LAST UPDATED: June 27, 2019
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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PUBLISHED ON June 27, 2019
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
If you're looking for an all-purpose infrared thermometer, the Fluke 62 is an excellent choice. Even better, you can opt for an entire kit to help you monitor electrical, mechanical, HVAC, and automotive systems. With the help of a digital multimeter, a thermometer, and an HVAC multimeter, you’ll be able to tackle all your jobs in a breeze.
The thermometer measures temperatures from -22 to 932-degrees Fahrenheit, and it offers impressive accuracy. You'll be able to get the minimum, the maximum, and the average temperature readings. Another great thing about this product is the rugged exterior that is IP54-rated. That means it's resistant to water, dirt, dust, and other harmful particles. Still, the sturdy housing doesn't make the device bulky. The thermometer is compact, easy to carry around, and ergonomically designed.
The main drawback of this product regards the included manual. It's vague and difficult to understand, which can be very inconvenient for first-time users. Also, the kit is more suitable for commercial purposes. With all the included accessories, it’s quite pricey and DIYers might not be able to afford it in the first place.
Black and Decker offers a budget-friendly infrared thermometer for DIYers and homeowners. The device allows for measuring surface temperatures and tracking power-draining drafts. It's one of those tools you want to have within hands reach for home purposes, especially when it comes to insulation issues.
With the measuring range from -30 to 150 degrees, the device is quite efficient in detecting most standard temperature issues. It works on a 9V battery and features an LCD display. Overall, the thermometer is easy to set up and use. All you need to do is move it around the desired area and follow the indicator lights. There's even a guide to fixing basic energy leaks for complete beginners. A two-year warranty is also included in the package.
Keep in mind that this device is not quite as accurate as high-end infrared thermometers. It's an inexpensive option that allows you to pinpoint the temperature in a certain area, but that's about it. You also might have a minor inconvenience with the battery cover, as it tends to fall off.
This is a two-in-one device you can use for all kinds of applications. The infrared thermometer allows for reading the surface temperatures, and it features a fold-out probe. This built-in tool allows for measuring the food temperature, and it's quite handy for home purposes.
The thermometer can measure from -67 to 626 degrees Fahrenheit, and the probe detects from -67 to 482 degrees Fahrenheit. The device is rather efficient and accurate. It's very easy to use, too, and it comes with comprehensive instructions for first-time users, in case you run into any issues. Additionally, the housing is IP65-rated, which means it's very durable and protected from outdoor threats. A one-year warranty is included in the package, too.
The main drawback of this device is that it's not very intuitive. It might be a little challenging to get used to it, especially when it comes to reading the temperature ratings. Also, the probe might come loose after a while, so you might need to tighten or glue it
Fluke offers a high-quality set that proves to be very useful for measuring temperature in HVAC systems. It's also convenient for manufacturing, electrical, and industrial purposes. With an incredibly accurate thermometer and a built-in probe, this device ensures efficiency when used with all kinds of applications.
The unit measures the temperature from -40 to 1022 degrees Fahrenheit. It features a thermocouple pipe probe that has a hook-and-loop fastener for simple handling. Overall, the device is easy to use. It comes with a comprehensive manual and offers a long lifespan. You'll even get a sturdy case for transportation and storage.
The main drawback of this set is the price. It's on the expensive side and might not be the perfect option for those who are on a limited budget. Some buyers also complained about the position of the switch that changes between Celsius and Fahrenheit. It's located inside the battery compartment and difficult to access.
The Etekcity infrared thermometer is a budget-friendly device you can use for all kinds of applications around the house. It's perfect for homeowners and DIYers who need to measure the surface temperature of an area to tackle their projects. A lot of people use this device to make food, candles, soaps, and similar items.
The thermometer measures temperatures ranging from -58 to 716-degrees Fahrenheit. It's fairly accurate and features an LCD screen for easier readings. There's even an automatic shut-off feature that prolongs the battery life and an indicator light to let you know about its status.
The device is compact, lightweight, and ergonomically designed. It features a sturdy ABS housing that fits perfectly in the hand and has a long lifespan. Overall, it's very easy to use and allows for quick temperature readings.
Keep in mind that this thermometer is not ideal for measuring body temperature. It might be off by two or three degrees, which is quite a lot when it comes to the human body. Overall, this thermometer is inexpensive and ideal for home purposes, but not strong and accurate enough for industrial and commercial purposes.
Once again, Fluke has a quality infrared thermometer for consumers. This time, it's all about a high-end device suitable for electrical, mechanical, and HVAC applications. Although it can be used by everyone, this thermometer is built for professionals and commercial purposes.
The thermometer measures temperatures from -40 to 1472 degrees Fahrenheit. It's rather accurate and able to pick up the temperature from different surface types. All you need to do is scout the area, use the laser to pinpoint the measurement zone, and wait for the device to get you the ratings. The thermometer works on all kinds of objects, from monitors and pipes to insulation and wires. Additionally, it comes with a rugged exterior that can withstand quite some abuse and last a long time.
The main issue with this product is the price. The device is on the expensive side and not suitable for those who are looking for inexpensive options. Considering the fact it's built for commercial use, the thermometer is also a little bulky. You might want to find a separate casing for storage and transportation.
Thermal cameras are another type of infrared thermometers, but they are much more powerful and accurate. They allow you not only to get the temperature readings, but also see the measurements with your own eyes. The camera shows you all issues in real-time and stunning details, so you can act accordingly and on time.
The camera measures temperatures from 14 to 122-degrees Fahrenheit. It comes with a lanyard, a charger, a USB cable, and the necessary manual. Overall, the camera is simply designed and easy to figure out. It's a pocket-sized device that can be easily stored and transported. You can use it for checking energy loss, insulation issues, air infiltration, and other defects.
The biggest issue with thermal cameras is the price. They are quite expensive, so those who need thermometers for home purposes might want to consider less expensive pen-like devices. When it comes to the camera itself, the only thing missing is the protective case that would keep the lens safe from scratches and other damage.
- 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.