Buyer’s Guide: Heat Guns
Often overlooked, heat guns are handy tools for a range of applications, from removing stubborn stuck-on labels to applying vehicle decals. Ahead, read our guide to navigating the available options and get details on our top-favorite picks.
A heat gun is a versatile tool—and one of the best-kept secrets in an avid DIYer’s toolbox. These handy tools resemble hairdryers and operate in a similar way; pulling in air with a fan and then pushing it across a heated element and through a nozzle to produce heated air. The difference of course is that a heat gun generates super-heated air.
You can use heat guns to remove product labels or old bumper stickers, strip paint, heat-shrink plastic, soften glue, and apply vehicle decals. If you’re handy at plumbing, you can even use a heat gun to bend plastic piping, defrost frozen pipes, or loosen solder joints.
Ahead, read our guide to the ins and outs of heat guns, learn what features to look for in a quality model, and get details on our top-favorite picks among the best heat gun options available.
- BEST OVERALL: DEWALT Heat Gun with LCD Display
- MOST VERSATILE: Milwaukee Electric Cordless Heat Gun
- BEST FOR HEAVY DUTY: SEEKONE Heat Gun
- ALSO CONSIDER: PORTER-CABLE Heat Gun
Types of Heat Guns
Heat guns come in four different types: electric, gas, industrial, and infrared. But no matter what type of heat gun you use, it’s important to be aware these tools can be dangerous if used improperly or carelessly. Although heat guns don’t use an open flame, they are capable of producing temperatures as high as 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. When using a heat gun, take extreme care to avoid burning yourself or damaging the material you are working with.
- Electric heat guns can be either corded or cordless, small or large, and even the temperature range and fan speed can vary. Electric heat guns are the most popular style of heat gun, and usually the most cost-effective as well. Due to their popularity, manufacturers in recent years have focused more attention on developing electric heat gun technology, while gas-powered heat guns have slowly become a thing of the past.
- Gas heat guns use either butane or propane gas in place of a heated element. These guns are less popular than electric models for a few reasons. The first is that they tend to be more expensive. Secondly, you need to continuously buy and fill gas canisters to use the gun, which is much less convenient than just plugging in or charging an electric model. Professionals in the plumbing or electrical field may use a gas heat gun if their work takes them away from accessible electrical outlets or to avoid the safety hazard of running an extension cord, but beyond the professional trades, the gas heat gun has lost a lot of its popularity in the DIY market.
- Industrial heat guns are only differentiated from electric and gas models by their robust construction, higher heat levels, and higher fan settings. Professionals use industrial heat guns for heavy-duty jobs in mass retail factories, packaging plants, and automotive repair. Because they are designed for industrial work, these tools don’t allow for the fine-tuning of temperature and fan control needed for smaller precision projects.
- Infrared guns are relatively new to the market. They use infrared heat, as indicated by the name, and tend to run on the cheaper side for a heat gun. They produce a maximum temperature of 1,112 degrees Fahrenheit, more than enough for many household projects.
Key Shopping Considerations
The temperature range of a heat gun determines the type of work you can use it for. Heavy-duty jobs like paint stripping and plumbing will benefit from a heat gun that has a maximum temperature of around 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit and a minimum temperature of around 120 degrees Fahrenheit for increased versatility.
DIYers looking to complete everyday household projects like heat-shrinking plastic or softening the adhesive on flooring tiles may be content with a heat gun that has a narrower temperature range, somewhere between 392 degrees Fahrenheit and 752 degrees Fahrenheit.
Basic heat guns operate at a single temperature—the gun automatically heats up to its maximum temperature and the only way to adjust the heat level is to move the gun closer to or away from the target object. More advanced heat guns may have two or three different temperature settings, allowing you to select between high, medium, and low heat, depending on your needs.
Variable temperature heat guns have a dial for selecting a temperature between the minimum and maximum of their range. Some newer models have electronic displays that allow you to set the exact temperature you want and adjust it by increments.
For the most accurate heat setting, opt for a heat gun with detailed temperature and fan controls.
Fan speed determines how much surface area the heat gun will impact. Lower fan speeds are best for precise projects, like loosening solder joints or removing labels, while higher fan speeds allow for a greater distribution of heat across an area.
As you move a heat gun with a low fan speed away from the target object, the surface area increases but the temperature decreases. A powerful fan allows the surface area to increase without a significant drop in temperature, allowing a greater area to be heated at one time. This setting is useful for larger projects, like stripping paint or defrosting pipes.
Accessory and Nozzle Options
Heat guns come with a wide variety of accessory and nozzle options designed to provide more accurate temperature control and more efficiently direct the flow of heat.
Popular heat gun accessories include a dead man’s switch that shuts off the power when pressure is removed, a thermal cut-out that switches off the heat gun if it becomes overheated, a hanging hook for storing the tool, and a surface stand that allows you to safely rest the gun during pauses in work. The surface stand also provides a hands-free alternative for projects that require two hands, though you would need to do this with extreme care to ensure that the heat gun is stable and directed away from potentially flammable objects.
Popular nozzles for heat guns include reducer or cone nozzles that concentrate the heat onto a specific area, spoon reflector nozzles that wrap around piping to evenly heat the entire circumference of the pipe, flat nozzles for a wide, horizontal line application, and glass protector nozzles for stripping paint off of a window while preventing direct heat on the glass.
There are other options for more specialized uses, but these are the most popular additions to the average heat gun.
Aside from the plethora of heat gun nozzle and accessory choices out there, some models offer additional built-in features. Some heat guns boast extended cord lengths for more freedom of movement. Others feature high-temperature protection on the nozzle to help keep your hands safe, or even built-in memory settings so you can instantly adjust the heat and fan speed to exactly what you need for a specific project you’ve done before, like stripping paint, with a single button press.
Our Top Picks
1. BEST OVERALL: DEWALT Heat Gun with LCD Display
The DEWALT Heat Gun with LCD Display features a maximum temperature of 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit and an electronic temperature display that you can adjust in 50-degree increments for increased control and precision. Overload protection shuts down the heating element if the heat gun begins to overheat, and a handy hang ring makes it easy to store. A built-in cord protector prevents damage to the cord from stretching or pulling. One of the best features of this heat gun is its set of 12 common accessories, including seven different nozzles, in a hard plastic carrying case.
2. MOST VERSATILE: Milwaukee Electric Cordless Heat Gun
Built for compact convenience and efficiency, the Milwaukee Electric Cordless Heat Gun measures just 6.4-inches in length. It is powered by an XC 5.0 battery that is able to heat over 40 connections on a single charge. There is no built-in temperature control, but it can reach its moderate operational temperature of 875 degrees Fahrenheit within seven seconds of the trigger being depressed. Being a cordless, battery-powered option, this heat gun can be used where you like. For better visibility in tight spaces lacking adequate light, the Milwaukee features a built-in LED light.
3. BEST FOR HEAVY DUTY: SEEKONE Heat Gun
SEEKONE’s Heat Gun is a worthy option for a variety of heavy-duty projects because of its wide temperature range of 120 degrees Fahrenheit to 1,202 degrees Fahrenheit. The gun comes with four different nozzles for various applications and features a heating mode and a cooldown mode for safer storage once you’re done using it. You can adjust temperatures with the control dial on the back of the gun. The heat gun has two fan speed settings, labeled low and high, and has a 5.25-foot cord for increased freedom of movement while using it.
4. ALSO CONSIDER: PORTER-CABLE Heat Gun
PORTER-CABLE’s Heat Gun features a 6-foot long cord for maximum maneuverability and an integrated hands-free support stand for projects that require two hands. A variable temperature control dial on the side of the gun can adjust the heat within a range of 120 degrees Fahrenheit to 1,150 degrees Fahrenheit. While that isn’t the widest temperature range out there, it is more than sufficient for household tasks and even some industrial tasks, like stripping paint. A high and a low fan setting controls the flow of air through the heat gun, and an integrated hanging hook is great for storage.