What Do Thermometers Measure?
Tip written by: Infraspection Institute
When asked what a thermometer measures, most people will tell you that thermometers measure whatever they contact. The correct answer is a little more complex and is fundamental to understanding and accurately applying contact thermometry.
Contact thermometry is a common technique used in temperature measurement. Thermocouples, resistance temperature devices, thermistors, and bulb thermometers are used to gauge the temperature of a wide variety of objects, materials, and systems. Although each works on a different principle, all contact temperature devices have one thing in common: contact thermometers report their own temperature.
Because contact thermometry is often used by thermographers to confirm radiometric measurements and to calibrate infrared equipment, accuracy is extremely important. To help ensure accuracy when using a contact thermometer, keep the following in mind:
- Select thermometer appropriate for task. Be sure to consider sensor size, thermometer sensitivity, operating range, and response time
- Prior to use, confirm that chosen thermometer is calibrated and operating properly
- Make certain that selected thermometer is in good contact with object
- Allow sufficient time for thermometer to achieve thermal equilibrium with object
Prior to using a contact thermometer, make certain that the surface to be measured is safe to touch. Never use a contact thermometer on energized electrical equipment or on any machinery where contact could result in personal injury.
Advanced heat transfer and temperature measurement are some of the many topics covered in the Infraspection Institute Level II Certified Infrared Thermographer® training course. For course schedules or to register for a course, visit Infraspection Institute online or call us at 609-239-4788.
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