I have a 9v battery for my project. It shows 9vdc dc mode in multineter, and surprisingly I get 20vac in ac mode. What is this happening? Can this happen? An ac voltage from a dc storage!?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Sounds like your AC input stage is broken. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 26, 2014 at 5:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Something wrong with my multimeter? \$\endgroup\$
    – George Jr
    Apr 26, 2014 at 5:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is definitely a duplicate, let me see if I can find one or more examples. electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/31147/… \$\endgroup\$
    – jippie
    Apr 26, 2014 at 5:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @jippie It is partially a duplicate but not fully. My other answer was accepted but did not fully cover this query. \$\endgroup\$
    – Russell McMahon
    Apr 26, 2014 at 7:24
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Consider: I have a blue flower. I wish to smell its size. How long should its odor be? \$\endgroup\$
    – Russell McMahon
    Apr 26, 2014 at 7:25

1 Answer 1


Why the result is essentially meaningless:

Using a measurement mode to measure something it is not intended for can be expected to give a meaningless result - or to damage or destroy the system, or the user.
(eg trying to measure volts on an amps range.)
In this case the result is essentially meaningless, but relatively harmless. The AC range is intended for measuring AC voltages. IF you get a reading when DC is applied it does not mean that AC is being produced - while this is conceivably possible, the most obvious conclusion (and in this case the correct one) is that the meter is giving a spurious answer because it is being used in a manner that was not intended by its makers.

If you apply DC to the Ohms range you will also get a reading. It relates to how the DC produces currents in the meter which can also be obtained by placing a resistor across the probes - BUT the reading is essentially unrelated to the resistance of the DC supply.

What is happening:

It is normal for low cost multimeter circuits to read about twice the DC value when DC is measured on an AC volts range.
I have never traced the circuits used to be certain why BUT the following explanation - seems the likely one.

  • I assume that the AC circuit half wave rectifies and filters the AC to DC and applies it to a DC range with suitable scaling.

  • An AC waveform that is say 10V peak-peak will give 5V DC when half wave rectified with an ideal diode.

  • As the half wave circuit only passes every second half cycle the value when smoothed is 50% of what the full wave value will be.

  • So a DC signal produce an effect that a ~~= 2 x AC signal would produce.

  • However, the AC signal RMS value is ~= 71% of AC peak.

  • And if a silicon diode is used the diode fwd voltage drop need to be allowed for.

All this leads to AC readings of ABOUT 2 x DC value when DC is applied.

  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ It is worth pointing out that any decent True RMS multimeter would only pick up an AC voltage in the AC volts mode, and the DC component would simply be ignored. We use this all the time to check the ripple output of battery chargers, to make sure they are in specified limits. Russell is probably right, and this probably isn't a True RMS meter. But people should know that there is a valid use for the AC function on a DC system. \$\endgroup\$
    – user39962
    Apr 28, 2014 at 22:09

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