BEST INFRARED THERMOMETERS | NOVEMBER 2017
There are seemingly infinite applications for non-contact infrared thermometers – from getting an accurate temperature reading of a running engine to taking the temperature of a sleeping baby. As such, there are many infrared thermometers on the market today. In an effort to help you narrow your choices, we spent hours doing in-depth research on infrared thermometers for a variety of uses, including cooking, professional applications and medical applications. If you're not sure what type of thermometer you need, take a look at our buying guide, which covers topics like measurement range, accuracy and more. Read more about our methodology.
The Etekcity Lasergrip 800 offers excellent features at a price that won’t cause sticker shock. Its huge temperature range of -50°C to 750°C and extra-wide 16:1 distance-to-spot ratio out-compete thermometers costing twice as much.Read full review.
If all you need is a basic infrared thermometer for use around the home, Masione’s temperature gun has you covered. The -50°C to +380°C measurement range is suitable for most tasks, and at this price, you might as well buy two.Read full review.
Infrared Thermometers BUYING GUIDE
Infrared thermometers are used for a wide variety of tasks, from industrial applications to medical use, and the temperature range you want will depend on what you need an IR thermometer for. Most general-use models have a measurement range of at least -50°C to +380°C (-58°F to +716°F), while more advanced professional-grade thermometers feature scanning ranges of up to -50°C to 750°C (-58°F to 1382°F).
Distance to Spot Ratio
“Distance to spot ratio” refers to the distance at which an infrared thermometer scans a one-inch area. For instance, a 12:1 D/S ratio means that the thermometer scans a one-inch spot when held 12 inches from the target surface, a two-inch spot when held 24 inches from the surface, and so on, with accuracy decreasing as this distance grows. Most models offer a spot ratio of 10:1 or 12:1, which is perfectly suitable for both home and work applications, although some may feature ratios as high as 24:1.
Infrared thermometers can only take external temperatures, and emissivity relates to the reflectivity of the surface being scanned. In general, IR thermometers feature a fixed emissivity of 0.95 which is fine for reading common solid surfaces like pipes, walls, metal, and so on. Fixed emissivity may cause problems when scanning reflective things such as glass, liquids, or oily surfaces, so the best professional-grade models offer variable emissivity (between 0.10 and 1.00) that let you calibrate the thermometer for each surface you are scanning for the most accurate readout.
Speed and Accuracy
All of our recommended thermometers deliver quick and accurate readouts, although more advanced ones designed for professional use will be more precise due to better IR sensors and adjustable emissivity. Expect accuracy of around ±2% from cheaper infrared thermometers and ±1% or less from industrial models where more precision is needed.
For $12 to $20, you can get a good basic infrared thermometer for use around the home. These units will be very simple with relatively limited measurement ranges, fixed emissivity, and reasonable accuracy. Moving further up the price scale, you will find units with increased measurement ranges as well as infrared thermometers built for niche uses like cooking or medical use. Expect to pay between $25 and $60 for these mid-range models. Professional-grade IR thermometers pack more advanced functions with price tags to match, costing anywhere between $60 and $250 depending on features. These devices are purpose-built for applications such as industrial work and offer extras like extreme accuracy and adjustable emissivity. Above $200 brings you into the category of visual infrared thermometers, which feature a small screen that provides a colored thermal image of the scanned surface along with a temperature readout.
FULL product reviews
We research hundreds of products in order to bring you a final, unbiased list of the very best. We also use a proprietary algorithm to score each product in terms of quality, value, and brand reputation. These subscores are then weighted to calculate our overall scores. Read more about how we calculate our scores.
With its extra-large measurement range and a distance to spot ratio of 16:1, the Etekcity Lasergrip 800 easily out-competes other infrared thermometers in this price range and many that are considerably more expensive. Its low price makes it an excellent value given its features, making it the go-to IR thermometer for general home use as well as basic work applications where variable emissivity is not required.
Why We Recommend It
- Very wide measurement range. The Lasergrip 800’s temperature range of -50°C to 750°C (-58°F to 1382°F) is one of the widest you will find on an infrared thermometer. While this may be overkill for most users, the larger measurement range only adds to the versatility of this unit.
- Large distance to spot ratio. As with its wide measurement range, the distance to spot ratio of 16:1 is greater than most other IR thermometers on the market, including many professional-grade units. A larger D/S ratio means you can take temperatures of hot surfaces from a safer distance without sacrificing accuracy.
- Built-in targeting laser. The targeting laser, a feature often not seen on inexpensive models, increases your spot accuracy by pinpointing the location that the infrared sensor is scanning so you can know exactly what surface (or part of a surface) is being measured.
- Great value. The Etekcity Lasergip 800 punches well above its weight in this price bracket, making it an excellent value for amateur and professional users alike who don’t want to pay for extra features they won’t use.
- Not ideal for scanning liquid or reflective surfaces. One important feature that the Lasergrip 800 shares in common with other general-use infrared thermometers is its fixed emissivity of 0.95. Although this is perfectly suitable for scanning most things, it will not work well when measuring liquids or surfaces that are greasy or oily.
- Merely decent accuracy. The accuracy margin of ±2% is good enough for most purposes but falls short of the ±1 to ±1.5% seen on other models. For applications where greater precision is required, a professional-grade thermometer with a more precise sensor and variable emissivity is recommended.
The Masione temperature gun won’t blow your mind when it comes to features, but its compact form factor, accurate readouts, and snappy response times are tough to beat at this price. Although its temperature range is somewhat limited, Masione’s IR thermometer features a solid 12:1 distance to spot ratio and delivers consistent measurements with an accuracy margin of ±1.5% or ±1.5°C.
Why We Recommend It
- Accurate and consistent readouts. The thermometer boasts an impressive accuracy range of ±1.5% or ±1.5°C which is comparable to more expensive units and even out-competes our top pick, the Etekcity Lasergip 800. Along with being accurate, the measurements are consistent as well.
- Near-instant response. All of our recommended infrared thermometers deliver pretty quick readouts, but Masione’s offering is particularly snappy with a near-instant response time of half a second or less.
- Compact and lightweight. Whereas most IR thermometers run on a single 9V or multiple AA batteries, this one uses two AAA batteries which cuts down on size and weight. This compact unit is small enough to fit in a drawer or slip into a large pocket when you need to free up your hands.
- Limited measurement range. The Masione IR gun can only read surface temperatures between -50°C to +380°C (-58°F to +716°F), which is on the low end of measurement ranges for infrared thermometers. This is still suitable for most home uses, however, and is adequate for a unit at this price.
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Best Infrared Thermometer for Cooking
Traditional cooking thermometers are relatively simple, using a sharp probe that you insert into your food to read internal temperatures. An infrared cooking thermometer is much more versatile, however, combining the standard thermocouple probe with an IR sensor that you can use to measure external temperatures. This gives you the ability to get two different readings for your food, and the infrared function is also handy for measuring cooking surfaces to ensure that they are at the optimum temperature and that the food is cooking evenly.
Thermocouples are great for cooking and are particularly useful for large meat dishes, but the Taylor Precision infrared/thermocouple hybrid adds IR functionality to the classic probe thermometer. This allows you to measure the exterior of your food as well as cooking surfaces to ensure optimum temperatures and even heat dispersion. The dual functionality makes Taylor Precision’s IR/thermocouple thermometer a must-have for both home and professional kitchens.
Why We Recommend It
- Fast dual measuring functionality. The five-inch stainless steel probe serves as a traditional food thermometer with a temperature range of up to 626°F, while the IR sensor lets you get external temperatures and scan cooking surfaces up to 482°F. Measurements are also very quick so you’re not losing heat from your food or oven while waiting for a readout.
- Adjustable emissivity for greasy surfaces. One great feature to have with an infrared food thermometer is variable emissivity, which lets you calibrate the sensor for scanning different surfaces. This is vital for getting accurate readouts on wet, oily, and greasy surfaces which are common in the kitchen.
- Holding temperature indicators. Built-in LEDs let you know when foods are at safe or unsafe holding temperatures at a quick glance, a handy feature for commercial chefs and for when a dish won’t be served or eaten right away.
- Splash-proof housing. The thermometer’s splash-proof and moisture-resistant housing gives some added protection against spills and splatters of water, grease, and other liquids that can damage electronics.
- Limited measurement range compared to standard IR thermometers. As this is a food thermometer, its temperature ranges are limited to up to 626°F for the thermocouple and up to 482°F for the IR sensor. This shouldn’t be a problem for kitchen use but bear in mind that the infrared capability does not really serve as a normal-use IR thermometer.
Best Infrared Thermometer for Body Temperature
Infrared body temperature thermometers are slowly replacing traditional designs and it’s easy to see why. These thermometers are easy to use and non-invasive, as infrared sensors deliver instant readouts and do not require skin or mouth contact. This is particularly useful when taking the temperature of a small child that is sleeping or squirming around. Added features like backlit displays let you read temperatures in a dark room without disturbing a sleeping patient, and the best models will also store the last 12 to 20 readings so you can actively monitor a fever.
Built with parents in mind, the Dr. Madre non-nontact infrared thermometer is a great alternative to traditional oral and under-arm thermometers, especially for use with small children who are asleep or won’t sit still. The IR sensor delivers instant body temperature measurements without requiring contact with the patent’s forehead, and its backlit display and optional audible readouts let you use it in a dark room without waking your sleeping kid.
Why We Recommend It
- Instant and accurate no-touch measurements. The IR sensor is accurate, quick, and consistent, and its no-touch functionality lets you take temperatures by holding the thermometer an inch or two from the patient’s forehead. This is perfect for small children and much better than older designs which needed to be held under the tongue or armpit while waiting for a reading.
- Stores the previous 12 readings. Another great advantage that this IR thermometer has over older designs is its ability to store the 12 most recent temperature readings. This makes it easy to track a patient’s progress or to keep tabs on a fever without having to write down each measurement.
- Backlit display and audible readouts. The digital display lights up when the thermometer is in use for reading temperatures in a dark room. You also have the option to use audible readouts which provide voice instructions and readouts in either English or Spanish.
- Can read room temperature. The IR sensor can scan the room and give you its approximate temperature as well. This is useful for determining if the patient’s surroundings are too cool or too warm and if that may be affecting body temperatures.
- Audible readouts can be loud. The built-in speaker might be a bit too loud for sensitive sleepers, and unfortunately the volume cannot be adjusted. However, this feature can be disabled and the backlit display alone is sufficient for use in the dark.
Medical Ear Thermometer with Forehead Function - iProven DMT-489 - Upgraded Infrared Lens Technology for Better Accuracy
The iProven body temperature thermometer is suitable for adults and children alike with its gentle infrared sensor, contact and non-contact use, and hybrid forehead and in-ear scanning functionality which lets you take two separate body temperature measurements. The unit can also store up to 20 previous readings so you can easily keep track of your patient’s progress. Readouts are instant and accurate, and the two-button operation is dead simple.
Why We Recommend It
- Provides two temperature measurements. The iProven thermometer uses a single IR sensor which doubles as a forehead and in-ear scanner. Scan the patient’s forehead with the sensor cap on or remove it to take a gentle in-ear measurement. This provides two different readouts for maximum accuracy.
- Stores 20 previous readings. The thermometer records the last 20 readings for you, a great feature to have for tracking a fever and monitoring temperature changes over time.
Simple, quick, and precise. Measurements are consistently accurate and readings are near-instant. Two buttons, one for forehead scanning and one for the ear, make the iProven thermometer a breeze to use as well.
- Contact or non-contact forehead scanning. In-ear scanning naturally requires contact, but forehead measurements can be done with or without touching the skin. The option for non-contact forehead reading is useful for not disturbing patients who are resting.
- Three-point forehead scanning. Forehead measurements require you to scan each temple and then the center of the forehead. This three-point procedure might require contact with a child that isn’t sitting still, but the process is quick, gentle, and non-invasive so this should not be a problem for most users.
Best Professional-Grade Infrared Thermometer
Professionals such as mechanics and engineers demand more feature-laden and durable tools than average users, and infrared thermometers are no exception. A good professional-grade unit will offer superior accuracy and a wide measurement range as well as added features like impact resistance, rugged construction, dual targeting lasers, and adjustable emissivity. Variable emissivity is especially key for professional use as it allows you to calibrate the thermometer for each unique surface you are scanning – a highly useful function that the vast majority of consumer models do not offer.
Fluke is a household name when it comes to industrial measuring tools and the Fluke 62 MAX Plus is more than worthy of its pedigree. A wide measurement range, drop-proof and water-resistant housing, dual targeting lasers, and excellent accuracy make this our top pick for a professional-grade infrared thermometer. Best of all, its adjustable emissivity lets you calibrate the sensor to each unique surface you are scanning for maximum precision.
Why We Recommend It
- Highly accurate temperature readouts. Fluke’s IR thermometer is one of the most accurate models available on the market today. A margin of error of ±1°C or ±1% or less ensures that you are seeing highly precise readouts when you need them.
- Variable emissivity. Perhaps the most notable feature of the 62 MAX Plus is its adjustable emissivity setting of between 0.1 and 1.0. This greatly increases the versatility of the thermometer by allowing you to match the sensor to each object you are scanning, a must-have for slick surfaces like grease and oil.
- Large measurement range. The Fluke 62 MAX Plus boasts a wide scanning range of -30°C to 650°C (-22°F to 1202°F) to suit most professional needs. This, combined with excellent accuracy and variable emissivity, makes this IR thermometer a great choice for industrial applications.
- Rugged construction protects against the elements. The rubberized housing is a durable as it is comfortable to hold, and the whole unit is dust- and water-resistant with an IP54 rating. The thermometer is also tested to withstand drops onto a hard surface from up to 10 feet.
- Dual targeting lasers. The Fluke 62 MAX Plus projects two targeting lasers when you pull the trigger rather than the single laser found on most other IR thermometers. These two lasers show you the exact location and width of the spot that the IR sensor is scanning.
- Poor instructions. The instructions supplied with the thermometer leave a lot to be desired, consisting mostly of confusing diagrams. There is also no emissivity table included to tell you the settings needed for scanning different surfaces, but this is easily found online.
Best Visual Infrared Thermometer
Visual infrared thermometers read external temperatures just like other units, but with an added display that lets you see a thermal image of the surface you are reading. This provides a fuller perspective of what your thermometer is reading unlike standard models that are only measuring the small area that the IR sensor is pointing at. These infrared thermometers are useful for applications like auto work where a user might want a thermal readout of a wider area or wants to visually compare the temperature differences between adjacent surfaces.
With its unique “heat vision” capability, the FLIR TG165 is designed for HVAC engineers, electricians, automotive mechanics, and other professionals who want to see the thermal profile of an area rather than just a digital temperature readout. This infrared thermometer combines an IR sensor with a thermal camera, displaying a visual thermal picture along with exterior temperature measurements on a 2-inch LCD screen built right into the device.
Why We Recommend It
- Visual thermal readout. The FLIR TG165’s “heat vision” provides a complete visual thermal display of your work area. This gives you a more complete picture of the surface you are scanning than standard infrared thermometers which can only measure the temperature of one small spot at a time.
- Pinpoint locational accuracy. The IR sensor works just like that on a normal infrared thermometer, detecting the surface temperature of a small point. This point is displayed as a crosshair on the thermal display so you can measure the temperature of a specific component or area while simultaneously viewing the wider thermal picture.
- Large distance to spot ratio. Adding to the pinpoint accuracy of the TG165 is its impressive D/S ratio of 24:1, which allows you to continue to get precise spot readings from a safe distance.
- Push-button data recording. The camera includes an 8GB SD card for storing measurement data and thermal pictures. This data can be instantly saved with the pull of the trigger while you are working, and you can download it later via USB without removing the SD card.
- Rechargeable internal battery. This model runs on an internal lithium-ion battery instead of alkaline batteries like most others. Also included with the package is a variety of power adapters for the most common outlet types used around the world.
- Expensive. The added functionality of a visual thermal display adds considerably to the cost of this thermometer. The TG165 comes in at roughly three times the price of the Fluke 62 MAX Plus, the other professional-grade unit on our list.
- Limited measurement range. The FLIR TG165’s primary function is to deliver a visual readout rather than simply read temperatures, and its measurement range of -25 to 380°C (-13 to 716°F) is rather limited compared to standard IR thermometers.