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Infrared Thermometer Guide & Best Uses

Infrared Thermometer - Leak Detection

Infrared thermometers or laser thermometers as they are commonly known as are one of the tools the that our leak detection specialist engineers and water damage management experts utilise. They carry with them and use on a regular basis for a number of various uses, which we will explain in this article in more detail.

But why is this and what are they useful for especially in the work that we do? In this informative article we explain and share some useful hints and tips on how infrared thermometers can be used.

Laser Thermometer
Laser Thermometer

What is an Infrared Thermometer?

In layman’s terms, an infrared thermometer is a device which measures thermal radiation from objects using lasers and sensors on the device. Very importantly they are a form of non contact infrared thermometer and give more or less instant temperature readings. They are utilised in a wide variety of industries including in water leak detection work. but they also have other applications including for medical purposes in some situations.

Infrared Laser Thermometers
Infrared Laser Thermometers

Many of you will have seen how medical versions of infrared thermometers were utilised regularly across the UK and the world during the COVID-19 pandemic to quickly and easily measure peoples temperature, which can be a quick and rapid indication of a virus or fever.

Many infrared thermometers are held in the hand with a trigger style action, hence why they are sometimes known as ‘infrared thermometer guns’. At the front end of the device is normally where the laser emits from and usually has a sensor / receiver to record the returning signal and measure temperature. Which brings us onto a very important area!

Infrared Thermometer - Safety Warning
Infrared Thermometer – Safety Warning

Infrared Thermometer Safety

It is important to point out that like many devices utilising lasers, safety is a very important factor. This is especially the case with human (or animal) eyes, even on reflective surfaces. Make sure you read all the safety notices contained within the manual of any infrared thermometers at only you some within manufacturers recommended guidelines.

How to Use Infrared Thermometers

Because there is such a wide variety of infrared thermometers on the market each will work in different ways, at different distances, with different sensitivities different levels of accuracy. Check the instructions for your particular model to see how to use it optimally. that said, typically, They can work anything from a few centimetres or inches away up too many metres or feet away.

Most that have a range of laser readings the further away you point it from the object the greater the spread of the dots used to take readings.

As the technology has progressed, infrared thermometers often show a number of readings on their screens including:

  • Surface temperature of the object being measured
  • Ambient temperature in the room
  • Relative humidity in the room
  • Other functions such as alarms / alerts
  • Options for centigrade or Fahrenheit
  • In some instances a dew point reading

All of these can be useful and be used as an indicator the further investigation using specialist devices, such as leak detection equipment, to understand these in greater detail.

Leak Detection Specialist Equipment
Leak Detection Specialist Equipment

How Accurate are Infrared Thermometers?

Devices are generally accurate for the purposes they are intended to be useful and give readings well within tolerance for many of their practical applications. they are also calibrated to make sure they give accurate readings over a range of temperatures. user manuals and guides for infrared motors normally tell their optimal operating range.

In some respects they operate on a similar basis to the thermal imaging leak detection tools that we use all be it at a much simpler and cheaper level, but the principles are the same. Typically, devices like this (and others) have calibrations checks on them regularly to help assure accuracy as they are used over time.

Infrared Thermometer - Reading Accuracy
Infrared Thermometer – Reading Accuracy

What are Infrared Thermometers Used for?

Other than the examples given above here are a few other industries that sometimes use infrared thermometers day to day:

  • Automotive repair mechanics
  • Central heating engineers
  • Construction workers (especially to test insulation)
  • HVAC engineers to test air conditioning and heating
  • Cooks and chefs to measure temperature of food
  • Firefighters to detect heat
  • Many other uses

In recent years the cost of such devices has dropped quite significantly and there are many mass market sold on places such as Amazon and other online retailers.

Some infrared thermometers have the ability to measure readings over a number of laser dots across the surface versus one, which kind of help to give a better overall reading for an area.

Infrared Thermometers and Leak Detection

So how is it interesting moments are useful for leak detection?

Well the first thing to say is that it is very unlikely you would find a water leak with an infrared thermometer alone, they are one of many leak detection tools used to accurately diagnose and locate water leaks.

Infrared thermometers are perhaps more commonly used in helping to diagnose types of damp condensation problems and mould (such as mould on walls), more on that later.

We mentioned in our article about dew point, that it is “the temperature at which air is cooled to in order for it to become saturated with moisture and so returns to a state of water”. This can happen when coming in to contact with a cold surface. This can be where a dew point calculator comes in very handy and also our dew point chart too.

Infrared laser thermometers can help quickly and easily see where cold spots and hot spots on a surface such as a wall or ceiling which may be an indication of a water leak, especially if it is something such as a central heating leak with hot water.

Condensation Problem
Condensation Problems

Infrared Thermometer – Condensation & Mould

as we have said in some of our other articles regarding condensation, damp and mould although these things can be caused by such things as a water leak, rising damp, penetrating damp etc. It is perhaps more common, that they are caused by with high relative humidity coming into contact with cold surfaces causing the water vapour in the air to go from a gas to liquid state, settling as condensation on the surface. This in turn can be absorbed into things such as plaster on the walls, which can then be a fertile breeding ground for mould to form.

This is why ventilation in properties including bathroom extractor fans and a PIV unit can be beneficial in helping to prevent condensation damp and mould in properties, by replacing humid stale air with fresh (less humid) air in rooms.

Infrared Thermometer – Laser Patterns

The image below helps to show how infrared thermometers often have different laser patterns across which they measure the temperature of a surface. Some do this over a single point, some over a few, and others do so over a number of measurement points (an array).

Infrared Thermometer Laser
Infrared Thermometer – Various Laser Patterns

Each method has its pros and cons depending on what you are using the infrared thermometer for. That said, many of them have multiple applications, plus some have the option to vary the setup for different purposes, just as we said earlier with additional functions they have.

As with many tools, the phrase ‘you get what you pay for’ is relevant. That said, as the technology has progressed over the last few years, affordable or cheap laser thermometers have improved, just like many other devices that are massed produced. Remember though, always look for safe, certified devices.

We hope you found this article useful, here are a few others you may want to read on similar subjects to this one about infrared thermometers:

If you have need help finding a water leak at your home with our trace and access service, get in touch with our friendly team today. We offer these services to both domestic and commercial customers, including commercial leak detection.

As experts in both water damage restoration and leak detection, we have you covered. Find out more about various types of leak detection methods. logo logo

How accurate are infrared thermometers?

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Assuming you have a good quality infrared thermometer and it is calibrated correctly, it is likely to be very accurate at reading the temperature of surfaces. It will also measure decimal amounts of degrees Centigrade / Celsius or Fahrenheit. In fact, many infrared thermometers will likely cover a large range of temperatures and, in the information leaflet / product guide tell you how sensitive it is, within percentage points or amounts of degrees C.

What is infrared leak detection?

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Infrared leak detection utilising thermal imaging cameras and laser infrared thermometers can be used to directly or indirectly locate water leaks in homes and businesses. Both are used to collect evidence of a water leak, often in locations that are either hidden or not visible to the human eye. They are just one of the tools used by local professional leak detection companies such as ourselves.