Best Infrared Thermometers: Measure Hot Objects at a Safer Distance
Get accurate temperature readings with our top picks for the best-infrared thermometer
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An infrared thermometer gives you the precise temperature reading of the equipment or surface you are working on. It’s a safety tool when working on your car as it helps you avoid touching hot surfaces and lets you know when your engine is overheating. Infrared thermometers are widely used by mechanics, electricians, HVAC professionals, and even cooks. Check out our buying guide for a deeper look into some of the best infrared thermometers on the market.
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Benefits of an Infrared Thermometer
- Measure objects at a safe distance. Infrared thermometers can measure objects at a distance of a foot from the surface. You, therefore, don't have to touch hot surfaces with your bare hands. It also comes in handy when measuring mechanical tools where there's no direct access to the equipment.
- Measure moving parts. There are portable infrared guns that can measure moving objects like a motor, an engine's pulley system, or a conveyor belt. You can hold on to the temperature gun as it takes the measurements, since most are lightweight and gives the temperature reading in a second or less.
- Multipurpose tool. The infrared thermometer is not only good for automotive jobs. It can also be used to detect the room temperature, to test the cooking progress of food, for measuring pipes during household repairs, to measure soil temperature in construction projects, and to perform other industrial applications.
- Detect problems. An infrared thermometer can be used to detect faults or errors in mechanical equipment or electrical appliances. You could, for instance, tell when the speakers are overheating and take the necessary steps to identify the cause of the problem.
Types of Infrared Thermometers
Spot IR Thermometers
Spot IR thermometers rely on a spot reflected by a laser beam to determine the temperature of the surface. They either come as handheld thermometers, pocket thermometers, or fixed mount infrared thermometers. Most car temperature guns fall under this category.
Infrared Scanning Systems
Infrared scanning systems are similar to spot thermometers. The only difference is that they scan larger surfaces. They are mostly used in manufacturing industries to ensure that the optimal temperature for different equipment is attained for quality control.
Infrared Thermal Imaging Cameras
IR thermal imaging cameras are made from advanced technology with extensive software and hardware tools. They give you two-dimensional representations and temperature measurements of a large surface area, like an entire floor. They are mostly used in industries to monitor conveyor belts.
Etekcity is an online-based company that specializes in home improvement products, outdoor equipment, and consumer electronics. The company is known for its sophisticated yet user-friendly tools, including water filters, lanterns, body weight scales, massagers, power cords, distance thermometers, and infrared thermometers among other products. Some of its best infrared thermal thermometers are the Etekcity Lasergrip 774 Infrared Thermometer and the Etekcity 1022D Dual Laser Digital Temperature Gun.
Taylor Precision Products Inc. is an American manufacturer of a wide range of first-rate home and industrial products. George Taylor started the company in 1851, and it prides itself on its accurate measuring instruments. The company makes some of the best measuring products, including scales, thermometers, and other measurement-related products. One of its best non-contact infrared thermometers is the Taylor Precision Products Infrared Thermometer.
Best Infrared Thermometer Pricing
- Under $30: This is the price range for basic digital infrared thermometer guns that come with a simple design and a limited temperature range. The products here are mostly handheld spot IR thermometers with reasonable accuracy, and most have a fixed emissivity. However, most do have a small, well-lit screen and are user-friendly.
- $30 to $60: Moving farther up the price scale, expect to find some of the best digital laser thermometers that come with a temperature range of -50 to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Most products here have an adjustable emissivity, great accuracy, convenient handles, and can store data for future reference.
- Above $60: Some of the most accurate laser thermometers are found within this price range. The products here typically have the best measuring accuracy and pack advanced features that match their price tag, like sturdy design, mounts, long-lasting battery, and a high distance-to-spot ratio.
Emissivity is the level of heat reflectiveness of a surface. Different surfaces come with varying emissivity levels, and you’ll need an infrared thermometer with an adjustable emissivity so that it can conform to the surface that's reflecting the heat. Gadgets with an adjustable emissivity of about 0.1 to 1.0 are preferable. An emissivity of 0.95 is also good enough for reading temperatures on metal, walls, and pipes, but it wouldn't be able to scan oil, water, or glass.
The ideal temperature range for a car thermometer is about -50 to 1,487 degrees Fahrenheit. Although there are some high-end gadgets that spot such a high-temperature range, most products in the market have a limited temperature range of -58 to 1,022 degrees Fahrenheit. Such a range is good enough for automotive use and domestic applications.
Distance-To-Spot (D:S) Ratio
The distance-to-spot ratio is a measure of how far you can hold the temperature gun in relation to the area of the surface. Most temperature guns have a distance-to-spot ratio of 12:1, which typically means that you need to hold the gun 12 inches away from a 1-inch surface. The larger the surface, the farther you have to hold the gun.
- Accuracy: A thermometer that comes with a high-quality infrared sensor and an adjustable emissivity will most likely give an accurate reading. The best IR thermometers have an accuracy of ±1 percent, but anything below the accuracy of ±2 percent is also good enough.
- Readability: The thermometer should display values that are easy to read and understand. A well-lit display also comes in handy when working underneath your car.
- Warranty: Go for a product with a manufacturer's warranty that protects you from workmanship defects. Most manufacturers back their temperature guns with a one-year warranty.
Best Infrared Thermometer Reviews & Recommendations 2020
- You can use a simple ice bath to calibrate the thermometer. Fill a large bowl with water and crushed ice and let it sit for about three minutes. Set your thermometer to an emissivity of 0.95 and hold it above the bowl so that the lens is perpendicular to the surface of the water. Turn on the thermometer and wait until it reads a temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Infrared thermometers do not give the best reading from reflective or shiny surfaces. The darker the surface, the more accurate the reading. You need a gadget with an adjustable emissivity setting to get the best reading from a reflective surface. Also, the infrared thermometer can’t measure any object behind glass. It will measure the temperature of the glass itself.
- Cover the laser beam when you aren’t using the thermometer to avoid overworking the gun by pointing it at unwanted surfaces. Remove the cover gently when you want to use the gun to avoid damaging the lens. As soon as you’re done with the measurements, store the gun in a cool, dry place with the cover back on to protect the lens from moisture and dust.
- To increase the lifespan of the battery, remove your finger from the trigger as soon as you are done taking the measurements. Holding the trigger any longer than necessary will cause the gun to hit objects that don’t need to be measured, which drains the battery faster.
Q: Is it safe to use infrared thermometers on humans?
A: Yes, it’s safe to use a non-contact infrared thermometer for detecting fever in both children and adults. Just hold the thermometer 6 inches from the patient’s forehead, and it will take the reading. However, medical thermometers are by far more accurate than most handheld infrared thermometers, which are designed for measuring hot objects.
Q: How often do I need to calibrate my infrared thermometer?
A: First off, you should calibrate a new thermometer right before using it. You should also calibrate it if you drop it, after you charge it, or right after you measure a variety of extreme temperatures, like boiling and freezing temperatures. Generally, you should calibrate your device every time you feel it’s a bit off.
Q: How accurate are infrared thermometers?
A: It depends on the quality of the thermometer you choose. IR thermometers come with different levels of speed and accuracy, and some top of the line products have the best accuracy of ±1 percent. The more you spend on the infrared thermometer and hope that it's from a high-end brand, the more accurate it is.
We chose the FLUKE 62 MAX Kit as our top pick due to its minimalistic design, accuracy, and speed when it comes to measuring surfaces.
If you are on a tight budget, you could try the BLACK+DECKER Thermal Leak Detector, which is one of the best cheap infrared thermometers.