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A 2020 Guide On Everything You Want To Know About Thermometers

Thermometers are fascinating instruments that allow you to measure the temperature of a temperature gradient of various elements. These helpful tools were developed from 10 – 70 AD and are used on a day to day basis for various tasks or sometimes just for the sake of information.

Thermometers are functional daily to document weather temperature throughout the day or to find out just how hot it is at a given moment. The ability to document seasonal temperatures is helpful for social interaction or to help manufacturing industries maintain control over the production of certain goods that might be temperature sensitive.

We also use temperatures to evaluate or monitor the current temperature of products. For example; in preparation for certain foods such as melted chocolate we don’t want these foods to become too hot or it could alter the composition and taste of these foods. Being able to monitor bathwater temperature is essential to refrain from burning small children.

The ability to measure temperature is especially important for medical purposes. Human temperatures over 37 degrees C is usually an indication of a fever. Temperatures over 38 degrees C could be harmful to people and especially children and can result in seizures or even brain trauma. When the body temperature drops below 35 degrees C then your body is also too cold and you could contract hypothermia.

Without the ability to measure temperature we would truly be at a loss in various fields. If you are in the market for a thermometer but at a loss as to what you should buy then we are quite certain that this quick guide will be tremendously helpful for understanding the different types and for identifying the right thermometer to buy.

How Do Thermometers Work?

Before we get deeper into the different types of thermometers you can buy right now, you might be interested in learning how these items function. Thermometers are quite fascinating in both design and function.

There are two major types of thermometers; Glass thermometers and digital thermometers. Both of these give you an accurate temperature reading but they function very differently;


Analog thermometers

Analog thermometers consist of a glass tube that is sealed at both ends and filled with liquid-like mercury, alcohol or safer gallium. As the thermometer’s bulb located at the bottom heats, the liquid expands and pushes upwards inside the glass tube. When the temperature of the liquid reduces, the particles of the liquid retracts and the level of the liquid declines in the glass tube. The glass tube is mounted on a backboard with specific measurements that allows you to take the different temperature readings based on the height of the liquid.

Temperature readings are taken on different temperature scales. The most common temperature scales used include Fahrenheit and Celsius.

Digital thermometers

Digital thermometers are electric and require batteries or energy to function. These thermometers can have any of a variety of sensors such as solid-state sensors, resistance temperature detectors, thermistors or thermocouples.

All of these different types of digital thermometers function in the same basic way. The sensor produces resistance, current or voltage. A microchip is used to convert the temperature reading obtained by the sensor to digital value so you can read it on the display.

Most modern digital thermometers can be set to either read in Fahrenheit or Celsius and the microchip will automatically do the conversion calculation for you.

Understanding the difference between Fahrenheit and Celsius

In temperature, boiling point and freezing point of water are used to determine heat. There is a difference in Fahrenheit and Celsius boiling and freezing temperatures because altitude above sea-level affects the boiling or freezing point of water. At sea level, the boiling point of water is much higher than on a mountain due to atmospheric impact. These different temperature readings use different freezing and boiling points of water.

Celsius water freezes at 0_degrees C and boils at 100 degrees C. In Fahrenheit, water freezes at 32 degrees and boils at 32 degrees and boils at 212 degrees F. As you can see; Celsius has a 100-degree difference between boiling and freezing temperatures where Fahrenheit has a 180-degree difference between these two stages.

To convert the temperature from Celsius to Fahrenheit, you need to multiply the Celsius temperature by 1.8 and add 32 to get an accurate reading.

To convert the temperature of Fahrenheit to Celsius you need to minus the Fahrenheit reading by 32 and divide it by 1.8.

It is quite complex to convert these different readings which are why you need to be careful to purchase the thermometer with the right reading, especially when you are shopping from an international online store like Amazon although most modern thermometers do offer both readings.

Digital VS Mercury thermometers

One of the biggest decisions you will need to make when shopping for a new thermometer is to choose between digital and mercury thermometers. Both of these can offer you an accurate temperature reading but they do function very differently.

Benefits Digital thermometers have over mercury thermometers

Digital thermometers

  • Offers faster results
  • Are often more accurate
  • They are safer since mercury is poisonous
  • Can be programmed to support a specific purpose such as medical or cooking
  • Can offer you different temperature ratings

Benefits Mercury thermometers have over digital thermometers

Mercury thermometers

  • No batteries are required for them to work
  • They are often much more durable
  • Electronic malfunctions or sensor malfunctions cannot impair the accuracy of these thermometers
  • Mercury rises and lowers at a steady phase where production flaws can hinder the effectiveness of digital thermometers


The Main Types of Thermometers

It isn’t always easy to take the temperature of a specific item since lots of exterior elements could affect your readings. For example; taking the inner ear temperature of a child with an outdoor thermometer will be very challenging or even entirely ineffective and vice versa. You do need to purchase the right type of thermometer for every given task if you want to take accurate temperature readings without struggling. Here is a quick guide on the main types of thermometers you can buy right now;

Forehead strips – Forehead strip thermometers or liquid crystal thermometers come in the form of a heat-sensitive strip. The heat-sensitive crystals contained in the plastic strip changes color to indicate different temperature readings. Typically these are not the most accurate at 35-50% accuracy level but they can be very handy for detecting fevers.

Wearable thermometers – These digital thermometers are built into wrist bands or, in hospitals, they adhere to the chests of children. When the temperature levels spikes, notifications are sent to control centers or via cellphone apps to alert others.

Pacifier thermometers – These thermometers are constructed into pacifiers to help take the temperatures of children but they are highly ineffective since babies are so fussy when it comes to pacifier shapes.

Ear thermometers – These thermometers are generally referred to as tympanic thermometers. They are very easy to use and will give you accurate temperature readings with the push of a button. These digital thermometers can often be used to store temperature readings so you can monitor the progress of a child’s health.

Forehead thermometers – Temporal thermometers are used on children 3 years and older. The thermometer picks up the temperature by screening the forehead and is often a preferred thermometer for medical practices.

Digital thermometers – These thermometers are not 100% reliable, especially if you buy some of the cheap brands. They are available in various designs such as ear, forehead, recital as well as a great variety of other types for industrial environments.

Oral thermometers – These thermometers are usually mercury thermometers although there are some digital ones also available on the market such as pacifier thermometers. They are some of the most accurate thermometers available for home use.

Rectal thermometers – Even though this isn’t the most preferable way to get your temperature taken, medical professionals often rely on rectal thermometers for the most accurate readings, especially when dealing with infant patients.

Probe thermometers – This is the most common thermometer for monitoring liquids and semi-solids. The thermometer consists of a probe with sensors that are inserted into the product to get a digital temperature reading. These thermometers are used in a huge variety of industries such as hospitality, laboratories and much more.

Infrared thermometers – Infrared thermometers are no-contact thermometers that can be used to get a measurement without making contact with something. Medical professionals often use infrared temporal thermometers to take the temperatures of patients. In other industries such as manufacturing industries, these thermometers are very handy for taking the temperatures of all sorts of products.

K-Type thermometers – These thermometers are usually designed for a specific purpose or industry. The term ‘k-type’ usually refers to the probe metal position. The probes are designed to take the temperature of different elements such as solids, liquids and more. These devices are highly accurate, quick to use and they are used for various applications although many on the market are designed for specific applications.

Temperature data loggers – These thermometers are used to log or record continuous temperature readings. The thermometers usually have a USB port that allows you to download the data directly to a computer. The most common uses for temperature data loggers are in laboratories, storerooms or transportation.

Temperature labels – Like forehead strips these are designed with crystals that change color when a product reaches a specific temperature. Temperature levels are usually adhesive and are often only functional for single-use although they can endure quite a long time thanks to the water and oil resistance.

Indoor-outdoor thermometers – Also referred to as dual sensor thermometers, these thermometers are designed to offer you two types of temperatures. They usually have two wireless probes that allow you to take the temperature of two different areas. For example; you can take the indoor and outdoor temperature of your home or use your dual-sensor thermometer to monitor the temperature of different cooling rooms.

Analog thermometers – Analog thermometers are the most affordable and are also referred to as mercury thermometers. They are functional for non-specialist environments and are usually used to monitor outdoor or indoor environment temperatures. They are very easy to use and often display both C and F degree types. The biggest reason these are so popular on the market is that they require no batteries to function and are highly durable.

Thermal imaging cameras – These are not strictly thermometers but they can be used to identify different temperatures. These cameras capture thermal heat instead of visuals. They are practical for night time viewing since the camera can still identify animals and people by sensing temperature instead of the view.

Disposable thermometers – These thermometers usually come in strip form and function by mixing sustenance’s with different melting points.  When the sustenance melts, it changes color to indicate temperature. These should be kept at room temperature and can be rendered useless if they are exposed to very high or low temperatures.

Wireless thermometer – These thermometers function the same way as dual sensor thermometers. The sensors of these digital thermometers come loose and can be installed in different regions. The temperature reading is sent a wireless to the microchip which displays the readings digitally on a centrally located device.

Cooking thermometers – Most chefs use analog thermometers to take the temperature of foods and liquids. Cooking thermometers are functional for preparing specific foods that shouldn’t be heated beyond a specific point.

Outdoor thermometers – These thermometers need to be waterproofed and they usually feature an analog design that replaces the need for battery use. They are used to take the climate temperature although many can also offer additional readings such as humidity readings.

Oven thermometer – Modern ovens are all fitted with thermometers. In non-electric ovens, the thermometer indicates the temperature of the oven so you can either add more or less heat in the form of a gas stove or coal stove. In modern electric ovens, the stove is set to a specific temperature and that specific temperature is maintained by an automatic built-in thermometer to maintain constant heat.


Things to Keep In Mind When You Buy

As you can see, there are quite a lot of thermometer types on the market to make it possible to get all sorts of temperature readings. And when you dig a little bit deeper you will quickly find that there is a huge variety of thermometer types and brands available for each off these types. It can be challenging to find what you are looking for with so many to choose from.  Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are shopping for the best thermometer;

Buy according to your need

Using a hear thermometer to take a cooking temperature reading won’t offer you the best results. Thermometers only offer accurate readings when you use them for their intended purpose. It is important to find one that suits your needs. Here is a quick look at the most common thermometer types based on function;

For medical use – Medical thermometers are used to detect fevers. You can find them in analog or digital form. Analog medical thermometers can be used under the arm, orally or rectal to take temperatures. Digital medical thermometers are mostly infrared and can be used to take the temperature of the forehead or inner ear. The digital thermometers can offer lots of additional features such as fever alarms.

For outdoor use – Most people prefer an analog thermometer for outdoor use to indicate environment temperature. This is because these thermometers operate through mercury or alcohol and don’t require the use of batteries. They offer you constant and accurate readings of the current temperature of the environment in which it hangs.

For cooking – There are quite a lot of cooking thermometers available on the market. Some are very simple and affordable for home use and others with probes are functional for specialty cooking, baking, and smoking foods. Digital probe thermometers are usually used by chefs and offer you lots of modes and functions.

For manufacturing use – If you are in the production or manufacturing industry then it is best to invest in a thermometer that suits your specific purpose. Industrial industries require sensitive and highly accurate thermometers. In many companies, the use of lots of thermometers is required. For example; oven, fridge, environment and dual thermometers might be required to monitor and control temperatures of different areas and different processes.

Consider accuracy

Thermometers required for specific purposes such as for medical use should be very accurate. It is important to invest in a good quality brand when you buy digital thermometers for infant and childcare. Cheaper brands might not offer the right readings.


Consider ease of use

Buying an expensive thermometer doesn’t help you much if it is too complicated for easy use. For example; analog thermometers are very affordable but they can take time to offer you accurate readings and you do need to apply them to specific environments to get the right reading. Digital thermometers are usually more costly but are easy to point and offer instant results.

Consider features

Analog thermometers mostly simply offer you the Fahrenheit and Celsius readings but digital thermometers can contain lots of additional features such as fever indication, ear mode, Fahrenheit and Celsius readings, memory logs, mute functions, forehead mode and more. It might be wise to consider all of these functions before you buy them. Parents of infants often prefer infrared digital thermometers that include forehead modes since it becomes easy to take temperature readings of little ones without having to wake them up.

Consider Battery requirements

Analog and strip type thermometers require no batteries to function. If you are always running out of batteries or hate replacing your batteries then it is best to invest in some of these. When you choose a digital thermometer then be sure to also check out what type of batteries it uses so you can stock up.

Consider durability

Neither analog nor digital thermometers will last indefinitely but both can offer you many years of functionality. The liquid of analog thermometers can gradually decline or escape after many years of use which might alter the accuracy of readings you enjoy after a couple of years. Digital thermometers are also manmade and they function via a microchip which can become damaged over time.   Cheap digital thermometers might also offer you inaccurate readings and probably won’t last very long. The best way to ensure the durability of your thermometer is by investing in good quality and trusted the brand.

Consider result duration

We all know that analog thermometers are slower to give a reading since the liquid needs to heat up but there are some digital thermometers that can be quite slow. Speedy results can be helpful if you are trying to capture the temperature of fussy infants or busy toddlers.


Digital thermometers give you the readings via an LCD display. There are some that offer a very basic display while others offer backlight displays for easy viewing at night.

Consider memory and storage

Lots of digital thermometers allow you to store or log temperatures although it can be challenging to figure some of them out. If you need to monitor a fever and log data as in the case with nurses then it might be best to choose a thermometer with logging ability.


Final Verdict

There are so many different types of thermometers out there on the market. You are bound to find one that suits your need to perfection as long as you do your research on the right type and product to buy. We hope that this guide was helpful in identifying the right type to choose and if you want to learn more about the top picks on the market then we welcome you to hop over to some of our product reviews or our buyers guide for more detail.

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