Are laser thermometers accurate?

Laser thermometers are one of the most underused devices to be invented in recent years. Although it might seem like they’re older as lasers were invented in the 50s, it wasn;t until the mid 80s that laser thermometers were invented.

And whilst they were initially designed to test the temperature in your ear, nowadays we used them for much more than that. A laser thermometer has some everyday uses that you might not be aware of already too, and they can make a good addition to any household.

But one of the most common concerns with laser thermometers is that they might not actually give an accurate reading. So, this begs the question – just how accurate are laser thermometers? Well, we’re going to have a look and find out.

Are laser thermometers accurate?

Well, depending on how you’re using them, laser thermometers are surprisingly accurate. However, this is only for surface temperature, which might not give a good indication of what the temperature is like beneath the surface.

In fact, laser thermometers will usually have an accuracy spectrum listed when you purchase them. This will give you an indication of how accurate the thermometer is, and it’s usually dependant on the temperature that you’re measuring.

Usually, you’ll see the specifications listed on any laser thermometer you’re going to purchase, like this;

±1.0˚c

This indicates that the temperature will be plus or minus 1 degree, which is fairly accurate. However, laser thermometers tend to struggle reading colder temperatures, so you’ll likely see things like this;

-30˚ to 0˚ ± 3.0˚

This means that between the temperatures of zero and minus 30, there’s a 3.0 degree room for error. So, this isn’t as accurate, which is common amongst laser thermometers (especially cheaper ones).

However, this doesn’t really tell the true story, as a laser thermometer will have a different accuracy depending on the surface that you’re using it on. This is largely reliant on the emissivity of the target.

So, what are laser thermometers best for?

Generally, laser thermometers tend to work best for using with metals. This makes them awesome for using in the kitchen which is one of their most common uses. As well as this, it also makes them extremely useful for using in garages too, as they can likely get an accurate measurement of the temperature.

Where laser thermometers aren’t as useful is typically with humans, as a humans surface temperature might not actually give a good representation of what your temperature is on the inside. So, it’s important not to use a laser thermometer as the ultimate way to test the temperature of a person – they’re not going to be as effective as a regular thermometer which has physical contact.

Saying this laser temperature thermometers can still give you an estimated temperature of a person, so they’re not entirely useless – they’re just not as accurate as a regular thermometer. However, another reason why laser thermometers are so useful is that they can give you a good gauge of an increase or decrease in temperature.

Whilst they might not be 100% accurate, they are great for showing increases a decreases. This means that if you’re working with metal and you want to know how much something has increased in temperature, you can use the laser thermometer before and after you’ve heated the metal to show to increase, which is extremely useful.

Conclusion

Overall, a laser thermometer is an awesome tool to add to your collection, whether you’re looking to use it for cooking or for getting a rough estimate of a childs temperature. Whilst they have got some flack over the years for not being 100% accurate, they remain the best way nowadays to easily measure the surface temperature of something – of course, they’re still not going to be able to tell exactly how ill a child is, which is why it might pay to check with a doctor anyways. But for the most part, laser thermometers are an accurate way to get a temperature.

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