Undecided which laser to buy? Too much choice? What suits my application best?
Maybe you are a complete novice when it comes to using a laser level or you have just hired one on a few occasions; then the decision to buy may still seem daunting.
This Guide is here to help you.
A laser level is simply an instrument to speed up the setting-out process in the workplace. A simple spirit level is adequate over short distances (a few metres), but however careful you are and however good the spirit level is, when used over longer distances, cumulative errors give poor results & the process is very time consuming. Instead, using a laser level is quick & easy and gives very good accuracy & repeatability over long distances.
Dot, Line & Rotary Lasers:
There are basically 3 types of laser level. Two have static outputs; in simple terms you see a visible thin red Line or a red Dot on the surface opposite. The 3rd type is called a Rotary laser, where a prism driven around by a small motor “throws” a laser dot through 360 degrees. If the rotational speed is fast enough, indoors you would see a line around the room.
Unsure which Cross Line Laser to choose? Click Here to check out our useful beam diagram page.
Like with spirit levels, Rotary laser level accuracy is quoted as plus or minus Xmm at a distance of 30 metres away. No idea why 30m was chosen but this is the industry norm. All our laser levels have an accuracy of +/-3mm @ 30m or better. A top of the range Rotary laser is +/-1.5mm @ 30m.
The very best spirit levels (say from Stabila) have an accuracy of +/- 0.5mm/m, ie. a laser equivalent of +/-15mm @ 30m, so you can see that compared to a spirit level, even a general purpose laser level is at least 5x more accurate & far easier to use over distance.
Manual v Auto:
Lower priced Rotary lasers have bubble levels to set the accuracy. These are called Manual lasers. They are no less accurate (than Auto) as long as the User is careful setting them up but they will keep running if knocked, so tend to be used for smaller projects. An Automatic (Auto) or self-levelling Rotary laser does what it says on the tin! Press a button and in 20 secs or so, it starts to rotate & give a true level line around the worksite. If disturbed, the laser will stop, so you never get inaccuracies.
The same is true for the static line or dot lasers, except they auto level immediately they are switched on as the self-level mechanism is a mechanical system: via a damped pendulum. Again quick & easy to use. Some models have a Cross or Multiline laser outputs, where perhaps you want to set squaring on the ground for floor tiling etc. They have numerous other applications.
Green v Red:
Why choose Green instead of Red beam lasers? This is a question regularly asked.
Green beam lasers appear much brighter to the human eye but are more expensive to produce. They are used Indoors only on larger scale projects where Contractors still want to “see” the laser line rather than using a detector. Green beam lasers are no advantage outdoors because a laser detector is still required.
Laser Detectors - sometimes called Receivers or Rod Eyes:
This is a device which “detects” a laser line that you cannot see. The line can be produced either by a Rotary laser or a static line laser. Both use specific types of matching detector but all have a red pick-up window & internal electronics to indicate to you, the centre of the laser line. You are given this indication via bright LED’s, variable audible sounds or a LCD with bold Up & Down arrows.
Do I need a Laser Detector?
Again, this decision goes back to the size of your work-site & whether you are planning to do Indoor or Outdoor work.
Outdoors, you will always need to use a detector to pick up the laser beam that your eyes cannot see.
Indoors, a detector is generally only used over 20m but for distances of less than that, the norm is to see the laser line or dot by eye.
An exception to this is in very bright sunlit rooms; where again, using a detector would be an advantage.
Most Interior Contractors do not like to use detectors. They prefer vision by eye; enhancing the beam with laser glasses - if necessary. However, some of our more expensive Multiline lasers have both options: to see by eye or use a detector included in the kit. The detector is triggered by a "pulsed output" setting - which enables the User to extend the instrument's indoor range or make it usable outdoors too.
Percentage % Indoor /Outdoor Usage:
Some projects are clearly all indoor (like partitioning) and others all outdoors (like general ground-works). However, we are often asked if one type of laser can be used say 75% outdoors & 25% indoors or similar. We have added remarks in our product specifications to help you with this but as a very general rule of thumb, Rotary lasers with detectors are used outdoors & Static cross line lasers are used indoors. There are exceptions though. Like with most tools there is some overlap on usage but high lighting levels will generally dictate the use of a laser detector.
IP ratings is an International Protection value given to equipment to indicate how dust & waterproof it is, in normal usage.
An example is IP54, where the first number 5 indicates dust ingress & the last no.4 is water resistance. The higher the numbers the better the level of protection.
For dust ingress, 5 is limited to not effecting the performance of the instrument and 6 shows it is totally dust tight.
In general terms, if we do not specify an IP rating or it is less than IP54, the instrument is not waterproof for outdoor use.
The values for Water protection (last number) are as follows:
4 - water splashing from any direction shall have no harmful effect. ie. driving rain.
5 - water projected by a nozzle (6.3mm) from any direction shall have no harmful effects.
6 - water projected in powerful jets (12.5mm nozzle) against the instrument from any direction shall have no harmful effects. ie. OK to power wash.
7 - submersing in water up to 1m deep for 30 mins will not damage the instrument.
This is IP67, the highest protection offered.
Horizontal, vertical levelling & grading:
Our static line & dot lasers are able to level horizontally or vertically or both, depending on the type selected. The same is true for Rotary lasers, where the cheaper models will only be able to level horizontally. That is not to say that you have to select a more expensive laser that does verticals too - to get better accuracy. Try to choose a laser that meets your requirements & budget because sometimes, extra features are simply not required. The SP30 is a good example of this. If you simply want an easy-to-use groundworks laser, horizontal output only & no grading or squaring required, then this model is for you.
However, if you need to set out drainage runs or car-parks/driveways then a laser with a “grading” option enables the User to over-ride the self level mechanism & tilt the laser beam at the required angle of slope or grade. A very useful feature. It is necessary to do a little “maths” to set-up your grade but this involves no more than setting a fall on a measuring staff at a known distance away from the laser. Once set, this grade can be detected at any distance & the work completed more quickly.
Laser levels should always be mounted on generally level, firm surfaces. This could be a window ledge, or simply a concrete block. This forms the datum point from which the laser measures all other reference points. However for more convenience, you can select from a very wide range of accessories to aid the positioning & stable mounting of your laser level - from wall brackets to tripods & laser poles. All these accessories have either a small ¼” or large 5/8” mounting thread; as shown in the pictures. It is very important that you match the thread in your instrument, carefully, to that of the accessory. Full details are found in our product specifications. In addition, the popular Stanley laser range includes some useful adapters to convert threads if required – which can adapt all other laser brands too.
Dumpy (Optical site levels):
These are automatic levels using a telescope type arrangement to magnify markings on a measuring staff to set levels. Unlike Rotary lasers, a “dumpy level” system requires two people, one to hold the staff & the other to operate the instrument on a supporting tripod. Once a bubble level is generally centralised, the dumpy gives an automatically levelled line centrally in the field of view. This reference datum line can be transferred from one staff position to another using the focus wheel.
Generally a dumpy system is for outdoor measurements; it is even more accurate than using lasers but the down side is two people are required on site. Again a range of supporting tripods (all 5/8” thread) & different heights of measuring staff are available to make up the classic dumpy level kit of: instrument, tripod & staff.
Laser Distance Measures:
Nearly all the brands are based on Leica technology but the principle is the same & these laser based measures compliment our Laser & dumpy levels for onsite measurements. They are a hand held, battery powered device with a laser pointer. Hold steady (or tripod mount), point & take the measurement. Its as easy as that and far quicker & more accurate than using steel or fibreglass tapes.
All models will calculate areas & volumes for you at the press of a button & the more sophisticated will work out Pythagoras and show tilt angles. Some also have Bluetooth technology to download measurements to a PC.
Inclinometers – to measure angles:
Lasers & dumpys will not measure angles, which is where the Inclinometer or Angle gauge fills the gap. Some of our Inclinometers are also built into spirit levels to give a longer measuring surface, whereas others are a more compact “pocket” size. All do the same job which is to give the angle of inclination of, for example, a roof beam or the mounting for a satellite dish. The applications are too numerous to mention here.
Specialist levelling equipment:
This includes Nivcomp kits which accurately measures atmospheric pressure at a base station compared to a hand-held reader. Its accurate to +/-1mm, so makes it an alternative to laser levels. A Nivcomp can read any level, wherever its connecting tube will travel. So as an example, if you need to screed floors in a number of rooms it does the job effortlessly - whereas a laser level would need moving continually.
1. 12 months Parts & Labour warranty: A full warranty cover provided to you on Generic products via Laser Levels Online. Full terms on application.
2. 1 year, 2 year & 3 year warranty: Full period warranty cover provided by the Brand Supplier (e.g. Spectra, Bosch etc) via Laser Levels Online. Full terms on application.
3. 12, 24 & 36 month warranty: Full period warranty cover provided by the Brand Supplier (e.g. Spectra, Bosch etc) via Laser Levels Online. Full terms on application.
Calibration Certificates (Certificate of Conformity):
ALL our laser level kits and optical site levels are checked & tested "in-house" to ensure that they conform to their Manufacturers Specifications. On request, written Certificates can be issued with your new equipment and these certificates are priced at £10+vat.
After reading this guide, if you are still unsure which of our products would best meet your intended usage requirements or you are simply new to using laser / dumpy levels and would like further guidance - why not call our Technical sales support team on 08000 869 769 who would be more than happy to talk you through the various products available.
Alternatively you can visit our Showroom in Chesterfield, Derbyshire where we can give you a practical "hands-on" demonstration of our products. (This is by appointment only).