I have been in the HVAC field for 27+ years. I started in the Navy as Boiler Technician and as a civilian worked with a few mechanical contractors, service companies and even an equipment manufacturer.
When I was in the field, one of my most important tools (besides safety gear) was my electric testing meter. An essential troubleshooting tool for HVAC technician as well as electricians. From my own personal experience, this is one tool you shouldn’t skimp on. Spending a little more $$$ for the proper testing meter will go a long way. I know it can be hard to pass up the $100 meter for the $270 one, especially when you are young, just starting in the industry, and don’t have much cash. But trust me, if you buy the less expensive meter, you will pay for it in the end anyway.
I will be honest and let you know I was one those techs that didn’t want to spend too much and bought the cheaper meter. Just starting out and thought a meter is a meter. Well I quickly learned it wasn’t worth it. I don’t want to bash any brand names out there, so I won’t specify the meter I bought. And I will say it wasn’t a terrible meter, and most of the time did the job well. But there were times when the reading was not very accurate, and after about 8 months, the casing starting coming apart. I also found one of the reason a meter may cost less, is it has a lower safety rating and you take a higher chance getting injured when using it on live circuits. I had to buy a new meter with-in the first year I was a technician. Always make sure your meter meets minimum requirements per NFPA-70E regulation (National Fire Protection Association).
Now I will tell you my favorite brand, which I am sure many of you will have heard of… Fluke. My 2nd meter was a Fluke. I have owned it for years, and it still works great. No, it isn’t the pretty Fluke yellow anymore, it has turned black over the years, but it is still very reliable. I don’t believe Fluke makes a meter that doesn’t meet the requirement for NFPA-70E. You can be rest assured they are built to last, be accurate, and keep you safe. They also offer one of the best warranties around.
Meters have changed a little over the years, and some can now tie to your phone via Bluetooth, so you can view it from a safe distance when needed. If I was in the market to buy a new meter for the HVAC industry, I would go with one of the most popular models today- Fluke 902 FC True RMS clamp meter which is designed with the HVAC tech in mind.