Electronic – Do digital multimeters require calibration


This article Understanding Digital Multimeter DMM Specifications / Specs mention

A digital multimeter will only be able to meet its specifications when it is within a certain environment. Conditions such as temperature, humidity and the like will have impact on the performance. Also conditions such as line voltage can affect the performance. In order to ensure that the digital multimeter is able to operate within its uncertainty specification, it is necessary to ensure that the external conditions are met. Outside this range the errors will increase and the readings can no longer be guaranteed.

A further element to be considered is the calibration period of the digital multimeter. As all circuits will drift with time, the DMM will need to be periodically re-calibrated to ensure that it is operating within its specification. The calibration period will form part of the specification for the DMM. The most usual calibration period is a year, but some digital multimeter specifications may state a 90 day calibration period. The 90 day period will enable a tighter specification to be applied to the digital multimeter, allowing it to be used in more demanding applications.

When looking at the calibration period of the digital multimeter, it should be remembered that calibration will form a significant element of the cost of ownership and after some years will be significantly above that of any depreciation. A long calibration period for the digital multimeter is normally to be advised, except when particularly demanding testing is required.

Is it necessary to calibrate a digital multimeter every year? (From my understanding, only analog multimeters require calibration)

Best Answer

For hobby/student DMMs, the answer is no. You don't have to calibrate it every year. Please take note of the quote: "A long calibration period for the digital multimeter is normally to be advised, except when particularly demanding testing is required.". For a 3 1/2 digit battery-powered DMM, most never get calibrated after being bought.

If you're using a 6 1/2 digit unit, and measuring microvolts to trouble-shoot medical equipment, that's another story.

It all comes down to how important absolute accuracy is to you.

However, your belief that "only analog multimeter require calibration" is dead wrong. The distinction between analog and digital in this case only applies to the display. An analog multimeter uses its conditioning / amplifier circuits to directly drive an analog meter. A digital unit uses its conditioning / amplifier to drive an A/D converter. In both cases, if the analog circuits get out of whack, the meter will give bad results. A problem is more likely to be noticed in a digital meter simply because DMMs make small errors easier to see.