Raytek Mini Non-Contact Thermometer

Non-invasive thermometer for everything else

I borrowed one of these non-contact thermometers to test the heat dissipation around a new fireplace I’m finishing. The device worked so well, I found myself running around my house taking the temperature(s) of lots of things I’d often wondered about but had no way of investigating. For instance, I was curious about the results of extra insulation I put in last year. I also found myself using it to follow heat contours around the house. I could follow heat contours in the air by using this device to measure the temperature of the skin of my hand. This method made a rigorous investigation into energy conservation fun as well as informative.

One attribute of IR thermometers I really appreciated is their instantaneous response, even across a distance. Since the device is based on an infrared (IR) light sensor, there is no lag, no hysteresis (like a thermostat), no memory, no need to even be close to the surface being measured, which is a lot different from how I am used to thinking about temperature.

With the ST pro model it was like I could reach across the room and touch the wall in the back of the fireplace to see how hot the fire was getting. I discovered all kinds of readings that affected my fireplace design. For instance it was around 400 degrees near the gas pipe I was sealing with fireplace caulk. I found that it got to a max of 70 degrees above the fireplace where I was thinking of mounting a plasma TV; that it was a max of 100 degrees about a foot in front of the fireplace at the level of the hearth, and that there was a temp gradient of about 40 degrees to the side edges of the hearth. (I figure that gradient was probably not a steep enough to cause levels of thermal stress that would crack the slate I was planning to use for the hearth). However I was able to measure a much sharper gradient across the metal face of the zero-clearance fireplace, where I planned to mount tile with special heat-tolerant silicon adhesive (thus needing to confirm the max temp of the metal face at around 210 degrees after 2 hours of fire). And so on.

As a homeowner it may be hard to justify buying one, but as a nerd (and especially if I had kids) I want one around. For me it has something to do with an Internet-biased mentality — I hear an obscure concept, or someone has a question, and I almost reflexively reach for Google. Now it’s like that for my home. Is that frying pan at exactly the right temperature for pancakes? Wait, I can get the IR thermometer out of the kitchen drawer…

-- Rick Botman 12/15/06

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