A voltmeter is an instrument used for measuring electric potential difference between two points in an electric circuit. It is connected in parallel. It usually has a high resistance so that it takes negligible current from the circuit.
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Analog voltmeters move a pointer across a scale in proportion to the voltage measured and can be built from a galvanometer and series resistor. Meters using amplifiers can measure tiny voltages of microvolts or less. Digital voltmeters give a numerical display of voltage by use of an analog-to-digital converter.
Voltmeters are made in a wide range of styles, some separately powered (e.g. by battery), and others powered by the measured voltage source itself. Instruments permanently mounted in a panel are used to monitor generators or other fixed apparatus. Portable instruments, usually equipped to also measure current and resistance in the form of a multimeter, are standard test instruments used in electrical and electronics work. Any measurement that can be converted to a voltage can be displayed on a meter that is suitably calibrated; for example, pressure, temperature, flow or level in a chemical process plant.
General-purpose analog voltmeters may have an accuracy of a few percent of full scale and are used with voltages from a fraction of a volt to several thousand volts. Digital meters can be made with high accuracy, typically better than 1%. Specially calibrated test instruments have higher accuracies, with laboratory instruments capable of measuring to accuracies of a few parts per million. Part of the problem of making an accurate voltmeter is that of calibration to check its accuracy. In laboratories, the Weston cell is used as a standard voltage for precision work. Precision voltage references are available based on electronic circuits.