The 10 Best Infrared Thermometers
This wiki has been updated 21 times since it was first published in March of 2016. While these infrared thermometers aren't designed for checking if your little one has a fever, they are quite useful for non-contact applications in the construction, automotive, and culinary fields. Their IR beams can measure minimum, maximum, and average temperatures of stationary objects, making it easy to calibrate expensive cooking equipment or detect hot spots and leaks in HVAC systems. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best infrared thermometer on Amazon.
August 22, 2019:
Unlike a standard digital thermometer, the infrared thermometer is designed to measure temperature ranges, differences, and averages without actually coming into direct contact with the stationary object it's measuring. How would this be useful? Well, consider that a traditional thermometer doesn't typically measure the temperature of objects that could potentially be dangerous to touch without protective equipment. As an example, let's imagine you're diagnosing a problem with an electrical system. As an electrician, you're not about to use a digital thermometer designed to take your kid's temperature as a means of detecting faulty wires. In addition to a handy pair of electrician gloves, you're going to use something more robust with an ability to measure the temperature of those wires from a distance. One of these infrared thermometers can give you the accuracy needed to determine temperature differences and whether there may be faulty wires around the house. Granted, this is just one example of the tool's application, but you can understand and appreciate the distinction between it and its more traditional counterpart.
The Fluke 561 is one exception on the list, given that its two-in-one design allows it to measure temperatures by non-contact and direct contact. It also comes with a thermocouple pipe probe. I thought the Etekcity Lasergrip was a worthy option, thanks to its ability to scan, hold, and record live data while also displaying the average temperature between two measurement points. I added the BTMeter Digital for its 50-to-one distance-to-spot ratio and built-in flashlight. The Flir TG56 Spot is extremely intuitive, thanks to its color display and graphical menu interface. The compact design of the Fluke 62 Max Plus makes it easy to clip onto most tool belts. It is also both water- and dust-resistant. Because of its fast response time, adjustable emissivity, and dual laser pointers, the EnnoLogic Temperature Gun is a great option for calibrating cooking appliances. I also included the Amprobe IR-730 for its ability to simultaneously display the current, maximum, and minimum temperatures recorded from an object, making it well-suited for helping you find hot and cold spots in HVAC systems or pipes. Finally, I included the Nubee Dual Laser for its programmable high and low temperature alerts.
A More Powerful Thermometer
How exactly does an infrared thermometer measure the temperature of an object without being in direct contact with it?
For situations where you need to measure the temperatures of objects from a distance, you should consider a good infrared thermometer.
When most people think of thermometers, the small devices that they place in their mouth or on their forehead to check if they have a fever are likely the first things that come to mind. Yet, while these medical thermometers are very effective for checking a person's body temperature, they aren't useful for much more.
Not only do they have a limited measurement range, but they are also contact devices. This means that they need to be in direct contact with the surface that they are measuring, making them impossible to use with objects that have temperatures that are high enough to melt metal or plastic. For situations where you need to measure the temperatures of objects from a distance, you should consider a good infrared thermometer.
How exactly does an infrared thermometer measure the temperature of an object without being in direct contact with it? Each object in the world radiates thermal energy. The hotter an object is, the more of this energy it contains. Infrared thermometers use a detector that transforms thermal energy into electronic signals that can be read on the screen in less than a second. Most of these devices use a laser pointer to measure an exact area. This combination of versatility and speed makes an infrared thermometer an essential addition to your toolkit, whether you're an engineer working long hours in the plant or someone looking to make several repairs around the house.
While the first prototype of the infrared thermometer was patented at the start of the 20th century, the first commercial model wasn't introduced until the 1930s. Over the next few decades, scientists from all over the world further developed infrared technology, largely for military reasons. Today, infrared thermometers are widely available and are valuable tools for many professionals.
The Many Uses Of Infrared Thermometers
While probes and contact thermometers are generally more accurate than their infrared counterparts, there are many situations where non-contact devices are ideal. Infrared thermometers are best used with objects that cannot be touched, such as when the surface is too far away to reach or too hot to touch.
They can also be used to measure frozen foods that are difficult to puncture with probes.
Many people working in construction, manufacturing, or mining use infrared thermometers daily. This is because they frequently have to interact with objects that can be dangerous, such as molten metal, electrical equipment, and degreasing units.
One of the most common uses of infrared thermometers is to measure the temperature of moving things. This can include objects on a conveyor belt, particularly inside manufacturing plants. In some professions, these devices are also used to take the temperature of living organisms, such as animals in their natural habitat.
These devices can also be used to take the temperature of food. They are especially useful for food that carries the risk of contamination, which makes a great infrared thermometer invaluable for health inspectors and food manufacturers. They can also be used to measure frozen foods that are difficult to puncture with probes.
Infrared thermometers have plenty of use around the house, too. For DIY experts, they can be handy for hard-to-reach areas, such as air conditioner ducts. They can also be used to check the surface of a grill, so you know exactly when to begin the barbecue.
Choosing The Right Infrared Thermometer
There are many factors that go into choosing the perfect infrared thermometer for you.
One of these factors is accuracy. Most infrared thermometers are accurate up to a certain temperature, after which their accuracy tends to vary between models of varying prices. High-end models are typically accurate within one percent of the reading.
For example, if a thermometer has a distance-to-spot ratio of 15 to one, it can detect the temperature of a one-inch circle from a distance of 15 inches.
Unless you use these devices in a professional setting, the distance-to-spot ratio can be a bit tricky to understand. It essentially measures how well a thermometer can sense a small, specific area from a great distance. For example, if a thermometer has a distance-to-spot ratio of 15 to one, it can detect the temperature of a one-inch circle from a distance of 15 inches. If the D:S ratio is smaller, then you would have to get closer to the object to maintain the one-inch circle.
Another factor to keep in mind is whether the model you are purchasing has a fixed or an adjustable emissivity. Emissivity is the measure of how much infrared energy an object can emit on its own. Objects with a high emissivity, such as living things, tend to mostly emit their own thermal energy. On the other hand, objects with a low emissivity, such as metals, tend to reflect the thermal energy of their environment. This results in poorer readings for thermometers with a fixed emissivity. If you will be using your infrared thermometer to measure the temperatures of a variety of surfaces, then one with an adjustable emissivity is ideal.
If you work in a rough environment and are exposed to the elements, you may want to consider picking up a shockproof model. These often have rubberized bodies that protect the internal components from damage, allowing them to function even after being dropped several times. You may also want to consider a water resistant unit if you work somewhere near a body of water.
Just like any device you need to use for extended periods of time, you should also consider how comfortable it is to grip. Depending on the shape, material, and size of the model, infrared thermometers are easier on the hand than others.
Lastly, if you intend to use an infrared thermometer heavily, then you should take note of its battery life. While most models should be able to last for a full day in the field before you need to charge them, it's still best to take their longevity into consideration, especially if you need to use it constantly in your line of work.
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