Get Tech Tips
Subscribe to free tech tips.
Infrared Thermometers Can Cause Confusion
There are three reasons why I don't like infrared thermometers for many HVAC tasks.
#1 – The laser is misleading
The laser dot is just a point of reference, not an exact point where it is reading. Often the thermometer will read lower, higher, or over a MUCH wider area. Unless you are right up on what you are measuring, you can't be sure the result you are getting is correct.
#2 – They only read surfaces
An infrared reads surface temp only, not air temp. This is not necessarily a problem, but “shooting a vent” is not the same as measuring the air temperature coming out of it.
#3 – They can be VERY inaccurate
Basic infrared thermometers are only accurate on a surface that has high “emissivity” of near 1.0. These are usually darker, less reflective, generally non-metallic surfaces. Metals have a low emissivity (much less than 1, generally; you can read more about emissivity in this article). That means that if you are reading a pipe, an infrared thermometer could read much lower than the correct temperature.
Infrared thermometers can be useful to make comparisons when reading the correct temperature is less important than comparing one spot to another, such as looking for hot spots in a panel or checking a zone to see if a damper is open.
So long as you use the right tool for the job, you should be fine, but in general…
I don't like techs using infrared thermometers for most tasks.
P.S. – While I don't generally like infrared, I REALLY like thermal imaging. Check out these nice products from Trutech tools.