Load Vs Hot Wire

When it comes to measuring electrical current, there are several methods available to technicians and electricians. Two of the most common methods of measuring current are the Hot Wire and Load methods. Both methods are frequently used, but they differ in several ways. In this article, we will compare Hot Wire and Load methods, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses.

Hot Wire Method

The Hot Wire method is a non-contact current measurement technique that involves measuring the magnetic field. It relies on any magnetic field generated by the current flowing through the conductor. This technique is carried out using a device called a “clamp meter,” which measures the current by clamping the conductor in the jaws of the meter.

The Hot Wire method benefits from its non-contact operation. It is therefore safer than methods that require side-to-side contact. As a result, it has a more significant advantage in insulated wires or cables with high currents, where you cannot interrupt the flow of electricity to attach a measuring device directly to the conductor.

Additionally, Hot Wire’s clamp meter measures the magnetic field generated by the current in the conductor. It thus provides a very accurate reading of the circuit’s current. Lastly, the Hot Wire method is simple to use and the equipment needed is relatively inexpensive.

However, the Hot Wire method also has some disadvantages. It is essential to note that the method requires the user to understand the orientation of the wire, the position of the clamp meter, and the interference from other sources. When used inaccurately, this method can lead to incorrect readings, and the devices are also only designed for measuring AC current.

Load Method

The Load method of measuring current is the traditional method of using a shunt resistor. By inserting a shunt resistor in the current path, the current value can be determined by measuring voltage across the shunt. High-current circuits typically require special shunts with a low resistance to ensure that the voltage drop across the shunt is minimal.

This method provides an accurate measurement and can be used to measure a wide range of currents, including DC currents. Also, it’s possible to obtain accurate readings when measuring different waveforms, especially in circuits with harmonic components.

However, it is not without its challenges. Traditional shunts are difficult to connect and can require more than one person to install accurately. The shunt and wire junctions can interfere with the circuit’s function and heat up, which can lead to incorrect readings.

Scale Changes – Load vs Hot Wire

When it comes to scale changes, Load and Hot Wire methods have different effects. When the Hot Wire is used and the meter’s jaws are closed around a conductor with a higher current capacity, the Jaw opening has no effect on the reading. However, load measurements depend heavily on the shunt resistance used. When trying to change the scale while using a shunt, the resistance will have to be adjusted appropriately. This can lead to errors in readings, with the new resistance causing subsequent variations in current flow.

User Sensitivity

According to OSHA, a worker can touch a maximum of 50 volts before there’s a shock hazard chance. The Hot Wire method’s non-contact nature is a better option for measuring current in high current situations for this reason. However, as noted earlier, the Hot Wire method requires the user to understand the orientation of the wire, the position of the clamp meter and the interference from other sources. It is thus essential to ensure that the technician handling such measurements is well trained in the appropriate application of these tools.

Load methods carry a higher risk of injury since they require the user to make a physical connection between the shunt and the wire. This practice exposes the user to the risk of electrocution, creating a higher likelihood of user error.


Q. Which is better, the Load or Hot Wire method?

A. The best method of measuring the current depends on the specific application. Both Load and Hot Wire methods have their advantages and disadvantages, with each offering some unique benefits.

Q. Are Hot Wire and Load measurements accurate?

A. Yes, both Hot Wire and Load methods are sensitive and accurate methods of measuring current flow.

Q. Do Hot Wire meters measure AC and DC current?

A. No, Hot Wire meters only measure AC current.

In conclusion, the Load and Hot Wire methods have their strengths and weaknesses. Their suitability for measuring current depends on the specific situation. For instance, in insulated cables and high-current environments, the Hot Wire method has a better advantage due to its safer and non-contact nature. The Load method’s physical connection to the circuit exposes the technician to risk, but it can be a more suitable option in some cases.