- Excellent build quality
- Accurate, reliable measurements
- Fails safely (if at all)
- Compact design
- 3 year warranty
- Does not measure microamps
- Poor display contrast when viewed from top angle
Digital multimeters are indispensable tools when it comes to working with electronics. If you are looking to buy one, you don’t have to look very far. Large hardware stores sell so many different multimeters that it can be hard to see the forest for the trees.
The Fluke 115 is one of the many DMMs currently available. It is a versatile multimeter that is part of Fluke’s popular 110 series. Amongst its features are the ability to measure voltage, current, resistance, frequency, capacity and more.
In this article, I will review whether the Fluke 115 is worth your money, if it lives up to its brand name, and how it compares with some of its competition.
The box of the Fluke 115 contains the following:
- Fluke 115 multimeter
- Yellow rubber holster
- Probe leads
- Fluke 115 manual
- 9V battery (already inserted)
|Fluke 115 Specifications|
|Maximum voltage between any terminal and earth ground||600 V|
|Surge protection||6 kV peak per IEC 61010–1 600 VCAT III, Pollution Degree 2|
|Display||Digital: 6,000 counts, updates 4 per second|
|Bar graph||33 segments, updates 32 per second|
|Operating temperature||-10°C to + 50°C|
|Storage temperature||-40°C to + 60°C|
|Battery type||9 volt Alkaline|
|Battery life||400 hours typical, without backlight|
||6.6″ (168mm) x 3.3″ (84mm) x 1.8″ (46mm)|
||1.3 lbs (590g)|
The Fluke 115 comes with all measurement features you can expect from a multimeter at this price. AC and DC voltage, current, resistance, frequency, capacitance, continuity and diode check, it is all there. With the dial, you can quickly switch between the different testing modes.
When you use the continuity mode to test things like diodes, fuses and cables, there is a clear, audible beep that notifies you when a measured circuit is closed. This is ideal in situations where you are not able to keep your eye on the screen at all times.
The meter comes with both manual and autorange modes. In autorange mode, the meter automatically selects the right range and resolution for the value being measured. For example, a voltage of 5.0465V shows as 5.047V, and not as 5.0V.
The downside of multimeter autorange modes is that they come with a slight measurement delay. But because the Fluke 115 lets you switch between auto and manual ranging mode, you can still choose quick measurements whenever you want.
One feature that is lacking in the 115 model is the ability to measure microamps. This is a useful feature if you work with HVAC equipment and need to measure current from flame sensors. Another scenario in which this is helpful is if you develop circuitry that needs to be optimized for power consumption.
In the first case, measuring flame sensors, the Fluke 116 would be a better option. This multimeter is heavily targeted towards HVAC professionals, however, and only measures current in the microamps range (up to 600 μA).
For people who develop circuitry for lower-power applications or need a multimeter with microamp measurement for different reasons, the Fluke 177 is the next best option.
Most DIYers, hobbyists and technicians do not have any need to measure microamps. For them, the features of the Fluke 115 are more than sufficient.
All alternating current (AC) measurements on this multimeter are true-rms. In short, RMS stands for ‘root mean square’ and is a formula that essentially calculates the equivalent direct current (DC) value of an AC waveform.
This calculation method gives accurate results for both pure and non-pure sinusoidal waves. So regardless of what type of AC waveforms you measure, you can be sure that the reported voltage is on point.
The MIN/MAX/AVG recording mode on the 115 captures both minimum and maximum input values, plus keeps a running average of all readings. If the meter detects a new high or low, it beeps.
This feature can give you a good idea of a measurement range without the need for more advanced equipment.
To preserve the battery, the 115’s battery-saving function automatically turns the device off after 15 minutes. So accidentally leaving the device on in your toolbox does not have any consequences.
On top of that, the display comes with an indicator that lights up when the battery is low. It’s unlikely that you will see it lit up often because of the 400 hours of typical use on a single 9V battery.
The build quality of the 115 is exactly as you would expect from a Fluke. From the molded plastic housing to the buttons and terminals, everything gives the impression of being solid and durable.
As I am fairly careful with my tools, I haven’t bashed my 115 around too much in the months that I have used it so far. But given that Fluke multimeters are known to take a lot of abuse without breaking, I assume that the Fluke 115 is not any different.
The included yellow holster has a quality finish and seems tough. It looks and feels like it is designed to absorb a good bit of energy. With it, dropping or bumping the multimeter into something is unlikely to immediately break it.
Ease of use
The compact size of the Fluke 115 makes it convenient to slide in and out of your pocket when you need to take measurements out in the field. Storing the multimeter when not in use is easy too.
The body of the 115 is curved and ergonomically shaped. In combination with its compact size, this makes the meter comfortable to hold.
The yellow rubber holster is grippy, so there is little risk of accidentally dropping the device. Not that you would have to worry much about that anyway, given the meter’s durability.
One thing that did not live up to its expectations is the dial of the 115. It is designed so that you can use it as a thumbwheel and rotate it with your left thumb as you hold the device.
In practice, I found the dial to be way too stiff for this. My hands are above average in size and strength, and I was not able to reliably turn the dial with my thumb. There simply is not enough grip to overcome the resistance of the wheel, especially if the thumb or wheel are a bit sweaty or greasy.
Rotating the dial the normal way from the front works very well, so for me this is a non-issue. But if you are looking for a multimeter that lets you easily switch between testing modes with the same hand as you are holding it with, the stiff dial on the Fluke 115 can be a problem.
The multimeter comes with an easy-to-read 6000-count display (meaning it can display numbers from 0000 to 5999). Aside from using the digits on the screen, you can also use the bar graph at the bottom of the display to read off rough values.
On a feature-packed device like the Fluke 115, you want a screen that shows you clearly what is going on. To do so, the LCD has a variety of indicator icons. They show the currently enabled mode, range selection, battery status, and so on.
One situation in which the LCD display is limited is when it is viewed from the top. From this side, the display does not have much contrast. This can result in a washed out screen that is hard to read.
While this is not uncommon with (multimeter) LCD displays, I do expect better from Fluke.
If you do happen to be viewing the meter from the top, you can always adjust its position with the built-in stand on the back, or by moving the device itself to a different location.
When viewed from the front, bottom or sides, the screen does not have any contrast issues. Similarly, I did not experience any problems with glare from reflecting bright light sources.
To help you use the multimeter in situations with limited lighting, the display of the Fluke 115 comes with a backlight. This is practical addition for testing in crawl spaces, control panels or other dimly lit areas.
The screen is backlit with a single LED positioned in the bottom-left corner. This is less than you see on some other multimeters that come with two LEDs or more, but the single LED is still sufficiently bright to light up the display.
I came across complaints from other users stating that the backlight turns off too quickly, after 40 seconds. There is a (somewhat hidden) feature that lets you bypass this backlight auto-off function altogether. Simply hold the backlight button while you turn the multimeter on.
There are a couple of other settings that you can modified like this, for example disabling the automatic power-down and enabling low inpedance capacitance measurements. Page 9 of the Fluke 115 manual has more info on these options.
In terms of included accessories, the Fluke 115 is fairly limited. The only ones you will find in the box are a rubber holster and a set of probes. But to be fair, those accessories are enough for most consumers.
The yellow rubber holster is excellent and does a good job at protecting the multimeter’s vital parts. On its backside, it has two slots (one on each side) for clamping the test leads when not in use.
You can detach the holster when you need to swap the multimeter’s batteries or its fuse, but other than that there is not much reason to ever remove it.
My Fluke 115 came with a set of TL-71 test leads, but I have read of others who received theirs with a set of TL-75 leads. I am not sure if the difference in leads is due the region (my Fluke 115 is labeled as the EUR version) or perhaps the TL-75 leads were included in previous years.
Either way, the TL-75 probes are PVC-insulated, stiffer and have more of a ‘memory’ effect. The TL-71 have silicone insulation and are more flexible. Silicone leads are typically preferred.
The included test leads are okay, but their major limitation is that they do not have proper strain relief. You can expect them to wear out sooner than expected if you wrap, bend or pull them too often.
Aside from the included accessories, there are several other separately purchasable accessories that are practical with the Fluke 115.
- On the back of the rubber holster there is a gap to which you can attach Fluke’s official straps. They come with the TPAK Hanging Kit and lets you attach or hang the multimeter to basically anything. Hooks, nails, wire, magnetic surfaces, anything becomes a mounting point. A useful addition if you ever need to attach the meter to something.
- The Fluke 115 only measures currents up to 10A. If you want to measure higher currents, you need to use an current/amp clamp. They come as separate devices (the most popular one being the Fluke 323), but they are also available as an accessory. A quality clamp meter accessory that works well with the 115 is the Fluke i400. It measures up to 400A without interfering with circuits.
- To further protect the multimeter, or to conveniently store it with its accessories, there are several official carrying cases that are compatible with the Fluke 115. If you want to be able to store the multimeter in its holster in the case and have enough space left for leads and probes, the C35 carrying case is a spacious choice.
The meter has several drawbacks, most of which I covered in the sections above. I will still briefly summarize them here.
- The display. Its contrast is lacking when viewed from above, making it hard to read from certain positions.
- No temperature measurement option. For that, you are better off with the 116 model.
- No microamp measurements either. The higher-end Fluke 177 (10 µA resolution) and Fluke 87-V (0.01 µA DC, 0.1 µA AC) models do offer this option.
- The ‘thumbwheel’ operation of the dial is too stiff to be used with just a thumb.
And lastly, the price. Even though I am not sure that can be considered a drawback.
Sure, Fluke multimeters are more expensive than basically every other brand. But in return you get the assurance that you have a quality piece of kit, that your measurements are accurate, and the piece of mind that if your multimeter fails, it does so safely, without injuring you. That is a pretty good trade-off in my book.
Who is it for?
Based on its features and price, I would say the Fluke 115 is best suited for handymen, serious DIYers and professionals who have no need for any specialized features.
If you need to do DIY electrical work in your home, like upgrading a breaker box or troubleshoot power issues, or if you want to work on your car, boat or electronics-related hobbies, you can be reassured that this multimeter has everything you need.
Many cheaper digital multimeters are of questionable quality and do not have the right overload protection to protect you when something goes wrong. If you want to be safe when working on higher voltage (120V/240V) electronics, the Fluke 115 will help you with that.
Where is the Fluke 115 made?
The multimeter is made in China. Despite that, nothing about it is of questionable quality.
If you want a Fluke meter that is made in the USA instead, the 177 is the US-manufactured model that comes closest to the 115.
Can the Fluke 115 measure temperature?
What is the difference between the Fluke 115 and 117?
Because the main testing modes and accuracy of the 115 and 117 models are identical it can be tricky to figure out what their difference is. Their only distinctions are that the 117 comes with VoltAlert™ non-contact voltage detection and LoZ ghost voltage detection.
These features are useful for some people, like electricians who frequently work on AC wiring in residential and commercial buildings. But for most people these features aren’t necessary and there is little need to spend an extra $20 on the 117.
The Fluke 115 is a versatile DMM that comes with all features and testing modes you need for basic electronics work. Whether you are a DIYer, electronics enthusiast or a professional, you can’t really go wrong with it.
While the Fluke 115’s price is at the higher end of the spectrum, the multimeter does deliver in return. You can trust its measurements to be accurate, its robust construction to last and perhaps most importantly, unlike cheaper multimeters it does not pose any danger when something goes wrong.
Its shortcomings are relatively minor, and unless you have specific needs for temperature or microamp measurements (in which case the Fluke 116 or 177 models are better options), this multimeter can give you what you need for a very long time.