How to Calibrate Test Equipment

Calibrating electrical test equipment against a standard before taking any measurements is a critical step to ensuring the accuracy of any work performed.
According to Cole-Parmer Technical Library, simply checking a reading with two different devices isn't calibration but a field check. A field check cannot tell an operator which of the devices is giving inaccurate measurements if the readings differ, and if both devices are inaccurate by the same amount in the same direction, operators may not even realize a problem exits. Calibration of test equipment must be performed using a calibrated standard.

Step 1

Purchase a calibrated standard from the National Institute of Standards and Technology or a comparable organization if you are outside the United States.

Step 2

Leave the standard in an accessible place before taking any measurements. In a factory or laboratory setting, this may be in the inspection area or at an operator's table, while the standard may be brought along in a protective portable case for field work.

Step 3

Measure the standard using the same tool being used to take readings.

Step 4

Compare the readings on the testing equipment against the standard's calibrated dimension. NIST traceable standards, or any standards calibrated by a third-party calibration service, will be accompanied by paperwork showing the measured value of the standard. A calibrated 100 volt standard being measured by testing equipment with an accuracy range of 0.1 percent should read from 99.9 volts to 100.1 volts if it is functioning correctly.

Step 5

Discontinue using the testing equipment if it will not match the calibrated standard's readings.

Things You Will Need

  • National Institute of Standards and Technology traceable standard (or equivalent)

About the Author

Brad Chacos started writing professionally in 2005, specializing in electronics and technology. His work has appeared in Salon.com, Gizmodo, "PC Gamer," "Maximum PC," CIO.com, DigitalTrends.com, "Wired," FoxNews.com, NBCNews.com and more. Chacos is a frequent contributor to "PCWorld," "Laptop Magazine" and the Intuit Small Business Blog.