An Introduction to Infrared Thermometers
Infrared thermometers are electronic professional tools used to display and measure temperatures from a distance. Compared with regular thermometers, this tool stands out because of its ability to measure at a distance and without direct contact with the objects or spaces they’re used to measure.
In this guide, you will learn what infrared thermometers are, how they work, and why they’re one of the essential tools found in paranormal investigators’ toolboxes.
How do Infrared Thermometers Work?
Infrared thermometers utilize a sensor and lens that focuses the infrared energy (IR) and light from an object onto a detector known as a thermopile. It can then convert infrared energy (heat) into electrical signals.
Three significant factors for infrared thermometer measurements are:
- Distance – The distance to target ratio.
- Emissivity – The target material’s ability to emit infrared energy.
- Surroundings – The target’s surroundings can interfere with the readings.
With this information adequately converted, the device can then display the intended targets’ temperatures at a distance, which gives it such practical advantages and has become an essential piece of equipment for paranormal investigators, amongst many other trade professions.
Infrared thermometers are easy to acquire as they are pretty affordable for those on a budget, and they’re easy to get your hands on. While there is a learning curve to operate them properly, they’re easy to start using. On top of this, they’re highly portable, fitting in coat pockets and backpacks with ease.
What Skills are Needed to Operate Infrared Thermometers?
As electronic devices come and go, the standard handheld infrared thermometers are pretty simple to operate. Understanding the factors mentioned above is the real challenge of ensuring you’re receiving accurate readings.
There are different types of infrared thermometers that each have unique features and use cases, such as:
- Handhelds Infrared Thermometers
- Pocket Infrared Thermometers
- Infrared Thermocouples (Sensors)
- Fixed Mount Infrared Thermometers
The standard handheld thermometer requires a power source, most commonly in the form of batteries, and a steady hand to point the device. Many infrared thermometers have a trigger or button on the device, that when activated, powers the device and allows it to take a temperature reading.
Paranormal investigators can and do use a variety of infrared thermometers, but the most basic method in the most basic manners; point and “shoot.”
After an infrared thermometer is pointed at an object or space, that object/space’s temperature is then displayed on a digital screen, in Fahrenheit or Celsius readings, depending on the available settings.
With this information, a paranormal investigator can measure the temperature and detect changes and shifts in the object’s temperature or space, allowing them to record and catalog this data in their evidence sheet.
A Short History of Infrared Thermometers
Sir William Herschel, a famous astronomer who discovered the planet Uranus, made another important discovery in 1800 with an experiment he ran using color filters and sunlight. In his investigation, he would pass sunlight through different color filters and measure the amount of heat that passed through.
He was passing the light emanating from each filter through a prism. The prism refracted the sunlight, allowing Herschel to measure the temperature of each color. The measurements recorded led him to conclude that another form of light existed. Herschel named a form of light invisible to the naked eye “Calorific Rays.”
These discoveries were recorded and shared in the scientific journal “Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London.”
Throughout the 19th-century, scientists would turn to Herschel’s work on the subject. His theory served as the backbone for many scientific advances in infrared detection and thermography.
The first patent filed for an infrared thermometer, then referred to as a “radiation thermometer,” would occur in 1901. Then 30 years later, the first commercial infrared thermometer would debut.
Since then, infrared thermometers have become more accurate in measuring temperature from a distance while becoming significantly easier to use and more affordable.
Why do Paranormal Investigators Use Infrared Thermometers?
There are a few ways for paranormal investigators and ghost hunters to take advantage of infrared thermometers. In all use cases, they ultimately measure a change in temperatures, whether positive or negative.
Taking baseline measurements of an investigation site is vital to helping you identify what is and what isn’t “out of the normal.” For instance, sudden wind gusts can cause mysterious noises, objects to move, doors to close and open, and of course, cause the temperature to shift.
The more you know about the area when investigating a haunted location, the easier it is to debunk false positives.
These devices can assist in identifying drafts around windows, doorways, floorboards, attic doors and stairs, air conditioning vents, and other openings.
In some buildings, simple changes in air pressure can cause doors to open, close, and slam shut. This scenario can create odd situations where strange noises are heard and doors throughout mysteriously open and close, whether you’re “witnessing” it happen or not.
Detecting and Measuring Thermal Radiation
Investigators may also use infrared thermometers to measure thermal radiation before and during the session, taking baseline measurements of a location and monitoring for changes.
Detecting and Measuring Cold Spots
Another common use of infrared thermometers is gathering and recording baseline data in their investigation areas. They record this data and actively monitor it in attempts to detect anomalies over time, such as “cold spots.”
Cold spots are small pockets of air that possess a lower temperature than the surrounding space they are located within.
In paranormal activities, some people report experiencing abrupt temperature changes when entering a place with a strange energy that they qualify as supernatural. The source of these cold or hot spots can be identified with infrared thermometers.
The field of paranormal research posits that when a spirit attempts to present itself within a space, energy is drawn from the air surrounding it. Since energy is drawn from the air surrounding that space, the air becomes colder, losing its heat and, in turn, becoming a cold spot.
A paranormal investigator can measure the temperature of an object or space using an infrared thermometer. Doing so allows a paranormal investigator to find cold spots while also detecting changes in the temperature that may suggest the formation of a cold spot. The formation of a cold spot may be, as mentioned earlier, a spirit attempting to present itself.
Since handheld infrared thermometers can measure from a distance, measuring the temperature of any object/space is easier and quicker than using a regular contact thermometer. Monitoring these changes with this device type makes it possible to notice temperature shifts, allowing paranormal investigators to find cold spots with greater ease.
But beware that, again, just because you detect a cold spot does not mean you have necessarily seen a ghost, as cold spots can have all sorts of causes. You have to record baseline temperature readings throughout the area you are investigating before detecting “anomalies.”
Alternate Uses for Infrared Thermometers
People can use an infrared thermometer for a wide variety of temperature-monitoring purposes.
In the medical field, infrared thermometers are used to check the temperature of patients. Recently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many transmission sites measure people’s temperatures before entering the site to make sure they are not feverish.
Outside of the stereotypical use cases, infrared thermometers are used to measure temperatures in conventional ovens, detect hot spaces in building fires, electric and mechanical devices, fast-moving objects, and more. These examples help to illustrate why there are different types of infrared thermometers on the market.
Perceived Accuracy of Infrared Thermometers
A great deal of research has been done on the accuracy of infrared thermometers, especially when compared to thermometers that rely on direct contact.
Even though internal thermometers, or direct contact thermometers, are often considered the gold standard, infrared thermometers can be just as effective in measuring temperature.
To ensure the accuracy of a temperature reading, a paranormal investigator should read their infrared thermometer’s manual and have a general understanding of what factors into an infrared reading. With a basic understanding of the technology and proper use, there’s little reason to doubt that the temperature reading will be inaccurate.
Considering Adding an Infrared Thermometer to Your Ghost Hunting Toolbox
An infrared thermometer is one of the most accessible and reliable tools a paranormal investigator can own and use.
Before purchasing an infrared thermometer, we recommend that you closely look at its technical characteristics to ensure that it meets your measurement needs as closely as possible. Keep in mind the following:
- Response time
- Device shape
- Held or Mounted
The response time from the time the measurement is taken until the reading appears on display. It would help if you also considered the shape of the infrared thermometer, whether it is portable, can be used with one hand, or is a fixed mount that must be mounted on the machinery where it is to be used. It’s also important to know if you need a backlit screen to read the outputs during nighttime investigations.
With this information, you should now have a solid understanding of the use and purpose of an infrared thermometer and can make an informed decision when looking for your first or replacement tool!