What Is an Infrared Thermometer?

An infrared thermometer is a handheld device that can accurately measure temperatures by gauging the intensity of thermal radiation on a subject. Unlike other thermometers, their no-contact design allows you to record temperatures from a distance while still obtaining an accurate reading. They also help promote safety in the workplace, ensuring that your staff doesn't need to get close to hot surfaces. It's important to note that these devices measure surface temperature and not internal temperature.

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What Is an Infrared Thermometer Used For?

hand holding an infrared thermometer

Below, we've listed some of the most common uses for an infrared thermometer:

  • Spot-checking liquid and semi-solid foods
  • Checking the temperature of a pan, pot, or oven
  • Ensuring food is cooking at a safe temperature
  • Conducting contactless temperature checks
  • Spot-checking hospital patients
  • Testing insulation

How Do Infrared Thermometers Work

While infrared thermometers can come in several forms, most share the same basic principle. In general, infrared thermometers are point-and-click devices that measure the infrared radiation an object or surface emits. Below, we’ll investigate how infrared thermometers measure temperatures.

  1. Focusing infrared light: Using a component known as a thermopile, an infrared thermometer focuses infrared light on an object. This measures the difference between the infrared radiation waves an object emits and the waves in the environment directly surrounding it.
  2. Converting radiation reading: The thermopile converts the radiation reading into a heat reading. This reading is relayed to the device as an electrical signal.
  3. Receiving electrical signal: A temperature-sensing mechanism called a thermocouple and displayed as a temperature reading. Most infrared thermometers report this reading to the user within a few seconds.

What Temperatures Do Infrared Thermometers Measure?

Infrared thermometers can measure temperatures ranging from as low as 100 degrees Fahrenheit to as high as 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. It's important to remember that infrared thermometers can only be used to determine surface temperature and not internal temperature.

Most infrared thermometers can measure waves ranging from 0.6 micrometers long to as high as 20 micrometers long. Wavelengths measure the movement of an object’s molecules, and their movements create energy in the form of heat. Short wavelengths indicate a significant amount of motion, correlating with higher temperatures. Conversely, long wavelengths are associated with less motion and colder temperatures.

How to Use an Infrared Thermometer

Infrared thermometer taking tempature of chicken

To use an infrared thermometer the right way, follow these steps:

  1. Turn on the thermometer: Power on your infrared thermometer.
  2. Adjust the settings: If your thermometer allows it, select the appropriate settings for your measurements, such as whether you want it to appear in Celsius or Fahrenheit.
  3. Position the thermometer: Hold the device roughly 6 inches away from your target.
  4. Aim the thermometer: Point your thermometer at the object you plan on measuring.
  5. Press the trigger: Hold down your thermometer’s trigger until it starts measuring the temperature.
  6. Keep the device steady: Continue to hold the trigger as you wait for your results. For the best results, be sure to hold your thermometer steady and keep it at the same distance as you started measuring.
  7. Record your results: Your results should be ready in a matter of seconds. Be sure to record them once they appear on the thermometer’s display.

Benefits of Infrared Thermometers

Man in vehicle getting temperature taken with contactless infrared thermometer

Because of their simple design and technological features, infrared thermometers are versatile tools that serve many different functions. Some of the most common benefits associated with infrared thermometers are listed below:

  • Ability to measure surface temperature from a distance
  • Obtain fast and precise temperature readings
  • Ability to measure objects in motion
  • Compact, lightweight design
  • Easy to use and interpret results
  • Easy to clean
  • Limited risk of cross-contamination
  • Can be used multiple times

Can You Use an Infrared Thermometer on Humans?

Infrared thermometers can be used on humans as long as they have been FDA-approved and give a correct reading. In fact, infrared thermometers are one of the safest ways to complete no-contact temperature checks, not just because they limit contact, but because of their easy-to-clean design and ability to give quick results.

Regardless of what industry you work in, an infrared thermometer is a useful tool capable of completing a variety of day-to-day tasks. By understanding the specifics of how these devices work, how to use them, as well as why they can be used for so many applications, you'll ensure an accurate reading with every use.

Posted in: Product Spotlights|By Jason Kurtz
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