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What are heat guns used for?

Why, where, and how to safely use heat guns

Hot air guns play a significant role in many types of work, ranging from home improvement projects to industrial manufacturing. Aerospace, automotive, and boating industries rely on these heavy-duty tools. Regardless of the task, safety awareness is critical when using a power tool with a heated element.

Popular Uses for Heat Guns

Household Uses

In the household, DIYers often use small, cordless heat guns for a variety of projects. Common uses include thawing frozen pipes during winter cold snaps, stripping paint and old wallpaper when renovating or redecorating, removing flooring, upholstering or repairing furniture, and more.

Hot air tools can even help in the kitchen to quickly roast coffee beans, sear meat, melt chocolate, or defrost the freezer – not to mention at-home candle making. The maximum operating temperature on these devices ranges, with some reaching as high as 990 degrees Fahrenheit.

Industrial Uses

Industrial manufacturers use heat guns of variable temperature to perform more complex and heavy-duty undertakings. These tasks can include:

  • paint stripping
  • loosening old bolts and screws
  • bending plastic and metal
  • removing adhesives
  • embossing
  • waxing
  • shrink wrapping large objects
  • drying our damp wood or other materials prone to mold
  • sterilizing tools for proper sanitation

While some of these jobs have lower operating temperature requirements, industrial heat guns can reach 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Close up of the heating element inside a hot air tool nozzle
Close up of the heating element inside a hot air tool nozzle

Industries That Use Heat Guns

Below are a few specific industries that rely heavily on hot air tools to manufacture, maintain, and enhance their products.

Aviation Industry

Heat guns are instrumental in building airplanes, and spacecraft for that matter. These electrically-heated power tools are particularly useful for heat shrinking, soldering, sealing, cauterizing, binding, shaping, and attaching various materials. These procedures apply to different aspects of construction and repair of wire harnesses, circuit boards, and exterior/interior components, including fiberglass and carbon mesh fiber, flooring, plumbing, and seating.

Automotive Industry

The automotive industry uses heat guns to manufacture vehicles (with many similar applications to the aviation industry). Aftermarket modifications, including window tinting and decorative vinyl wraps, are also typically applied with these tools.

Applying a wrap to a vehicle windshield
Heat guns are used to apply protective layers to vehicle windshields

These tools are also helpful in autobody shops for repairs and part replacement. They are useful when fixing dents and scratches. For example, a hot air gun might be used to soften and mold a bumper back into place or to return a dashboard to like-new condition. Additionally, heat guns can cure adhesives and aid in affixing leather patches. Conversely, old adhesives (such as bumper stickers, fillers, and putty) can be easily removed with help from a hot air tool.

Boating Industry

Boat and yacht owners almost always protect their property with vinyl coatings. They also usually include naming and other personalized decorations. Specialized wrap shops customize boats with distinctive vinyl wrapping.

Using hot air tools during application is key to ensuring this vinyl is correctly adhered to the surface and remains intact. Protective vinyl must withstand exposure to water, the speed of travel, and extreme climate events such as hurricanes. If not properly applied at the right heat gun operating temperature, the wrap can peel off, exposing the boat to severe damage. Specialized heat guns come equipped with temperature monitoring and guiding laser capabilities for these applications.

The Importance of Heat Gun Safety

First and foremost, be sure to purchase a high-quality hot air tool with features that safely and effectively support your needs. No matter what you’re using them for, it’s essential to follow best practices for heat gun safety. Accidental high-temperature exposure can cause severe burn injury.

Keep in mind the following safety tips:

  • Wear the proper safety gear
  • Ensure good ventilation
  • Remove combustible/flammable materials
  • Check temperature settings are correct
  • Do not point the gun at one spot for too long
  • Switch the tool OFF before putting it down on any surface
  • Allow the tool to cool before storing it
  • Never touch the hot metal nozzle with clothing or skin
  • Never direct the airflow towards yourself of another person
  • Do not look down the nozzle while the gun is turned ON
  • Do not insert anything down the nozzle of the gun
  • Do not use with lead-based paint to avoid toxic fumes
  • Never block the inlet grill or obstruct the airflow of the unit while in operation

Furthermore, consider adding Insulon® Safety Guards to your hot air tools for thermal protection and reduced burn risk. These heat gun accessories are important attachments that shield the high-temperature nozzle from coming into contact with the operator.

Stainless steel, vacuum insulated, Insulon Safety Guard
Insulon® Safety Guards are stainless steel attachments that can reduce burn risk for heat gun operators

Summary

Hot air tools are useful, popular, and effective tools for both home and industrial settings. Likewise, there are many heat guns and accessories on the market to choose from. Whether using them for a DIY project or in professional manufacturing, these tools are potentially dangerous. Safety precautions must be taken. Insulon® Safety Guards can help reduce burn risk for at-home and industrial heat gun operators alike.

Concept Group LLC

Concept Group LLC is a thermal engineering firm specializing in advanced insulation solutions for complex and demanding thermal challenges. We combine innovative engineering with expert manufacturing to develop proprietary solutions for clients across industries.

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