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The most commonly used dc meter is based on the fundamental

principle of the motor. The motor action is produced by the flow of a small
amount of current through a moving coil which is positioned in a permanent
magnetic field. This basic moving system is also referred to as the basic

Different instrument forms may be obtained by starting with the basic

meter movement and adding various elements, as follows.

1. The basic meter movement becomes a dc instrument measuring

(i) DC current , by adding a shunt resistance, forming an


(ii) DC voltage, by adding a multiplier resistance, forming a


(iii) Resistance, by adding a battery and a resistive network,

forming an ohmmeter.

2. The basic meter movement becomes an ac instrument, measuring

(i) AC voltage or current, by adding a rectifier, forming a rectifier

type meter for power and audio frequencies.

(ii) RF voltage or current, by adding a thermocouple- type meter

for RF.

(iii) Expanded scale for power line voltage, by adding a thermistor

in a resistive bridge network, forming an expanded scale (100
– 140 V) ac meter for power line monitoring.

MULTIRANGE VOLTMETER : A dc voltmeter can be converted into a

multirange voltmeter by connecting a number of resistors (multipliers) along
with a range switch to provide a greater number of workable ranges.

The figure below shows a multirange voltmeter using a three position

switch and three multipliers R1,R2, and R3 for voltage values V1,V2 and V3.
A more practical arrangement of multirange voltmeter is obtained by
connecting multipliers in series and the range selectors selecting the
appropriate amount of resistance required in series with the movement as
shown below

The second arrangement is advantageous because all multiplier

resistances except the first have the standard resistance value and are also
available in precision tolerances and the first resistance or low range
multiplier is the only special resistor which has to be specially manufactured
to meet the circuit requirements.

EXTENDING VOLMETER RANGES: The range of voltmeter can be

extended to measure high voltages, by using a high voltage probe or by
using an external multiplier resistor, as shown below

SENSITIVITY : The Sensitivity or Ohms per Volt Rating of a voltmeter is the

ratio of the total circuit resistance Rt to the voltage range. Sensitivity is
essentially the reciprocal of the full scale deflection current of the basic

Therefore S = 1/Ifsd Ω/V

The Sensitivity of the voltmeter has the advantage that it can be used
to calculate the value of multiplier resistors in a dc voltmeter. Let,

Rm = internal resistance of the movement

Rs = multiplier resistance
Rt = total circuit resistance [Rt = Rs + Rm ]

S = Sensitivity of voltmeter in ohms per volt

V = voltage range as set by range switch

Since , Rs = Rt – Rm and Rt = S x V

Therefore, Rs = (S x V ) - Rm

LOADING A voltmeter when connected across two points in a highly

resistive circuits, acts as a shunt for that portion of the circuit, reducing the
total equivalent resistance of that portion as shown below,

The meter then indicates a lower reading than what existed before the
meter was connected. This is called the ‘Loading Effect’ of an instrument
and is caused mainly due to the low sensitivity of the instrument.


Rectifier type instruments generally use a PMMC movement along with

rectifier arrangement. Silicon diodes are preferred because of their low
reverse current and high forward current ratings. An ac voltmeter circuit is as
shown below,

The bridge rectifier provides a full wave pulsating dc. Due to the
inertia of the moveable coil, the meter indicates a steady deflection
proportional to the average value of the current as shown below,
The meter scale is usually calibrated to give the RMS value of an
alternating sine wave input. Practical rectifiers are non-linear devices
particularly at low values of forward current (See figure below). Hence the
meter scale is non-linear and is generally crowded at the lower end of a low
range voltmeter. In this part the meter has low sensitivity because of the
high forward resistance of the diode. Also, the diode resistance depends on
the temperature.

The rectifier exhibits capacitance properties when reverse biased, and

tends to bypass higher frequencies. The meter reading show error of 0.5%
decrease for every 1 kHz rise in frequency.

A general rectifier type ac voltmeter is given below,

Diode D1 conducts during the positive half cycle and causes to meter
to deflect according to the average value of this half cycle. The meter
movement is shunted by a resistor Rsh in order to draw more current through
the diode D1 and move the operating point in to the linear portion of the
characteristic curve. In the negative half cycle, the diode D2 conducts and
the current through the measuring circuit, which is in opposite direction,
bypasses the meter movement.


If a diode D1 is added do the dc voltmeter, as shown below, we have

an ac voltmeter using half wave rectifier circuit capable of measuring ac
The sensitivity of the dc voltmeter is given by

Sdc = 1/Ifsd = 1/1 mA = 1 kΩ

A multiple of 10 times this value means a 10 V dc input would cause

exactly full scale deflection when connected with proper polarity. Assume,
D1 to be an ideal diode with negligible forward bias resistance. If this dc
input is replaced by a 10 V rms sine wave input , the voltages appearing at
the output is due to the +ve half cycle due to rectifying action.

The peak value of 10 V rms sine wave is

Ep = 10 V rms x 1.414 = 14.14 V peak

The dc will respond to the average value of the ac input, therefore

Eav = Ep x 0.636 = 14.14 x 0.636 = 8.99 V

Since the diode conducts only during the positive half cycle, the
average value over the entire cycle is one half the average value of 8.99 V,
i.e. about 4.5 V.

Therefore, the pointer will deflect for full scale if 10 V dc is applied and
4.5 V when a 10 V rms sinusoidal signal is applied. This means that an ac
voltmeter is not as sensitive as a dc voltmeter.

As, Edc = 0.45 x Erms

Therefore, the value of the multiplier resistor can be calculated as

Rs = Edc/Idc – Rm = 0.45 x Erms/Idc - Rm


Consider the circuit shown below,

The peak value of a 10 V rms signal is ,

Ep = 1.414 x Erms
= 1.414 x 10 = 14.14 V peak

Average value is,

Eav = 0.636 x Epeak

= 14.14 x 0.636 = 8.99 V ≈ 9 V

Therefore, we can see that a 10 V rms voltage is equal to a 9 V dc for

full scale deflection, i.e. the pointer will deflect to 90% of full scale, or,

Sensitivity (ac) = 0.9 x Sensitivity (dc)


The basic difference between peak responding voltmeters and average

responding voltmeters is the use of storage capacitors with the rectifying
diode in the former use. The capacitor charges through the diode to the
peak value of the applied voltage and the meter circuit then responds to the
capacitor voltage.

The two most common types of peak responding voltmeters are given

The first figure shows a dc coupled peak voltmeter, in which the

capacitor charges to the total peak voltage above ground reference. In this
case the meter reading will be affected by the presence of dc with ac

In the second figure an ac coupled peak voltmeter circuit is shown. In

both the circuits, the capacitor discharges very slowly through the high input
impedance of the dc amplifier, so that a negligible small amount of current
supplied by the circuit under test keeps the capacitor charged to the peak ac
voltage. The dc amplifier is used in the peak responding meter to develop
the necessary meter current.

The primary advantage of a peak responding voltmeter is that the

rectifying diode and the storage capacitor may be taken out of the
instrument and placed in the probe when no ac pre-amplification is required.
The measured ac signal then travel no farther than the diode. The peak
responding voltmeter is then able to measure frequencies of up to 100s of
MHz with a minimum of circuit loading. The disadvantage of peak
responding voltmeters is the error caused due to harmonic distortion in the
input waveforms and limited sensitivity of the instrument because of
imperfect diode characteristics.


Complex waveforms are most accurately measured with an RMS

Voltmeter. This instrument produces a meter indication by sensing
waveform heating power, which is proportional to the square of the rms
value of the voltage. This heating power can be measured by amplifying and
feeding it to a thermocouple, whose output voltage is then proportional to
the Erms.

However, thermocouples are non-linear devices. This difficulty can be

overcome in some instruments by placing two thermocouples in the same
thermal environment. The following figure shows the block diagram of a
‘True RMS Responding Voltmeter’.

The effect of non-linear behaviour of the thermocouple in the input

circuit (measuring thermocouple) is cancelled by similar non-linear effects of
the thermocouple in the feedback circuit (balancing thermocouple). The two
couples form part of a bridge in the input circuit of a dc amplifier.

The unknown ac voltage is amplified and applied to the heating

element of the measuring thermocouple. The application of heat produces
an output voltage that upsets the balance of the bridge.
The dc amplifier amplifies the unbalanced voltage; this voltage is fed
back to the heating element of the balancing thermocouple, which heats the
thermocouple, so that the bridge is balanced again, i.e. the outputs of both
the thermocouples are the same. At this instant, the ac current in the input
thermocouple is equal to the dc current in the heating element of the
feedback thermocouple. This dc current is therefore directly proportional to
the effective or rms value of the input voltage, and is indicated by the meter
in the output circuit of the dc amplifier. If the peak amplitude of the ac
signal does not exceed the dynamic range of the ac amplifier, the true rms
value of the ac signal can be measured independently.