When installing an IKEA shelf, using a bubble level, or just the level of your phone, might just get the job done. But moving onto more robust jobs or a home renovation project, using laser level would make your day easier and get jobs done faster.
When talking about laser, it’s not that one from the Death Star which can blow up a planet. What rather is a beam of intense light that is emitted to project a line on a surface. The ‘laser’ that are talked about is basically harmless as it is created by a diode, or LED, that is on computer screens and televisions.
Two common colours of lasers used in laser levels are red and green. These two colours are near the centre of the visible spectrum for human, so it is easier to see. And the green variant is usually even more visible in indoor conditions. Despite the colour difference, the outdoor sunlight is still too strong for ‘laser’. Therefore, a laser detector is always required for outdoor work.
Laser levels typically use Class IIA laser lights which are between 1 milliwatt (mw) and 5 mw, which is safe even if it catches your eye. But for safety purpose, you should stay away from staring into the laser and avoid others, including kids, doing so as well.
Other than the colour that is emitted, there are two types of laser level in terms of “finding the level”. Manual laser levels require the user to perform the initial levelling with a typical bubble level embedded to the machine. These levels are usually less expensive and uses less power. An auto laser level, as the name suggested, performs the levelling by itself. The ‘pendulum’ type uses magnets and gravity to determine the level while others use electronic sensors to boost accuracy and reliability. Self-levelling variants are more time-efficient when they are moved around frequently and offer higher accuracy.
In numbers, laser levels can have an accuracy up to +/- 0.0625 inch per 50 feet while offering a more distanced accurate measurement. The working range of rotary laser levels can be up to 2,000 feet in diameter (1,000 feet for all sides) for outdoor use with a laser detector. Range are usually greater for indoor use cases.
Other than rotary laser levels, there are simpler and smaller variants just as well to enhance your work. A point generator is a simple addition to a typical bubble level with a laser dot or laser line to extend the levelling line. Dot laser levels are more suitable for dry walls by projecting a point that is level, square (a right angle) or plumb (vertical). Advanced line laser levels (or cross-line laser levels) can project multiple horizontal and vertical line for even more effective levelling work. Learn about all the different forms of laser levels with the Family Handyman.
In choosing your laser level, start considering with your most frequent use case. Multiple line lasers and laser squares are highly recommended for indoor projects while rotary and line lasers with a pulse/detector feature are better for uneven surfaces, long distances and outdoor scenarios.
The typical sizes of your projects are next in consideration to balance the range, the visibility and the price of the levels. The type of wall to be used on is crucial as well, as laser levels are usually attached with pins or suction cups. You wouldn’t want to damage the wall just to use a laser level. Finally, the surface that you will be using the level on will determine whether a manual level or a self-levelling version is better. The automated levels are more suited for outdoor projects or uneven surfaces.