With so many power tools on the market today, it can be easy to get lost in all the available choices for any given job. How do you know which tools are the best for the task you’re working on?
A helpful and often overlooked tool, with tons of uses, is the heat gun. With multiple uses and applications, the heat gun can make multiple day-to-day tasks easier. For instance, heat guns can be used in:
- Carpentry work
- Paint application
- Stripping paint and varnish
- Removing stickers and labels
- Cell phone repair
- Wallpaper removal
- Car repair
- Plumbing and pipe replacement
- Removing floor vinyl and linoleum
- Loosening rusted nuts and bolts
- Drying or distressing wood
- Shrink wrapping
- Crafting and DIY projects
How to use a heat gun
Using a heat gun is rather similar to using a hairdryer. A fan within the heat gun pulls air into the body of the gun, drives the air across an electrical heating element. This process warms the air until it is very hot, then expels the air through the nozzle of the heat gun.
Most heat guns blow air as hot as 100 to 1300 degrees F (or 37 to 700 degrees C), which is what makes them so versatile but you also you need to exercise caution when using one.
Types of heat guns
There are several different types of heat guns available on the market today. Which one you choose depends on the job you’re undertaking. Key features also play a big part in what type of heat gun you should apply to your project. Styles and strengths vary from craft and DIY use to professional or industrial-level usage.
Features you should look for in a heat gun include:
- Temperature Settings – For most of the common applications, the temperature should be at least 900 degrees F (500 degrees C). This heat level is good for stripping paint, furniture repair, basic shrink wrapping, etc. (Note: Some tasks, such as cell phone screen repair, can be done at lower temperatures).
- Fan Speeds – If a heat gun has more than one fan speed, it makes it more versatile. Different speeds allow the heat gun to be used for different jobs, and can prevent the gun from burning out.
- Air Flow – Sometimes listed in place of a heat gun’s fan speed, air flow refers to the volume of air used per minute. This typically ranges from 3 to 25 CFM (cubic feet per minute) (or 80 to 700 L [liter] per minute). The more airflow, the better your heat gun will work.
- Power (Wattage) – Most heat guns require at least between 300W to 2000W for general DIY uses. More powerful, industrial-level heat guns may need 3000W or more, for certain professional applications.
- Control Switches – All heat guns have a s main power or heating button. To use the gun, constant pressure must be applied to this particular button. This safety mechanism ensures that if the heat gun is dropped, it automatically shuts off. Sometimes guns also have a temperature cutoff switch, which may kick-in if the gun gets too hot to help prevent overheating.
- Nozzles – There are different nozzle types for various applications. Usually, these come with a general-purpose nozzle, too.
- A Concentrator or Reducer nozzle is used for aiming heat at target areas for specific and controlled applications.
- An Edge Protector nozzle can be used for stripping paint off windows.
- A Flat nozzle is a good choice for protecting specific areas, and can focus heat over a thin or broad surface, depending on what you need.
- A Reflector nozzle is used for reflecting heat outside of the target area.
- Displays – Some guns come with an LCD or LED screen that displays the heat gun’s current temperature and fan speed.
- Stand or Hook – It helps to have safe positioning options when you’re using a heat gun. If you need to hold the gun with both hands, or if you need to safely rest the gun in a hands-free mode, a hook or stand can be essential. The hook is also useful for hanging the heat gun when your work is finished, but the nozzle is still hot and needs to cool down.
- Corded vs. Cordless – Most heat guns have longer electrical cords, roughly6 feet long or longer. Some heat guns with lower power needs, like those made for DIY use and crafting, may have shorter cords and be designed to use in tighter spaces.
To learn more about heat guns, please be sure to check out my blog post Heat Gun vs. Hair Dryer: Do You Know The Difference? to find the best one for your specific situation.
How to safely use a heat gun
Heat gun temperatures can be dangerous, which is why understanding how to safely use one is important. Please be aware of the following precautions to ensure safe usage:
- Don’t use near combustible or flammable materials, liquids, and vapors. Always check your surroundings before plugging in your heat gun.
- Always turn off the heat gun before putting it down on any surface, including removing it from or putting it on a stand.
- Let the gun cool down before packing it up and storing it away.
- Never point the gun towards any part of the body, clothing, or skin.
- Always turn off and unplug the gun before looking into the nozzle.
- Don’t insert anything down the nozzle of the gun while in use.
- Don’t block the air inlet grille or obstruct the airflow of the gun while using it.
- Use insulated and heat-resistant forceps or pliers to hold small objects for heating, and avoid the heat coming near your hand.
- Always wear safety goggles and a breathing mask when using a heat gun
I hope you have enjoyed this introduction to heat guns. Below you can find the reviews and posts on using heat guns for specific applications.
If you are already familiar with heat guns, here's a table of my top recommend ones.