Heaters, Meters, and More

I think there is a chance, a good chance, that recent additional Electric Heater use is inadvertently causing additional fires. As an Industrial Electrician, I would see Receptacles Burned-Up by Heater Use, in fact, the Facility was periodically inspected (Loss Prevention and Control), and it was determined by the Corporation that Conventional Heaters would not be permitted (of course no one enforced it) and Suggested a Model that was lower risk (not discussed here, and that the facility would not pay for).

Just before I wrote this, our lights were Flashing. The last few days, we’ve seen that several times. Listening to the Police/Fire Scanner, and my wife visiting a Facebook Community Page, it turns out that Transformers are Exploding (Shorting, Catching Fire, etc. seems to fall under the Exploding Category). 

Record, or Near Record Cold Temperatures. I’ve heard that people in Georgia and Louisiana had frozen pipes.

Pittsburgh, on Friday, it was 39° F at 4:00 AM, -2.4° F  at 1:44 PM, and 6.8° F when I began this Blog on Saturday (see the Featured Image at the top of the Blog). 

Every time the Lights Started to Flash, I thought we would lose power, but it was actually more and more customers losing power, apparently when their system shorts, the voltage in our system goes low until the shorted circuit is Isolated by a Fuse or Protective Relays. 

We have a Gas Furnace. That means that the Blower for the Flue, the Blower for the Forced Air (or Pump for Hot Water Systems), the Computer on the Furnace, and the Thermostat, need electricity to run. But they are only a fraction of the Electrical Power that Electric Furnaces would need for the Resistive Heating Elements. In a world with no Natural Gas, no Gasoline, just Electric Water Heaters, Electric Stoves, Electric Furnaces, Electric Cars, can you imagine the Electric Power that will be needed?

“UPDATE: Now Indiana Michigan Power Customers Told to Cut Electricity Usage, Face Rolling Black Outs During Sub-Zero Freeze”

See the Headline above. This is in a age when Electric Stoves, Furnaces, Water Heaters, and Cars, are relatively rare, but they want to demand we all get Electric Cars and Electric Appliances, there’s no way they’d ever be able to supply that much energy, and if they marginally do it, it’ll kill and harm millions when another bout of cold weather like this occurs again when they are unable to supply the power.

Ohms Law and Related Formulas: 

E = I x R  Voltage = Current x Resistance
P = I x E  Power = Current x Voltage
I = P ÷ E  Current = Power ÷ Voltage

We have Three Heaters. One has High, Medium, and Low Heat, Two have High and Low Heat. Of those Two, One has the values marked (1200 and 1500 Watts), and the other, all they advertise is 1500 Watts. But I wanted to know the Lower Power Value.

My Toolbox is in a difficult to reach place (actually, my wife will complain if I move the curtain she affixed to ward off the cold from a utility room), and in it is the Line Splitter I need to Measure the Current from the Heater that doesn’t specify the Lower Setting Wattage. I was a little irritated, but remembered that I had easy access to a Vintage Analog Amprobe I bought to use and write about, it has a Splitter too.

Sperry Splitter 1

The Amprobe Splitter I used is very similar to the
Sperry Model shown above and works the same way

Below are the meters I used in all their Splendor. The Shorting Bar is not used for what I was doing (if you plug the Splitter in a Receptacle and Insert the Shorting Bar, it Shorts the Receptacle, Sparks, Damage, and Injury may occur), it’s for a specialized purpose that isn’t often seen. I originally grabbed the Fluke Clamp Ammeter, but the Clamp is too big to fit into the Amprobe Splitter through the two Square Areas marked x1 and x10.

x1 Reads the Actual A/C Current Measured, the x10 ten times that amount (and to get the actual current, you divide the Measurement by 10). The x10 is useful, especially with the Attachments that came with the Amprobe, to measure Low Currents and have the Analog Amprobe Display get to about the Midway Point for the best accuracy. I’ve seen it used to measure the Current in a Thermostat Circuit (the old Mercury Capsule Round Honeywell Thermostats) to set the Anticipator Value.

Meter 2

See the following for more details on the Amprobe Meter:

An Unused Amprobe R3 Current Clamp Ammeter – a Piece of History

An Unused Amprobe R3 Current Clamp Ammeter – a Piece of History

Using the Amprobe Meter and Splitter, and the BK Precision Model 350 Meter Below (this is from the Early 1980s and is in Mint Condition), I made a series of measurements with the Heater on High and Low.


The Set-up.

The Heater is Plugged-into the Splitter, the Splitter is Plugged-into the Receptacle, and Measurements will be taken with Each Meter in the x1 and x10 Positions, with the Heater on Low then again with the Heater on High. 

Meter 2 - 2

Meter 1 - 1

The Images above; Heater on Low; on the x1 Position, show just under 6 Amps for the Amprobe, and 5.11 Amps for the BK Precision. But the Center of an Analog Scale is generally the best place to get an accurate reading, it’s based on how the Movement is designed. 

Meter 2 - 4

Meter 1 - 4

The Images above; Heater on Low; on the x10 Position, show 52 Amps for the Amprobe, and 53.3 Amps for the BK Precision. The Amprobe is reading in the Center of the Analog Scale for Better Accuracy. 

52 ÷ 10 = 5.2 Amps on the Amprobe

53.3 ÷ 10 = 5.33 Amps on the BK Precision 

Using the x10 Multipler, Adjusting the Meter Range so that a Reading can be taken Mid Scale, and Remembering to Divide by 10 seems to have made the Amprobe and BK Precision return much more similar values. Do not make the Mistake that a Digital Display on any Meter means that the Data is more reliable, it’s possible to have a more accurate Analog Meter, but a few concerns apply with Analog Meters. 

  1. Start with the Range HIGHER than you’ll need, then work to Lower Ranges. Digital Meters can be very forgiving of mistakes, but certain mistakes can cause harm to an Analog Meter. As usual, I didn’t have the correct Range Selected, and when I turned on the Heater, the Amprobe Indicating Needle Pegged on the top and was bouncing around. This isn’t proper Meter usage. The Range can be changed with the Amprobe Meter in use, via the Thumb Wheel. Start with a very High Current Range, then turn to Lower Ones until the Meter Needle is 1/3 to 2/3 of the way up on the Scale, ideally about half. 
  2. Parallax is a problem with Analog Meter Accuracy. You must look Directly at the Needle. Not below looking up, not above looking down, but straight in. Some Meters use a Mirrored Scale, that way, looking straight at the Needle, no Reflection of the Needle can be seen above or below means you have eliminated the Parallax. 

Meter 2 - 6

Meter 1 - 5

The Images above; Heater on High; on the x1 Position, show just at 12 Amps for the Amprobe, and 11.12 Amps for the BK Precision. The Needle on the Amprobe is decently placed for a good reading, it’s technically slightly passed the 12, so 12.1 Amps might be closer. 

Meter 2 - 5

Meter 1 - 6

The Images above; Heater on High; on the x10 Position, show 112 Amps for the Amprobe, and 115 Amps for the BK Precision. The Amprobe Needle is decently placed in the Analog Scale for Better Accuracy. Each Line between the 100 and 150 Mark on the Amprobe is 10 Amps. Due to parallax, the view as shown makes the needle appear slightly Lower than it should be, so the 112 Amps is about where I think it is. These values need divided by 10 to show the actual current drawn by the Heater on the High Position. 11.2 Amps for the Amprobe, and 11.5 for the BK Precision, would be the actual values. 

Low Setting Power Consumption: 

6 Amps for the Amprobe, and 5.11 Amps for the BK Precision on the x1 Position.

5.2 Amps on the Amprobe, and  5.33 Amps on the BK Precision when taken from the x10 Position, then the results divided by 10. 

P = I x E  Power = Current x Voltage 

So, Power Equals Current x Voltage. 

P = 5.2 x 120 = 624 Watts Amprobe 

P = 5.33 x 120 = 639.6 Watts BK Precision 

High Setting Power Consumption: 

12 Amps for the Amprobe, and 11.12 Amps for the BK Precision on the x1 Position.

11.2 Amps on the Amprobe, and  11.5 Amps on the BK Precision when taken from the x10 Position, then the results divided by 10. 

P = I x E  Power = Current x Voltage 

So, Power Equals Current x Voltage. 

P = 11.2 x 120  = 1344 Watts for the Amprobe 

P = 11.5 x 120 = 1380 Watts for the BK Precision 

There is an Oscillating Feature on this Heater, it was not Engaged when the Readings were taken, it would also consume additional Power. 

The Manufacturer considers that the Heater will see a Range of Voltages, and the Total Wattage must be at the Specifications, or Less, it cannot be more without Nuisance Breaker Trips and possible overheating concerns for the Receptacle and Wiring. I found the Specs on the Heater, see below: 

Heater Specs

These Heaters employ Resistive Heating Elements, Electric Furnaces have the same. Supposedly Heat Pumps won’t work below 30° to 35° F. Heat Pump systems (Essentially an AC that works backwards in the Winter) in the U.S. are associated with a Furnace of some form, and that Furnace has Resistive Heating Elements just like the Heater Discussed here has. As the Temperatures drop lower and lower, Heat Pumps will not work, and the system turns off the Heat Pump and Energizes Resistive Heating Elements. One YouTube Show I watch, in North Carolina, experienced a few Rolling Black Outs since the Power Company was unable to supply the demand caused by the Unusually Low Temperatures and Related Additional Electricity Use. Gas or Propane Furnaces use considerably less Electric Power than Heat Pumps or Resistive Heating Element Furnaces. As the government recklessly pushes the world towards Green Energy, any person cognizant of the issue will realize that if they can’t supply the Electrical Needs now, they aren’t likely to be able to supply them as they force people to switch to Electric Cars, Furnaces, Water Heaters, etc. 

Heaters that draw a significant amount of current can overload the Circuit, cause Damage to the Receptacle, Plug, and/or Wiring, or cause a Fire. We select Heater Models with a Low and High Range, or preferably a Low, Medium, and High, and determine the current flowing, at each setting, and only use the Heater on Low or occasionally Medium.

At 120 Volts: 

  • 600 to 900 Watts is good for a Low Setting and uses 5 Amps and 7.5 Amps Respectively. 
  • 900 Watts is a common Medium Setting, and uses 7.5 Amps.
  • 1200 Watts (the Low Setting on some Heaters) uses 10 Amps, and this is increasingly a problem for some bad connections, old wiring, circuits with other loads, etc. 
  • 1500 Watts is often the High, I would not expect to see or attempt to use, anything more than 1500 Watts in the U.S. on a Portable Heater Plugged into a common Receptacle. It uses 12.5 Amps. It’s best to use the Low and Medium Settings where possible to limit Heating of the Cord, Plug, Receptacle, Wiring, and Breaker. 

Be sure Heaters Cycle, if they remain on (we have one where the Thermostat Contacts nearly Weld Together periodically, the Thermostat Must be Turned all the Way Down [cooler] before they Open again), the Cord, Plug, Receptacle, Wiring, and Breaker, don’t have a chance to cool down. If everything was perfect, as long as the Heater Current Draw was within range of the Wiring and Receptacle, it wouldn’t matter, but things are often not perfect. 

Our House Wiring Lessons May Help You Prevent a Disaster!

Our House Wiring Lessons May Help You Prevent a Disaster!

 Be careful out there, the cold weather has Electric Heaters out en masse. 





Author: Dr-Artaud

A Doctor that is not a Doctor, but named after a character in the movie "No Such Thing", as is the Avatar.

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