Infrared (IR) Thermometers
When you are working in an industrial environment or with things that you cannot or do not want to get close enough to measure with a contact thermometer, an infrared thermometer can give you a very accurate reading from a distance. Infrared thermometers essentially work the same way as light meters, though in a wavelength that is not visible to the human eye. Things that emit heat radiate it through infrared emissions; the brighter the object in the infrared spectrum, the hotter it is.

When looking for an infrared thermometer, the features to consider are:

  • Temperature range - Generally, the thermometers can read temperatures from below zero (Fahrenheit) to several hundred degrees above it. Wider ranges are available if you need to work with frozen gases or molten steel.
  • Accuracy - Almost any instrument will work if you are only interested in a reading within a few degrees of the actual surface temperature of the object you are measuring. More accurate meters can have errors well less than a degree and be used for clinical measurements of people.
  • Distance to object - How far away you can measure the temperature of an object depends on the degree of focus of the pickup lens. The greater the temperature extremes you work with, the greater the distance to object capability you will want.
  • Weight and size - Most thermometers look and handle like a gun. That is very convenient for pointing, but usually carries a penalty of a pound or two in weight. Extremely lightweight models may be no larger than a several ounce small flashlight and fit in your front shirt pocket.

  • Targeting beam - Many infrared thermometers have a laser pointer built into them that allows you to see exactly what you are pointing at. A must if you have a narrow focus meter and work at some range from your subject.
  • Reading hold - Many infrared thermometers allow you to capture a reading into memory and hold it for display. Perfect for places where you want to get in, make a reading, and get back out.

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