Infrared Thermometer on Sale - Fiberglass RV


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Old 06-17-2007, 03:27 PM   #1
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Harbor Freight has an Infrared Thermometer with Laser Sighting on sale for $19.95, both on their website and at the local stores (at least it was at ours, bring website page in for price matching if needed the clerk said). After some informal testing, it appears to be reasonably accurate and consistent.

Use this for testing trailer hub, transmission coolers, refrigerators, and assorted pets.

* Readings in Fahrenheit or Celsius
* Temperature range: -27 to 482F (-33 to 250C)
* 40 hour battery life
* Exclusive ergonomic trigger control
* 6:1 spot size to distance ratio

http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/disp...temnumber=93984 You can also view the product manual on that page. It claims an accuracy of 2%, or 4F, whichever is higher.

This photo when expanded is slightly smaller than life-size!
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Old 06-17-2007, 05:32 PM   #2
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Hot idea
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Old 06-17-2007, 06:09 PM   #3
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All IR thermometers work quite well close to 72 F air temperatrue. The farther away you get from standard room temperature the worse they are. It has to do with the physics of Infrared radiation and 4th order curves. As far I know there's only two manufacturers of IR thermometers that will work over a wide range of air temperatures. They sell under the brand names of Surface Patrol and RoadWatch. They are also a lot more expensive that $19.95.

So buyer beware, sometimes you don't get what you pay for.
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Old 06-17-2007, 06:57 PM   #4
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I only travel when its 72F so I'm good to go with this cheapo IR gadget!
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Old 06-18-2007, 12:39 PM   #5
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For those of us in Canada, Princess Auto carries similarly priced IR thermometers. The accuracy specs are printed in detail on the packaging, so you can judge how well it suits the purpose. They have two models: one looks generally like the Harbor Freight item, and has a wide field of view (wider than 6:1); the other is a much more directional "spot" design (12:1?). I just bought the spot version, but have not had a chance to try it out.
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Old 06-18-2007, 12:50 PM   #6
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Used mine on the coffee pot today. Just after brewing the side of the glass pot was 155F, about 20 minutes later 168F, and another half hour about 185F. The hot plate was 255F or so.
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Old 06-18-2007, 08:15 PM   #7
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If you go to the Harbor Freight site and search "thermometer", you will not only come up with the referenced $20 IRT, but there's another (without the laser) for $10. Don't know the relative technical differences.
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Old 06-18-2007, 10:39 PM   #8
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I'm currently and have been for several years 1/2 of the design team for RoadWatch brand of IR thermometers. RoadWatch is used by most state DOTs to tell when to put down salt, sand, etc. on cold roads. The biggest single obstical to over come is the way IR energy works along with the basic IR sensor. The raw sensor will work very well over a wide range of "object" temperatures, but not so well over a wide range of air temperatures. It has to do with something called the "black body curve". To make the unit (RoadWatch) work over a wide range of air temperatures a lot math is involved. Even more calculations involved in making each unit work the same, often call calibration. We've spent close to 15 years creating the math necessary to make the units work from -40F to 130F air temperatures.

My point is that there cannot be the calculations necessary in such a cheap unit. Relying on a $20 or even a $300 IR thermometer is like relying on a $1.00 pair of tires. The problem is that the farther away from room temperature (72) the more inaccurate they are and direction of inaccuacy is to read colder than the actual temperature.

They can be fun to play with, but please don't rely on them to tell you if you have a problem.
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Old 06-19-2007, 12:24 AM   #9
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I intend to use mine for the mission-critical task of checking trailer hub temperatures. I can either grab the hub with my hand and determine that its hotter than the day before, but maybe not as hot as the long day two days ago, or use this IR device and have a much, much better idea for $20. Or I could just ignore the hubs and hope the good results from the bearing check I did 10,000 miles ago is still good.

Sometimes you just got's to use the best tools you can afford and hope for a good outcome.
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Old 06-19-2007, 09:57 AM   #10
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Byron, Your comments on errors in reported temperatures from infrared thermometers are very interesting and your credentials to make such comments are impressive. Like Patrick, I walk around my rig and trailer feeling hubs and tires with my hands and often find myself jumping back and forth between hubs as I try and register the differences. Even if the inexpensive IR units have an accuracy that varies with air temperature, wouldn't they still be of some use when one is trying to simply identify relative differences in hub temperature, as Patrick and I say we do -- when the air temp is constant? The absolute temp, while it might be nice to know, is less important to me than the relative difference. (Guess I'd be in trouble through when both hubs are going at the same time.)

And Byron, put me at the front of the line when you are looking for volunteers to field test your units at high elevations in the mountains.

I'm always astonished at the backgrounds and levels of expertise represented on the forum-- and the willingness of so many to share that expertise.

John C.
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Old 06-19-2007, 10:15 AM   #11
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I'm currently and have been for several years 1/2 of the design team for RoadWatch brand of IR thermometers. RoadWatch is used by most state DOTs to tell when to put down salt, sand, etc. on cold roads. The biggest single obstical to over come is the way IR energy works along with the basic IR sensor. The raw sensor will work very well over a wide range of "object" temperatures, but not so well over a wide range of air temperatures. It has to do with something called the "black body curve". To make the unit (RoadWatch) work over a wide range of air temperatures a lot math is involved. Even more calculations involved in making each unit work the same, often call calibration. We've spent close to 15 years creating the math necessary to make the units work from -40F to 130F air temperatures.

Awesome credentials and comments. Thank you. I've wondered about these things as well.

My comments are more about trailer bearings and inspection. Personally, I've always checked my bearings by hand and if they're anything warmer than body temperature, I know I have a potential problem... Mostly, my hubs are cold after a multi-hour drive. Now, granted, the situation is probably different now that my trailer has brakes, but after a 1 hour highway drive this weekend, I came home to find my hubs cold to the touch... So, in my non-expert opinion, you don't really need a thermometer to gauge the condition of your bearings...

As an amateur who does his own automotive work, I can tell you I don't repack the bearings on any of my vehicles every year, nor every two years, nor even every 10,000km... Trailer bearings aren't any different from automotive bearings (albeit smaller than your average truck bearing, but about the same size as the bearings on your jeep or honda)... Boat trailer bearings are slightly more prone to having issues given they regularly get dunked in water... I will also admit to checking my bearings after an offroading trip where I've driven through a river or stream for any appreciable distance...

So, if you're dunking your hubs in rivers/lakes for more than a few seconds, then by all means, check/repack them. Otherwise, just feel with your hands.
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Old 08-03-2007, 09:13 AM   #12
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These are on sale again thru the 8th- this time for $17.99!
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Old 08-03-2007, 05:28 PM   #13
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I ordered the less expensive, smaller one without the laser -- It seems to be reasonably accurate (compared to touch, not tenths) but I sometimes have to trigger it several times to get good readings.
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Old 12-10-2007, 10:19 AM   #14
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On the latest TV program "Cool Tools" (Dec 07) they showcased an IR thermometer and explained that it measures the IR wave lengths and converts it to the temp reading.
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