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Why calibrate test equipment

By Randy Hurst

You’re serious about your electrical test instruments. You buy top brands, and you expect them to be accurate. You know some people send their digital instruments to a metrology lab for calibration, and you wonder why. After all, these are all electronic — there’s no meter movement to go out of balance. What do those calibration folks do, anyhow — just change the battery? These are valid concerns, especially since you can’t use your instrument while it’s out for calibration. But, let’s consider some other valid concerns. For example, what if an event rendered your instrument less accurate, or maybe even unsafe? What if you are working with tight tolerances, and accurate measurement is key to proper operation of expensive processes or safety systems? What if you are trending data for maintenance purposes, and two meters used for the same measurement significantly disagree?

Many people do a field comparison check of two meters, and call them “calibrated” if they give the same reading. This isn’t calibration. It’s simply a field check. It can show you if there’s a problem, but it can’t show you which meter is right. If both meters are out of calibration by the same amount and in the same direction, it won’t show you anything. Nor will it show you any trending — you won’t know your instrument is headed for an “out of cal” condition.

Read full article in T&D Consulting, Engineering & Construction Special Edition

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