So there I was, finally fixing up my attic heating.
The last thing I needed was an exact reading of my floor temperature. To make sure that the heating is working as it's supposed to.
The problem was... I had nothing to measure it with. So, I decided to go and get myself an infrared thermometer.
Sounds simple, right? Well -
You're in for a surprise.
Because there is a whole world out there. A whole world of infrared thermometers.
Check this out:
It turns out that infrared thermometers are also used for measuring the temperature of:
- Heck, some people even use them to measure the temperature of their kids...
I didn't need any of that.
I was just looking for a thermometer that would read my floor and wall temperatures correctly. Easy stuff.
But while I was looking for one... I ended up learning A LOT about these devices.
And since I couldn't find a single easy-to-read and useful guide online... I decided to do this little write-up. More specifically:
- How To Choose An Infrared Thermometer
- Things To Look At
- Things To NOT Look At
- 7 Best Infrared Thermometers For Anything
- Best Overall
- Best For Ruggedness & Toughness
- Best Budget
- Best For Cooking
- The Absolute Cheapest (and is it worth it?)
- Limitations Of Infrared Thermometers
- How Infrared Thermometers Work
- And What's A NISA Certification?
Side note: This is a simple review. This ain't a physics lesson. We're a survival magazine, after all. I'm going to focus on the usability and the QUALITY of the actual product. As well as all the things that you need to know before buying it.
How To Choose A Good Infrared Thermometer
Accuracy Is King
It's the #1 thing that separates the best infrared thermometers from the rest.
Generally, you can expect an accuracy of:
- +-1% on more expensive thermometers
- +-2% on cheaper ones
Side note: I couldn't find a single infrared thermometer that had less than 2% accuracy.
If we take 70 Fahrenheit as an example room temperature, you'll have:
- 69.3 - 70.7 with expensive thermometers (+-1%)
- 68.6 - 71.4 with cheaper ones (+-2%)
I don't know about you, but that's not a whole lot of to me.
Unless you're working in a research lab, that one Fahrenheit won't make a big difference for your readings.
Takeaway: All infrared thermometers on the market today are fairly accurate.
Surfaces You're Measuring (Emissivity)
Most infrared thermometers come ready to use right out of the box.
Meaning that you can measure walls, pipes, floors, metals and other solid surfaces around the house without adjusting the settings on your thermometer.
But here's the deal -
If you want to measure the temperature of something like:
- Oily surfaces
You'll need to get yourself a professional infrared thermometer with a setting called adjustable emissivity.
The emissivity scale goes from 0 to 1 and you'll need to tweak it based on how reflective the surface is. For example, the manual on mine says that 0.97 emissivity is good for ice and 0.95-0.98 for water.
The good news is -
Most infrared thermometers on the market today ship with adjustable emissivity.
Takeaway: You only need adjustable emissivity to measure temperature of surfaces like water and glass.
Side note: Emissivity is usually LOCKED on 0.95 on cheaper infrared thermometers. Those will most likely be good enough for your needs.
What About Warranty?
So where does this leave us?
Most thermometers on the market will get the job done because:
- Even the cheapest ones are accurate enough (+-2%)
- Most of them come with adjustable emissivity, allowing them to measure any surface
So far so good. But I'm leaving out one extremely important detail... durability.
Because let's be honest, we don't want to buy a new infrared thermometer every year. We want to get one that lasts - a device that we can rely on.
And guess what?
Warranty is the #1 indicator of quality.
It's a simple way to see if the company is willing to stand behind their product or not.
And when it comes to infrared thermometers - most come with 2-3 years of warranty. The shortest warranty I managed to find was 30 days (!).
But there is a company that offers 10 years of warranty on their devices. And it doesn't cost much more than the competition. But more on that in the review section...
Ease Of Use and Reliability
A.k.a. customer reviews.
Because there are products that look good on paper... but are loaded with issues in reality.
"Made in China" is not bad. But combined with poor quality control, it's a recipe for disaster.
So, I double-checked that all infrared thermometers on my list have good customer reviews.
P.S. There were quite a few thermometers that didn't make it to the list because of customer complaints.
4 Things You SHOULDN'T Consider When Buying
Here's a list of stuff that you shouldn't worry about:
- Distance To Spot Ratio
- Temperature range
- Reading Speed
- Battery Life
- Fancy displays
Distance To Spot Ratio - is about the same on all infrared thermometers (12:1 or 10:1). Basically means that you can measure heat from far away. All modern thermometers have a good distance-to-spot ratio.
Temperature Range - is well-covered on all modern thermometers. The lowest max temperature I've seen on a thermometer is 740 Fahrenheit. Most likely you're never going to measure over 572 degrees (~maximum oven temperature).
Temperature Reading Speed is THE SAME on all infrared thermometers - 500ms . You'll get an instant reading no matter which one you buy. It's is a common marketing trick - don't fall for it as all thermometers are equally "fast".
Battery Life - the way these things work is that you shoot a few times... and get back to work. No matter which thermometer you have - the battery is going to last you for months.
Fancy Displays look good, but you don't need them. You're getting an infrared thermometer to measure temperature... and you don't need a fancy screen to do that.
Best Infrared Thermometer Reviews
1. EnnoLogic eT650D Dual Laser - Best Overall
After hours of research, I ended up going with EnnoLogic eT650D Dual Laser.
It is the best infrared thermometer on the market because of its:
- Outstanding performance
- 10 whopping years of warranty
Let's take a closer look.
Key Features At A Glance
EnnoLogic eT650D is a top of the line device. This bad boy has all the features that you could possibly want:
- Temperature range between -58°F and 1202°F (-50°C to 650°C)
- Accuracy of ± (1% of reading + 1°C/2°F)
- Scanning feature with Min, Max, and Average display
- Two built-in laser pointers to precisely identify the target spot you're pointing at
- Large easy-to-read display with bright backlight
- Toggle between °F and °C
- Toggle backlight on and off
- Toggle laser on and off
- Distance to Spot Ratio 10:1
- Fast power-up and response time of ~500msec
- Adjustable emissivity provides increased accuracy for different materials
- Adjustable High/Low set points with audible alarm
- Ergonomic, attractive, rugged design
- Package includes one eT650D, Holster, 9V battery, and user manual
I can get reliable readings from about 2 - 2,5 feet away. The device also works from further away, but then the accuracy varies slightly. And is no longer within the "perfect 1%".
I like the dual laser feature for its precision. I can take a reading of a spot with ~5mm accuracy. While I don't need that kind of precision, I can see how this is useful for car mechanics - for example.
Plus the dual lasers just look cool. My kid loves them. So does my cat.
The maximum temperature (1202°F) is about 200°F higher than on cheaper thermometers.
If you hold down the trigger, you can a get continuous temperature reading of the surface that you're covering.
This way, you can scan your roof for insulation problems with one sweep. You won't have to press the button 100 times over different parts of your roof.
Finally, the device is very accurate. My readings have all fallen within 1% as is advertised by the company.
This infrared thermometer does everything that you might expect of one. There is not a single feature that I'm missing here.
P.S. The user manual is in simple English and easy to read.
Now let's talk a bit about the downsides.
I found the battery cover a little hard to open up. I had to use a screwdriver to get it open.
Then - for some reason - it is common for people to break their battery doors when switching the battery.
Personally, I haven't had that problem. And I don't imagine how someone might be able to break the battery door. Then again, I don't know how clumsy the average American is.
So, there are two takeaways about the downsides:
- Keep in mind that the battery door can be hard to open
- Be extra careful when changing the battery on your device
And now we get to my favorite part.
10 years of warranty baby.
There is a certain sense of satisfaction in buying a product once... and getting a guaranteed 10 years of use out of it.
This thermometer is built to last - kind-of reminds me of my G-Shock.
Think about it -
If you split the price over 10 years (120 months) you're paying only ~40 cents per month for a quality infrared thermometer. It's peanuts.
You're getting way more value than you would with a cheaper thermometer (that might break on you in a few years or months).
Ennologic eT650D costs a tad bit more than the cheaper thermometers on the market. But the features are great - and the fact that the warranty lasts for 10 years make it the best infrared thermometer you can get.
2. Fluke 62 MAX - Most Rugged
Fluke is the benchmark of quality when it comes infrared thermometers. They're the brand that all other thermometers are measured against.
3 important things to know about Fluke 62 MAX is that:
- It's Water Resistant (IP54 certified)
- It's Dust Resistant (IP54 certified)
- It's Shock-Proof (for drops up to 3m)
This resistance makes Fluke 62 Max suitable for professional use on construction sites and the like. This is an infrared thermometer that you can bang around without a problem.
Let's take a closer look.
Key Features At A Glance
- 3-meter drop tested
- 12:1 distance to spot ratio
- Displays the minimum, the maximum, the difference between the two temperatures, and the average temperatures
- Single and Dual Laser models available
- Certified IP54 for protection against dust and splashing liquid
- Large, backlit display — makes data easier to read, even in dark areas
- Ergonomically designed for a natural hand fit
- Measures temperature from -30 to +500 degrees C (-20 to +932 degrees F) with an accuracy of +- 1.5%
- Small and lightweight - easy to clip to your tool belt or belt loop
Still, there are 3 common complaints that I found people having with Fluke:
First, There have been cases with the trigger failing after a few years of use. If you're lucky, you'll still have Fluke's 2-year warranty when the device breaks down.
Side note: That's why I appreciate Ennologic's 10-year warranty so much. If the device breaks within 10 years, they HAVE TO replace it with no questions asked. That's not the case with Fluke.
Second, the manual is bad. There's very little text and mostly pictures - kind-of like furniture instructions from IKEA. There isn't even a table of common emissivities in the manual.
Finally, Fluke 62 Max doesn't have a data bank. You can't record your readings. And there should be some way to do this. Especially at their high price point.
Unfortunately, Fluke only gives you 2 years of warranty (compared to Ennologic's 10 years).
The temperature range is also more narrow than Ennologic (lower max. temp.). Not that you need it that high... but still.
Finally, accuracy is 1.5% instead of the 1% that you would expect for the money.
The Bottom Line
Fluke 62 Max is worth it if:
- You need the IP54 dust/water resistance
- You need the 3 meter shock resistance
- And you don't mind the 2-year warranty
Otherwise... I would expect more from Fluke at its price point. Especially when we compare their 2-year warranty to Ennologic's 10 years.
Fluke 62 Max is not a bad device. It's just that there are better, cheaper, and more reliable infrared thermometers out there with x5 longer warranty.
Note that you can order Fluke 62 Max Plus with two lasers (just select the option in the menu).
You'll only need those 2 lasers if you measure objects up close - say 5-10 inches. Because the normal laser will always point slightly above the target area.
3. Etekcity Lasergrip 774 - Best Budget
The most special thing about Etekcity Lasergrip 774 is its price. You can get yourself a bare-bones infrared thermometer for less than $20.
And that's impressive.
Let's take a closer look.
Key Features At A Glance
- Distance to Spot Ratio is 12:1
- +- 2% accuracy
- A backlit LCD screen
- An Auto-Off function to extend the battery life
- low battery indicator so you never accidentally run out of juice (battery included)
- 2-Year Warranty by Etekcity
Side note: For best accuracy, Etekcity recommends that the distance between the thermometer and object of measurement should approximately be 14.17 inches (36cm).
The features are basic, but get the job done. A fair deal for the price.
Etekcity 774 has everything that you need. With no frills attached.
Still, there are many low-cost thermometers on the market. Why should you get this one?
- Etekcity specializes in these instruments (it's not a Chinese hit-and-run company)
- This particular model has great user feedback
For the price I really can't complain much. Majority of the customer feedback is also positive.
Still, QC issues are more common when compared to higher end infrared thermometers. Here are some issues that people have had trouble with:
- Occasional inaccurate temperature readings (5-10 degrees off)
- Bad wiring
- Units stopping to work after a few weeks
Note that the issues above are not widespread. They happen because of bad quality control, as with all budget devices.
At +-2% accuracy, Etekcity 774 is not as accurate as other thermometers.
Finally, the build quality is not as strong as more expensive thermometers. I wouldn't beat this one around too much.
If you're looking for a cheap and basic infrared thermometer - I recommend Etekcity 774.
At the end of the day you're getting exceptional value for your money. That you'll have a hard time finding elsewhere.
Note: If you want advanced features like adjustable emissivity on a budget, check out the Etekcity 1022D. Or the 1025D below.
4. Etekcity Lasergrip 1025D - Best Budget Dual-Laser & Voltage Detection
Etekcity 1025D is the Best Budget Dual Laser infrared thermometer that you'll find on the market.
Whether you're fixing engines, checking commercial ventilation systems, or fixing your attic heating...
Sometimes you need that extra precision that two lasers give you. Without breaking the bank. And that's what 1025D is for.
The best thing is, this thermometer is packed with a bunch of other features as well.
Let's take closer look.
Key Features At A Glance
- Precise Dual laser technology
- 12:1 Distance to spot ratio
- Temperatures from -58°F to 1022°F (-50°C to 550°C)
- Adjustable Emissivity to measure different surfaces
- Other key features include: ºF and ºC capable
- Max Measurement Hold
- Automatic Data Hold
- Low Battery Indicator
- Auto-Off to save battery
- Non-Contact Voltage Detection
- 9V battery included
- 2-Year warranty
90V-600V Non-Contact Voltage Mode lets you safely test whether there is live AC voltage in the area - without actually touching it. Note that infrared thermometers usually don't have this function.
How it works: Point and shoot. Lines on the Lasergrip screen will indicate the voltage level. And steady beeping will indicate the location of the maximum voltage.
Note that you won't get a precise number of volts. All you can do is test whether there is voltage or not.
Otherwise, this thermometer has all the features you need and more. Good reviews all around, too.
It's hard to point out downsides considering how little you're paying for it. If not for Ennologic's 10 years of warranty, this thermometer would be #1 or #2 on the list.
Just keep in mind that the voltage meter doesn't show you the exact voltage... and you won't be disappointed.
Etekcity 1025D is right for you if you:
- Need the Dual-Laser precision on a budget
- Need the non-contact voltage meter as a part of the deal
If that's the case, you won't find a better deal than this. Go ahead and -
5. SURPEER IR5D - Best For Cooking
Surpeer IR5D is an infrared thermometer set that comes with an internal meat thermometer included. They made this one specifically for cooking.
And let me tell you - that meat thermometer is a great thing to have.
My meat roasting skills went through the roof ever since I got one.
The best thing is -
My wife still doesn't know my secret. As in - how I managed to go from zero to hero in roasting meat.
She still suspects that I'm secretly ordering the dinner from a nearby restaurant. (And you know what - I'll do my best to keep it that way)
All in all, this is a fantastic infrared thermometer set for cooking... that does much more than you'd expect it to.
Let's take a closer look.
Key Features At A Glance
- Accuracy ±1.5℃/±1.5%
- Adjustable Emissivity
- Distance to spot ratio 12:1
- Temperature range 58℉～1022℉
- High/Low Temperature Alarm
- LCD Backlight on/off
- Max/Min/Average/Difference values for temperature readings
- 6 - 12 months battery life under normal use
- 2 year warranty
Free long-probe electric meat thermometer has the following:
- 304 food grade stainless steel
- High accuracy (±1℃/℉)
- 10 minutes auto-off
- Temperature range 58℉～572℉
The infrared thermometer performs just as well as my Ennologic and Etekcity models.
As I said before, I love the internal meat thermometer.
If you're looking for a cooking infrared thermometer, Surpeer IR5D is your thing.
Especially when you consider how cheap this bad boy is... it's a real no-brainer.
I had a very positive experience with using the meat thermometer for roasting... if you don't have one in your kitchen yet, you're missing out.
6. Helect Infrared Thermometer - The Absolute Cheapest
Helect is your basic Chinese infrared thermometer. You'll find this model selling under many different brands on Amazon.
And there's nothing special about it - except for its dirt-cheap price.
You get a functioning infrared thermometer with only the bare necessities included.
It'll get the job done. But don't be surprised to when it breaks down on you... or when you find quality control problems.
Key Features At A Glance
- Measurement range: -50°C to 550°C/ -58°F to 1022°F
- °C/°F switchable
- Automatic data hold
- Backlit LCD
- Low battery indicator
- Auto power off function
- 9V Battery included
- Distance Spot Ratio: 12:1
- Anti-slip design
Helect gets the job done... but I wouldn't rely on it long term.
Get this one if you're on a real tight budget. Or if you only need to use the thermometer once.
Because it costs only a few bucks less than the Etekcity 774. If possible, I would go for Etekcity instead. At least you'll get their 2 years of warranty.
7. BONUS: Perfect-Prime IR0002 - An Actual Thermal Camera/Imager
Wait... An Actual Thermal Imaging Camera? With a tiny screen attached to it?
Perfect-Prime IR0002 is as good as it gets when it comes to handheld infrared thermometers. It does everything that other handheld thermometers do.
But its real benefit is that:
It's extremely useful for finding small temperature variations in an area. Let's take an example - finding a heat leak on your roof.
With a normal infrared thermometer, you would go around the roof looking for heat leaks. Since you only have one laser, you'd be looking for a needle in a haystack.
With Perfect-Prime IR0002, you just take one look at your roof through the screen. And if there is a heat leak - you'll see the temperature difference on the screen.
Pretty cool, huh?
But I won't bore you too much with the specs on this one.
Because The Bottom Line Is
I know I can't.
The good thing is that you probably don't need it either. A normal infrared thermometer will be 99% enough for all your needs.
(Unless you heat roofs for a living)
Frequently Asked Questions
Infrared Thermometer Limitations
It's good to know what an infrared thermometer can do... and what it can't do.
Let's take a look.
- Can only measure surface temperatures
- DO NOT measure the internal temperature of food/other materials
- Require adjustments depending on the surface being measured
- Can be temporarily affected by frost, moisture, dust, fog, smoke or other particles in the air
- Can be temporarily affected by rapid changes in ambient temperature
- Can be temporarily affected by proximity to a radio frequency (with an electromagnetic field strength of three volts per meter or greater)
- Do not see through glass, liquids or other transparent surfaces - even though visible light like a laser passes through them (i.e. if you point an IR gun at a window, you'll be measuring the temperature of the window pane, not the outside temperature)
In some cases, Infrared Thermometers can be MORE accurate than a surface probe. That's because surface probes have their own temperature and that temperature can affect the surface being measured (by coming into contact with it).
How To Use An Infrared Thermometer?
- Turn it on
- Point and SHOOT!
And it's probably obvious - but don't stand too far away from your target.
The laser gets weaker with distance. You'll get bad readings if you're far away.
I usually measure as close as possible. But you don't need to be extremely close or anything.
Just shoot a couple of times and if the reading is constant - you're game.
How does an Infrared Thermometer Work?
The way infrared thermometers work is fascinating.
(But prepare your brain - because this might get a little complicated.)
Every material consists of molecules. That includes:
- The floor that I'm standing on
- And the morning coffee that I'm drinking
It's all molecules.
And if the material is not frozen, the molecules inside of it are always moving. The higher the temperature of the material, the faster the molecules inside of it move.
And here's where it all comes together:
Molecules emit infrared radiation as they move. The more they move, the more radiation they emit.
For example -
You know how metal gets red or white when it is real hot? That light is molecules moving inside metal. Super-fast. They're emitting so much radiation that it turns into light.
And that's where the infrared thermometer comes in. The system has three parts:
- The Lens
- The Detector (also called thermopile)
The lens captures the infrared light and transmits it into the detector.
The detector (thermopile) takes the infrared light and converts it into heat. The more infrared light it takes, the hotter it gets.
Finally, the heat from thermopile gets converted into electricity. And based on this electricity - the thermometer determines the temperature of the object.
Side note: most articles out there explaining how these things work are very technical and, well... hard to read and understand. So I did my best to explain this in plain English. It is a very fascinating topic - you can learn more about it from the original sources here, here, and here. Also check out the wikipedia article on infrared thermometers.
What Is A NIST Certification?
Infrared thermometers with a NIST certification (National Institute of Standards and Technology) have been calibrated according to the NIST standard.
Basically, they have been field tested for accuracy by an official tester (third party).
You have to pay a little bit extra to get a NIST certification.
Certified thermometers are mostly used in hospitals and research labs. If you're not working in a research lab, you don't need a NIST-certified infrared thermometer.
The Final Word
Infrared thermometer is a great device to have lying around your home.
Especially if you have cats:
I hope you learned something new about infrared thermometers today.
(I know I did while writing this guide)
I also hope that I helped you pick the right infrared thermometer for your needs.
If that's not the case - and/or if you think that I should add something to this article - please let me know in the comments below.