Over at Lowe’s, they just launched a new line of Kobalt electrical testing tools.
Lowe’s has been promoting the new Kobalt electrical tools on social media channels, but there haven’t been any announcements or information provided to press or media channels.
Didn’t Lowe’s have strong ties with Southwire as their primary electrical hand tool and test equipment brand? Do these Kobalt tools replace those Southwire offerings?
Who are these tools being aimed at? Electricians? DIYers? Hobbyists?
Lowe’s has been showing off a new Kobalt digital multimeter (DT-946?), but I can’t find any information or details about it. It looks to be able to test continuity, resistance, and voltage, with auto-hold function and IP67 water and dust resistance rating.
Basically, this looks to be a 3-function multimeter with auto-ranging capability. There’s no mention of price or target audience,
Next, there’s a Kobalt manual-ranging multimeter (DT-926?), which looks to be a standard basic multimeter.
Kobalt will also have a clamp meter.
There are no press materials or product listing for any of these new Kobalt digital multimeters at Lowe’s, just direct-to-consumer social media posts that don’t include much in the way of details.
Lowe’s is also launching a surprisingly broad selection of electrical testers, some of which seem to already be available.
Kobalt has a new receptacle tester with GFCI test function (ET-18), and also this enhanced version which also shows you a readout of the outlet voltage (ET-19L).
The Kobalt CT-30 is a basic continuity tester.
There will be new Kobalt 4-way AC/DC voltage testers.
Looking deeper, there are a couple more SKUs – an addition basic-function outlet tester, voltage meters, and a non-contact voltage tester that you can only purchased bundled with a receptacle tester.
Buy Now via Lowe’s – sorry, their website won’t let us link to a Kobalt-filtered URL
Discussion – Should You Care?
To be perfectly frank here, I am completely confused and caught off-guard by this.
WHY would Lowe’s launch a new line of Kobalt electrical testing tools? They don’t have much in the way of electrical hand tools, and so this isn’t a logical expansion or anything of the sort.
Southwire, Ideal, Fluke – these are brands that I would expect to see in Lowe’s electrical tool department, maybe even Craftsman. Under Sears, Craftsman had a decent selection of electrical testing tools and accessories, and hand tools such as wire strippers as well.
And what’s the selling point here?
If I needed a receptacle tester, I’d consider one of these brands from Amazon, with all but the Extech ET15 also offering GFCI testing.
- Extech ET10
- Extech ET15
- Klein RT210
- Ideal 61-501
- Amprobe ST-102B
- Southwire 10022S
- Sperry GFI6302
- Gardner Bender GFI-3501
If I needed one *now*, I’d likely head to Home Depot to pick up a Klein. If I could only go to Lowe’s, I’d prefer Southwire, Ideal, or even Gardner Bender. Kobalt?
Kobalt is generally a decent brand, but this is a product category they have never been in before.
Are these tools rebranded from existing products, or specially designed for Kobalt and Lowe’s, in which case WHY should you, the end user and potential customer care?
Every new product launch is done for a reason, but what’s the backstory here?
Hello Kobalt electrical tools, Goodbye [which brand]?
Was this a product category hole that Lowe’s needed to fill, with Kobalt as the best brand to do so?
Don’t get me wrong, I feel quite optimistic about this overall, I just wish that Lowe’s and Kobalt were more forthcoming with information and details.
The Kobalt product line is expanding into new territories. What will they do next?
More importantly, at least pertaining to these electrical testing tools, do you care? If you needed a receptacle tester, voltage meter, multimeter, or other such tool, would you consider these new Kobalt options at Lowe’s?
Personally, I have very strong brand loyalties when it comes to test equipment, and it’s going to take more than Kobalt social media hype to chip away at my preferences. But, I also don’t shop for test equipment based on price. Perhaps these tools are aimed at users shopping more with of a “I need it now for this one-time use and don’t want to spend a lot” mindset.
Would you buy any of these tools? Would you be eager to see Lowe’s expand Kobalt’s electrical tools and testing product selection even further?
I’m wondering if these will be the budget option alongside a more premium brand.
I can’t imagine buying them though – well-known brands aren’t that expensive to start with. Well, maybe a clamp meter might get pricey.
The waterproof meter is interesting. I would use it to avoid damaging my 87v while playing with electrical while soaking wet. Hopefully the target audience sticks to low voltage in those conditions.
You don’t go with an unknown when you’re dealing with something that has the potential to severely injure or even kill you. I’d put these right there with Harbor Freight as far as brands I would not inherently trust when working with electricity.
This may be a shallow comment, but I would not want these if I were relying on something to do electrical work. I would also be skeptical if an electrician pulled this out while doing work in my house. Our electrician mainly uses Milwaukee hand/power tools and Klein testers. I have an extech receptacle tester and Klein non-contact and circuit finder- these were all relatively inexpensive. I’ve bought plenty of cheaper tools that I needed for one specific task, but I think that could be a dangerous mindset when it comes to electrical (or plumbing) jobs.
Several of these appear to be from commercial electric and work every bit as good as klein and ideal, at least from the ones I’ve tested.
At least some of these new Kobalt tools are made by Southwire.
I like my Milwaukee multimeter. I just wish I had gotten the one with the temperate probe. Just for flexing, although it would be decent. But it was out of stock when I was looking at them.
I bought the one with the negative LCD screen and temperature probe – I liked the functionality of it but the screen is poo poo (bleeds light everywhere) and scratches if you look at it wrong. For the price I couldn’t justify keeping it, and wound up returning it.
I’ll come back with this. Breyman (sp?) makes some pretty nice tools. You are however very unlikely to see it at least in the US under that name. It is private branded with Greenlee, Klein, and Amprobe to name a few. The Amprobe version is tested in Fluke labs and since Amprobe is part of the same company as Fluke, it’s basically the “budget line” for Fluke. When the Fluke sales person was out at the local electrical supply house she had the Amprobe stuff too. In short, I really like their HVAC/motor tech meter for motor work which is a lot of what I do. And their regular multimeter is very close to or even exceeding the Flukes on specs and seems to hold up just as well.
Second and going more professional, two tools that most electricians should have but many are too cheap to buy for industrial use is a flexible current probe and an insulation resistance tester (aka Megger). The latter tells you in about 60 seconds whether or not your motor is burned up and is useful all around for testing insulation condition. The former is for testing current just like a “clamp meter” but clamp meters aren’t very reliable or accurate unless you have ONE wire perfectly centered in the jaw. Flexible current probes wrap around any odd shape to measure current such as multiple leads, busbars, etc.
The current meters typically cost from $300 to thousands and Meggers have come down but the cheapest ones were around $500 even a few years ago. Klein is selling the current probes for under $100 and the insulation resistance meter for $150. That pretty much ends any and all excuses to buy these. I just did a drop test (from 20 feet up) on my previous insulation resistance tester and it failed. So I got the Klein. It is very nice even if it wasn’t such a great price. So no more excuses for not buying the good stuff.
Now if someone would just come out with a low ohm bridge for about $200 instead of thousands…
I happened to stop in to Lowe’s today and I took a swing through the electrical aisle. The tools section is almost completely bare. All of the Southwire are being sold off (although there’s no clearance pricing on any of the items). Southwire pegs are empty everywhere.
Replacing the Southwire hand tool line is an extensive offering from Ideal Industries. Ideal has a handful of multimeter and clamp meter options available in store right now, and the majority of the Kobalt offerings are also available in store. It looks like a number of these testers aren’t just replacing Southwire and Woods’ SKUs, but they’re actually Southwire and Woods rebrands. A number of the testers bearing the Kobalt logos and color schemes are identical to the former offerings by Southwire and Woods.
There are at least twenty more empty baring Ideal product names. Also of note – Knipex is moving in to the bay that Southwire previously occupied, and a number of those tags were visible. It’ll be interesting to see what finally fills out those bays in the next month or so.
It’s interesting to see that Lowe’s is running multiple tiers of tool offerings, with Kobalt being at the lower end, Ideal and Knipex in the mid-high end/prosumer, and a pretty solid selection of Fluke meters for the actual professionals… Even though those are all locked up at the checkout lanes. I’m used to seeing a DIY/consumer option alongside a pro option, but three distinct product lines feels pretty foreign to me.
Im curious on them. I expect they will slide in somewhere near where sears craftsman used to be. I do have some kobalt stuff, its all decent enough and they seem to be stepping up their game, such as with their 24v line. My Lowes is devoid of Southwire stuff currently so maybe this is their replacement. Not saying this is a bad thing as home depot seems to have the monaoply on higher end names in electirical such as Klein and Milwaukee. My surprise is, that they didnt encourage SBD to slap the Craftsman name on it instead.
I’ve found Kobalt tools to generally decent quality, yet firmly in the homeowner/handyman/DIY category. Assuming a mid-range price point and decent accuracy, I can see these appealing to homeowners and some tradesmen, like plumbers and GCs. Folks that don’t necessarily need a high level of accuracy a la electricians or HVAC/R technicians. If they’re good enough to get you close on say an outlet or electric water heater element, they might be a good investment.
Knipex is considered as pretty high-end in the hand-tool realm. I’d welcome their return to lowes.
Electrical testers are pretty basic tech. Quality stuff just won’t blow up if you mess up. Doubt you can short their multimeter a few times. Then again, all my equipment is klein or fluke for the professional optics (and because employers reimbursed me). Whoever makes a hotstick that doesn’t beep incessantly when the battery is low gets all my money. I understand I could just replace the low battery, but instead I’ve broken a lot of them due to my unresolved anger issues.
There is also a Kobalt heat gun on Lowes’ website
SO is this rebranded Southwire. TO be fair I think the average Lowes shopper didn’t know who Southwire was, let along see any history of them in Electrical TOOLS.
I mean to be fair when you think mulit-meter who would you think of. Crimper or Pliers.
Fluid, UEI, Amprobe, or Klein, Knipex, hell channellock.
Leads me to another question then – who makes these? Chevon tool?
If you look at the UPC company prefix (first 6 digits) you can look up the OEM – as long as Lowes hasn’t just given it a UPC consistent from LG Sourcing
To be honest once I made the move to Fluke I haven’t looked back.
The Fluke 101, 106, and 107 multi meters are awesome for the price. The 101 is technically the cheapest brand new Fluke you can by. Admittedly it omits the ampacity measurements and a backlight but for $44 on Amazon it’s great to have for beginners or in your everywhere toolbox. The 107 that hovers near $100 on Amazon is great too. Fluke also has some grey market clamp meters that are a good deal on Amazon.
You also do have to keep in mind these grey market products might not get the full benefits of purchase of say a 117 or higher model that’s made for the US market when it comes time for warranty etc.
This being said I’m wondering if this is changing because all of my local Lowes just started carrying the 107. The interesting thing is the packing and included instructions differ from the grey market ones on Amazon. I like the 107 so much I had to buy a spare to have in my mobile toolbox and when I saw it at Lowes (where I had gotten a bunch of giftcards for Christmas) I said why the heck not. I wonder if Fluke is trying to bust into the home gamer that doesn’t want to spend $200?
Beyond Fluke Amprobe makes decent products (being owned by Fluke) and where I started before Fluke. If you are doing basic measurements for DC, don’t need accuracy, and / or don’t need longevity I don’t even recommend buying a “cheap” Southwire, Klein, one of these new Lowes meters, or any other low to mid end meter. I would skip them all and get one of the super cheapies from Harbor Freight. For those constraints you don’t need anything more than a $10 meter.
Just my opinion.
Lowes is making some interesting shifts. All of the local stores around me are now carrying the Fluke 107 multi meter along with some other Fluke equipment. For those that don’t know, the 107 along with the 101 and 106 are gray market Fluke’s sold in foreign markets (primarily Asia). The 107 has all the measurements even a serious hobbyist needs at a great price. On Amazon they are regularly $99. The local Lowes had it at $109 plus our 5% sales tax. The 101 is a great meter at $44 without ampacity measurements and a backlight if you can live without those.
The gray market Fluke’s have been reviewed to supposedly not be supported by Fluke USA because they weren’t originally intended for our market as far as warranty issues. I’m beginning to wonder if this is changing though given Lowes now has them, the demand on imported models through Amazon has consistently been very high, and interestingly enough the one I bought at Lowes last week has different paperwork / packaging than the imported one I bought from Amazon. It would make sense to me if Fluke can put out a good cheap meter to break into the low end market. Although this might steal sales from Amprobe which is generally considered the Fluke entry level stuff.
Either way if you’re not doing anymore more than basic dc measurements (voltage for car batteries, continuity, etc), don’t care about quality, and really don’t need any accuracy then a cheap multimeter from Harbor Freight is all you need. If that doesn’t apply to you I’d skip all the entry level brand meters and go right to the Fluke 107. You’ll be more satisfied by the quality etc than Klein, Southwire, etc.
Not compelling enough to buy straight up but I could see a Black Friday deal or especially a post-holiday sale/clearance where I’d get one of these as a backup or just to play with.
Mike (the other one)
Southwire made a big mistake with their brown color scheme. It looks unappealing, and it doesn’t stand out in a tool bag, and certainly not on the store pegs. I guess all the other colors were taken. Even the new USA-made screwdrivers just didn’t look good. The color, the shape, etc. just don’t compare to Klein, Ideal, or Greenlee.
It seems they were clearly not happy with their sales, and decided to just be the OEM for certain Kobalt tools like this. This makes a lot of sense, because Kobalt is more or less a trusted name, and their color scheme/logo is instantly recognizable. Plus they don’t have to spend so much on marketing, etc.
What color should they have went with?
I don’t hate the brown, but my vote would be orange.
I know Klein does lots of orange, but it’s not like they have a color patent (and they have plenty of other colors in their range – orange seems to appear mostly on testers and insulated tools, not the main-line hand tools).
Maybe some blue accents/stripe to set it off and differentiate it? They’re not sold in the same big-box stores anyway.
living in an old house (1880) with at least 3 different wiring systems (on breakers) I am very interested in the new outlet tester it gives more diagnostics to me . I have come across a lot of reversed wired outlets and switched grounds, my belief is that someone was color blind doing the wiring.
here is the model number Model #ET-19L
item number did not work
at $13 this is worth a shot for me
Its all about making more money. Lowes makes kobalt, so if consumers buy kobalt then lowes makes more in their profit margin. The other brands lowes only gains a small percentage, but kobalt allows them to make more of the profit. Did i explain that well enough? Im genuinely asking. Its all about making more money for the company as a whole is the answer!
Why would you think that Lowe’s makes more money on Kobalt?
There aren’t any fewer pockets to fill.
Let’s say that Lowe’s contracts Brand A to make a screwdriver for their Kobalt brand. Lowe’s also sells Brand A screwdrivers at their store. Why would you think that a Kobalt-branded Brand A screwdriver will make Lowe’s more money than a Brand A screwdriver?
If anything, Lowe’s might set a lower profit margin to help boost the appeal of their Kobalt brand options over the 3rd party brands’ products next to it on the shelf.
If Lowe’s gets you loyal to their Kobalt brand, you might seek out Kobalt tools for your next project. If you’re at the store to buy Kobalt tools, there’s a chance you might also pick up materials and supplies while you’re already there.