What Is an IR Temperature Gun?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

An infrared (IR) temperature gun detects infrared radiation in target objects and converts it into an electrical signal to reflect their temperature. This is a form of non-contact temperature measurement, and can be useful in a variety of settings where contact devices may not be safe or practical. For example, a potter checking kiln temperature might use an IR temperature gun to check temperatures at various points to confirm that the kiln is ready for use and will fire products correctly. A fixed thermometer in such settings can be difficult to read, and only provides a single point measurement, which may not be as accurate as the potter needs.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

These devices include specialized detectors to measure radiation when pointed at objects and triggered by the user. A targeting laser may point at the area being measured for the benefit of the operator, to make sure the IR temperature gun is pointed at the right place. The emission of infrared radiation provides information about the temperature, which can be read when the machine converts the energy into an electrical signal for the benefit of the person operating the device.

Non-contact temperature measurements can be useful in a number of applications. One is a case where people want to be able to take multiple point measurements. In something like an oven or a kiln, there can be significant temperature differentials. These can contribute to problems in operation, as the contents need to rise to a certain temperature while the device is in operation. Using an IR temperature gun, it is possible to check for cool spots that might compromise products, and to develop a temperature average for the equipment.

In addition to being useful for multiple point measurements, such devices provide an easy way to quickly take measurements, even when a physical measurement would be safe or possible. The user points the IR temperature gun at the object of interest and takes note of the reading, rather than having to take a manual measurement. When frequent repeat temperature checks are needed, this can increase efficiency and help people take consistent, regular measurements. This is also useful when a physical measurement might be uncomfortable, or waiting for a reading would take too long.

Like other measuring equipment, it is important for an IR temperature gun to receive regular calibration. This ensures the device is working properly and takes appropriate measurements while in operation. Some companies provide calibration services or test kits for use in homes and shops. In other cases, it may be necessary to pay a technician to calibrate and check the device. Research labs and scientific facilities may retain a technician on staff to regularly calibrate and maintain equipment.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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