Heat guns can be incredibly handy for a wide variety of DIY, home improvement, and other projects. However, if you don’t have a heat gun lying around, there are a few alternatives that you could use instead.
Instead of a heat gun, you can use an alcohol burner, a soldering iron, a butane torch, or a 300mw engraving laser. Common household objects such as hair dryers, matches, lighters, clothing irons, or light bulbs might also work. However, none of these will perform as well as the real thing.
Whichever substitute you decide to go for, you need to know how to handle it properly. You will be working with heat at very high temperatures, so you want to avoid any accidents. To learn how to use the heat gun alternatives listed above, keep reading.
An alcohol burner paired with a metal funnel can, to some extent, replace a heat gun. For a quick tutorial on how to make an alcohol burner, check out this video. It only takes a few minutes and some basic tools:
If you don’t have an alcohol stove, you can use a gas burner too. Just make sure that it does not emit smoke or soot.
- Before lighting the burner, place it on a fire- and heat proof surface.
- Then, pour some alcohol inside. You can also spill some around the burner, as that helps turn the alcohol into flammable vapor.
- Next, light the burner. When flames start coming out of all side gaps, place a coin on the center hole to keep the fire from coming out.
- Finally, take a metal funnel and position it upside down over the flame. You want to use supports that are stable enough to hold the funnel securely in place while at the same time allowing for unobstructed airflow at the bottom.
Note that you don’t want any flames coming out of the opening of the funnel. If that happens, lift the funnel higher.
The goal is to end up with construction like the one in this video:
The funnel will restrict and channel the flame from the burner, turning it into a consistent and targeted flow of hot air that is much easier and safer to work with than open fire.
To put the flame out, simply cover the burner with a larger can.
If you are working on a smaller surface area that requires more precision and delicate craftsmanship, you can use a soldering iron, such as this 60W 110V Soldering Iron Kit by TBBSC. For some helpful tips on how to use a soldering iron as a beginner, check out this tutorial:
A butane torch, such as this Premium Butane Torch by Yuge Torch, can be another great substitute for a heat gun. Here’s how to use one:
300mw Engraving Laser
For more delicate projects, you can try using a 300mw laser for carving and engraving, such as this Q-BAIHE 405nm 300mw Laser Dot Module. However, bear in mind that the goggles can get in the way and obstruct your vision. What’s more, lasers only work on dark shrink tubes.
You can use a hairdryer instead of a heat gun for certain applications that require a lower amount of heat, such as removing candle wax, labels, or stickers.
However, a hairdryer might not be a good alternative to a heat gun when it comes to shrink wrapping. The typical hair dryer reaches a maximum temperature of around 284°F (140°C). In contrast, professional heat guns can go as high as 1292°F (700°C). Heat shrink is only fully activated at temperatures between 212 to 392°F (100–200°C). For stripping paint, you need 392 to 752°F (200–400°C).
Also, heat guns deliver a much more concentrated airflow than hair dryers.
You should also keep in mind that hair dryers can overheat and malfunction if used too often and for prolonged periods.
When using a hairdryer, you want to turn it up to the hottest setting and hold it as close to the treated surface as possible. If you have one, attach a focusing nozzle to achieve a more concentrated airflow, and don’t forget to heat the surface evenly on all sides.
It’s also a good idea to use an older hair dryer; you don’t want to risk damaging your brand-new, state-of-the-art ionic hair dryer.
For a quick and small fix on the go, you can give your good old BIC lighter a try. Just remember to watch your fingers.
If you don’t have a lighter, you can use matches as well. What’s more, many people find match sticks easier to control and maneuver than lighters.
Your clothing iron is another everyday household item that can replace — within limits — a heat gun. Plug the iron in, stand it upright, and hold the object you want to treat close to the iron without touching it. Slowly move the object in front of the iron to ensure that the entire surface area receives the same amount of heat exposure. Remember to take your time and be patient.
As a last resort when heat-shrinking, try holding the heat shrink close to a hot light bulb and wait for it to melt.
What Are the Best Heat Guns on the Market in 2020?
While there are quite a few quick-fix alternatives to using a heat gun, nothing beats the real thing. So, if you are going to be doing heavy-duty projects or large volumes of work, the best option would be to invest in a high-quality heat gun.
Here are some of the best heat guns in 2020.
The Porter-Cable PC1500HG has two fan speeds that give you full control over the airflow at all times. The operating temperatures range from 120 to 1100°F (48.8–593.3°C) and can be adjusted by 20-degree increments. Best of all, this model is super lightweight and only weighs around two pounds.
The Steinel Heat Gun Kit comes with all the standard accessories and a sturdy aluminum case, making it a great choice for beginners or anyone looking to upgrade their toolkit. This heat gun comes with a 120 to 1150°F (48.8–621.1°C) temperature range that can be adjusted by 10-degree intervals.
The standout feature of the Milwaukee 2688-20 Heat Gun is that it is battery powered. The cordless operation makes it an excellent fit for work in locations where power outlets are limited or non-existent. What’s more, the built-in LED light makes it suitable for darker or poorly lit spaces. With a maximum temperature of 875°F (468.3°C), this heat gun is not as powerful as some other models, but it delivers a solid performance.
This is a powerful, industrial-grade tool that can be used for both DIY and professional projects. It packs in a temperature range of 750 to 1000°F (398.8–537.7°C). While it is not the lightest heat gun on the market, it is specially designed to withstand prolonged use.
For small-scale DIY projects, you can substitute a heat gun with an alcohol burner, a soldering iron, a butane torch, or a 300mw engraving laser. Certain everyday household items such as lighters, matches, light bulbs, clothing irons, or your hair dryer might also work at lower temperatures. However, no makeshift substitute can be as good as a real heat gun.