A heat gun is a handy power tool commonly known for its use to strip paint and weld plastics. However, this tool is usually quite underrated. What most people don’t know is that they are incredibly versatile and can speed up a lot of projects if you have the correct nozzles.
Whether you’re a professional handyman, an avid DIYer, or a complete novice, we consider that you can greatly benefit from having a heat gun in your arsenal.
Like with most tools, there are so many options available that it might be hard to choose the right one. Read on for our introduction to heat guns to find out what you can use them for and what to consider when shopping for one.
You’ll be surprised at all the incredible every day uses a heat gun can provide!
Heat guns are well known for their usefulness in paint-stripping projects. They’re typically used to loosen old paint, which, once it blisters, is much easier to scrape away by hand. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
If your kids decided to cover your walls with crayon art and a few stickers, a heat gun can be an effective ally in removing them. The heat softens the waxy crayon and sticker adhesive, making it easier to wipe off with a cloth.
Product labels on jars, drinking glasses, plates, and old bumper stickers you’re no longer proud of can also be removed with the help of a heat gun.
If you want to take off old wallpaper, you can also use a heat gun to melt the glue when the wallpaper is resistant to soaking.
Any substances that begin soft or as a liquid before hardening can return to their original state with the use of a heat gun. For example, accidentally dripping candle wax can leave a residue, but you can simply wipe it away after melting it with a heat gun. Similarly, hardened plumber’s putty on pipes, tiles, or porcelain can be softened with this tool and then scraped away.
Even thawing frozen pipes is possible with this piece of equipment! Gently warm the pipe on a low setting to avoid damaging it, and you’ll get water flowing once again in a matter of minutes.
Whatever you use them for, just remember that heat guns reach high temperatures that can burn the surface or object you’re working on, or even crack and shatter glass.
Some other home improvement projects you can use a heat gun for include bending PVC and metal pipes, shrinking plastic tubing, paint and damp wood drying, loosening old, rusted bolts and screws, and damaged vinyl tiles, and lifting old or damaged flooring.
From domestic and crafty, to car maintenance and some stranger options such as roasting coffee beans and cooking bacon, the uses of a heat gun are almost endless.
Refreshing black tires or car trims that have turned a dull gray over time is possible by gently heating the plastic with a heat gun to bring out the oils in the material and restore the color.
You can also arm yourself with a heat gun to defrost your freezer or clean a grill. The heat will melt the ice in the freezer and loosen all the debris, grease, and food that remains so that you can easily scrape it off. You just need to keep the gun moving the entire time and start at a low setting.
Now, we’re sure you’re curious about the cooking applications of a heat gun, so here they are. You can place coffee beans inside a metal bowl and some pieces of bacon on a plate and run the heat gun over it, moving the beans around and turning the strips over to ensure even roasting and cooking. And that’s it, now breakfast is ready!
Heat guns resemble a hairdryer, and they work in a similar fashion. They draw in the air with a fan and then push it across a heating element that heats it. The air then goes through a nozzle that directs it at its subject.
The difference between a hot gun and a hairdryer is, of course, is that a heat gun can generate temperatures of 1,100 °F (593 °C), and some models can go even hotter.
Heat guns can be operated with one hand, and they have some temperature controls so that you can set the heat according to your project.
One of the big advantages of these tools is that they’re completely flameless, so they’re a safer source of heat that’s less likely to cause a fire or damage the surface you’re working on.
Heat guns are designed for one-handed operation, and they should be held at approximately 4 inches from the surface you’re working on, at an angle of 45°. However, we recommend that you check the manufacturer’s instructions for the proper distance and degree of heat that’s best suited for each project.
You need to move the heat gun around constantly, not keeping it over the same place for more than a few seconds, to avoid burning or discoloring your workpiece.
If you’re using the gun to remove paint or adhesive, we suggest you hold the tool with one hand and a scraper with the other to scrape away the paint as it’s loosened.
There are four types of heat guns: infrared, industrial, electric, and gas heat guns. This is what you should know about them:
These heat guns are rather new to the market. They apply infrared heat, and they’re more affordable than other types of guns. They can reach a maximum temperature of 1,112 °F (600 °C), which is certainly more than enough for most common home renovation and household projects.
These power tools are designed for professional-grade tasks in the engineering, automotive, and construction industries because they have higher heat levels and fan settings and can reach temperatures of up to 1,800 °F (1,000 °C).
As their name suggests, electric heat guns are powered by electricity. They are the most popular style and can be either corded or cordless. Some models allow you to adjust the temperature and fan speed.
These are an older and less popular style of a heat gun, mainly because they’re more expensive. They typically use butane or propane gas rather than a heated element, and the canister has to be frequently replaced and filled.
Heat gun nozzles are accessories that are designed to optimize how the gun works by providing more accurate temperature control and direct the flow of heat.
The default nozzle used for paint stripping is an open and even heat output, but other types of nozzles can concentrate, protect, reflect or distribute the air.
- Glass protection nozzle: it’s necessary when stripping paint and varnish from a window to protect the glass from the heat.
- Reducer nozzle: it’s used to focus the air stream onto a specific area in soldering jobs, bending plastic tubing, and other similar tasks. It’s ideal when you’re working in confined spaces or doing detailed work.
- Reflector nozzle: it’s typically used when working with plastic or copper pipe because it directs the hot air around the surface. This way you don’t have to move the heat gun around the pipe when bending plastic tubing, soldering, and heating copper pipes, applying heat shrink tubing.
- Surface nozzle: it’s used for directing the heat over a wider, narrower area, such as when removing old flooring at a very high temperature.
The various heat gun models available in the market don’t differ much from one another, but there are some important features you should keep in mind if you go shopping for one.
- Wattage: refers to the power of the heat gun. The higher the wattage, the more effective the gun is, and the hotter it can go. Wattage can range from 1,000 to 2,000 W, the latter of which is more than enough for most household projects.
- Variable temperature setting: allows for selecting the temperature of a heat gun between the minimum and maximum settings. This setting can be crucial because the temperature range of a gun determines what you can use it for.
DIYers who want to tackle some simple household jobs can comfortably do so with a heat gun that has a temperature ranging from about 392 °F to 752 °F. Heavy-duty projects require a more versatile heat gun, so a wider range between 120 °F and 1,100 °F would be ideal.
- Airflow setting or fan speed: determines how much surface area the heat of the gun will cover. While lower fan speeds are best for precise projects, higher speeds allow for better heat distribution across the surface.
- Thermal cut out: a safety feature that automatically switches the tool off when it starts overheating.
While you certainly will come across other heat gun features, we consider that these four are the crucial ones to choose a heat gun that’ll be the most useful to you.
Often overlooked, heat guns are incredibly versatile tools that can be used in a wide variety of professional and household projects. Be sure to check out our list of the best heat guns to buy!
Now that you’ve learned the basics about this fantastic tool, you might want to consider shopping for one to add to your toolbox. It’s something we can assure you won’t regret!