts a much higher current down to a value usable by a the meter. Industrial types are standard 5A. These CTs are set to a ratio such as 100/5, 500/5 meaning that with specified current flow the meter will receive 5A. These Panel Meters are scaled to show the load current value. Some newer digital use non standard CTs designed for the meter. Care is needed to be sure that the Panel Meter you choose is set up for the range you wish to monitor and has the proper scales. Analog panel meters are factory set up for scaling & range as listed. Therefore the face will have scale lines from 0 to the max value. Factory Analog DC Amp meters will be scaled accordingly for use with either internal or external shunt. Since we have no access to the internal one, the meter is what it is. Those using external shunts are scaled for a max current range expected but use a shunt for that range. Breaking this down means that the panel meter has a 50mV (or 100mV) input but the face might read 0-100A, here you would need a shunt listed as 100A/50mV so that when 100A flows through the shunt, it develops 50mV for the meter. Should you use a 50A/50mV shunt with the above 100A meter, it will read “100” on the meter scale but in reality only 50A is flowing. This also applies to AC Current meters & CTs.

Digital Panel Meters require a power source. Digital Panel Meters use an electronic circuits to change the Analog input to a digital display of voltage value. Even those so called “self powered” or “self contained” have some kind of power Mini Panel Meter, Snap-in 3 Digit Red, 30VDC source hence on some you will see specs such as: “Input 4.5-30V” meaning that the internal supply requires at least 4.5V to work even though the display can read “0-30”. Even those that say “Input Range 0-100V” would be required to have a separate 4.5-30V “Supply Input”. Digital meter are available with several ranges, display size, and Power requirements. 3 digit are common but are limited in resolution at higher voltages. 1000V would have to show a display of 1.00 with a “KV printed on Meter. But a 4 Digit could give you 1000V or 1.000”KV”. So the best resolution is with the 4Digit a 10/1 advantage (+-10V vs +-1V) again we need to scale the input.

Meter Shunts and CTs should always be connected nearest the load as safety permits. External voltage dividers need to be protected from environmental changes and Meter Shunt, 50mV, 10ADC personnel. In all applications vibration, corrosive/wet air is to be avoided. Interconnecting Wire must be of sufficient AWG, insulation voltage as is appropriate for the metering, load and environment.
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