Why 4 wire RTD Measurement Accuracy is better than 2 and 3 wire RTD?

Resistance Temperature Detectors (RTDs) are widely used in industrial applications for accurate temperature measurement. The accuracy of an RTD measurement system depends on several factors, including the wire configuration. While 2- and 3-wire RTD configurations are commonly used, the 4-wire configuration offers superior accuracy due to its compensation for lead resistance. This article explores why 4-wire RTD measurement provides better accuracy compared to 2- and 3-wire configurations.

Understanding RTD Measurement

RTDs are temperature sensors that rely on the principle of electrical resistance change with temperature. They consist of a metal wire or thin film element with a known resistance-temperature relationship. The resistance of the RTD element changes proportionally with temperature, allowing precise temperature measurement.

In RTD measurement systems, the resistance of the RTD element is measured using a Wheatstone bridge configuration. The accuracy of the measurement depends not only on the RTD element but also on the resistance of the connecting wires.

The Need for Compensation

In 2- and 3-wire RTD configurations, the resistance of the lead wires introduces errors in the measurement. The lead resistance is part of the overall resistance measured by the system, and its value can vary with temperature. This variation affects the accuracy of the temperature measurement and can lead to significant errors, especially in long wire runs or applications with low resistance values.

To compensate for the lead resistance, the 4-wire RTD configuration is employed.

Advantages of 4-Wire RTD Measurement

The 4-wire RTD measurement offers several advantages over 2- and 3-wire configurations:

1. Elimination of Lead Resistance

In a 4-wire RTD measurement setup, two additional wires are used solely for measuring the resistance of the RTD element. These wires carry negligible current, and their sole purpose is to sense the actual resistance of the RTD without the influence of lead resistance. By isolating the RTD element from the lead wires, the errors caused by lead resistance are effectively eliminated.

2. Increased Accuracy

By eliminating the lead resistance, the 4-wire RTD measurement significantly improves accuracy. The measured resistance represents the true resistance of the RTD element, allowing for precise temperature calculation and reducing errors introduced by variations in lead resistance.

3. Improved Sensitivity

The 4-wire configuration enhances the sensitivity of the measurement system. Since the lead resistance is eliminated, even small changes in the RTD element resistance can be accurately detected and measured. This increased sensitivity is particularly beneficial in applications that require precise temperature control or involve small temperature differentials.

4. Enhanced Precision

The elimination of lead resistance in the 4-wire RTD measurement ensures precise and consistent measurements over time. The stability of the measured resistance allows for reliable and repeatable temperature readings, critical for processes that require tight control and accurate data logging.

Comparison with 2- and 3-Wire RTD

While 2- and 3-wire RTD configurations are simpler and more commonly used, they are prone to lead resistance errors. In these configurations, the lead resistance is part of the measured resistance, leading to measurement inaccuracies. The 4-wire RTD measurement overcomes this limitation and provides superior accuracy, making it the preferred choice for applications where high measurement precision is required.


In temperature measurement applications where accuracy is paramount, the 4-wire RTD configuration offers significant advantages over 2- and 3-wire configurations. By eliminating the influence of lead resistance, the 4-wire setup ensures accurate and precise temperature measurements. Its increased accuracy, improved sensitivity, and enhanced precision make it an ideal choice for applications that demand high measurement accuracy and reliability.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

FAQ 1: Can I convert a 2- or 3-wire RTD setup to a 4-wire configuration?

Conversion of  a 2- or 3-wire RTD setup into a 4-wire configuration is possible. Click here to know How to Convert 2 wire RTD into 3 or 4 wire RTD?

FAQ 2: Are there any drawbacks to using a 4-wire RTD measurement?

One potential drawback of a 4-wire RTD measurement is the additional wiring complexity compared to 2- or 3-wire configurations. However, the benefits of increased accuracy and precision outweigh the complexity in applications that require highly accurate temperature measurements.

FAQ 3: Can a 4-wire RTD measurement be used in all applications?

Yes, a 4-wire RTD measurement can be used in a wide range of applications where accurate temperature measurement is crucial. It is particularly suitable for applications that require high precision and where lead resistance errors need to be minimized.

FAQ 4: What is the typical lead resistance in a 2- or 3-wire RTD setup?

The lead resistance in a 2- or 3-wire RTD setup can vary depending on factors such as wire length, gauge, and material. It is recommended to keep the lead resistance as low as possible to minimize measurement errors.

FAQ 5: How does a 4-wire RTD measurement impact overall system cost?

The cost of a 4-wire RTD measurement system may be slightly higher than that of a 2- or 3-wire setup due to the additional wiring and components required. However, the increased accuracy and reliability of the measurement justify the investment in applications where precise temperature measurement is critical.

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