It’s hardly a surprise that a good tape measure is both useful and necessary when doing electrical work – especially when measuring heights for power points, switches and on walls and ceilings where electrical equipment and fixtures will be mounted.
There are no limits to the ways a tape measure can be used by an electrical contractor. Because so many clients demand and appreciate the precise placement of fixtures and outlets, they’re a must-have tool. While no electrician’s tool belt is complete without a basic measuring tape, technological advances have produced some superior tools. Here’s a look at several of the latest options in measuring tools.
Laser Measuring Tools
The evolution of measuring tapes demonstrates how a basic tool can be improved so routine measuring tasks are more easily and efficiently accomplished.
Laser meters measure exact distances by instantly calculating the time it takes the beam to hit the target and return. These tools can be efficient alternatives to basic tape measures, especially when working on large jobsites. They’re also helpful in marking key points per blueprints. Many offer an intuitive interface, extreme accuracy and even memory storage capabilities.
When selecting one of these tools, always compare the range or distance each one is rated to measure; some models have longer measuring ranges than others. Also, some offer greater accuracy, while the more expensive types feature a “Pythagorean” function, which enables you to calculate the length of an object using three points. Prices vary as widely as features. A basic laser measure can be purchased for about $35, while those with all the bells and whistles can cost $800 or more.
If you specialize in interior work, there are compact measuring devices on the market that employ a targeting laser and ultrasonic frequencies for accurate measurements. These handheld tools calculate the distance between two points by the time an ultrasonic pulse takes to reflect off a target. The tool’s average range is about 50 feet.
Using it is as easy as pointing the laser at a target and pressing a button. Exact measurements are displayed in inches, feet or metric units on an LED screen. Measurements can also be stored for calculating volume or square footage.
The Pen is Mighty
A new measuring tool claims to be an alternative to tape measures. Shaped like a pen, the tool uses a laser beam to take precise measurements on both smooth and irregular surfaces.
The tool, called the 01, is available in three versions: the pen, a pencil, and a stylus-tipped device. Each model includes a laser pointer at the opposite end for recording the dimensions of any surface, from flat planes to complex outdoor terrain. At $149, the 01 is more expensive than a tape measure, but it’s small, easy to use in a variety of jobsite situations and extremely accurate.
Knowing Your Measuring Tools
No matter which type of measuring tool you prefer, it’s imperative to invest in one that will provide you with reliable, long-term service.
• When comparing tape models, important considerations are ease of use and applicability
• Because electricians often work in areas of low light, visibility and scale are important benefits
• Magnetized tape measures with hooks are vital stabilizing features for correct measuring
• Measuring tools must be durable enough to withstand drops, while preventing water, dust and dirt from entering the device. Most new models feature soft, non-slip over-moldings on their housings
• A shielded retraction brake button protects fingers by allowing controlled retraction which also provides easy control of the tape in the extended position
Being an electrical contractor demands working with the right measuring tools. As basic tools are improved and newer tools are developed, the available options for electricians becomes greater.