Laser levels are one of those necessity items that all proper trades people should have. The problem lies in the fact that there are hundreds of different ones to choose from and a lot of them look very similar to one another. This is a common trap people fall into when it comes to selecting the right laser level for them. This article will breakdown the differences in laser levels, what their main functions are and which tool you need for your job.
Rotating Lasers have been around for many years which have come in many different forms, on any construction site, excavation site or general building site you will come across many various designs from years gone by, because of this it makes it extremely hard to know which Laser Level is reliable and conforms to the Current Australian Saftey Standards. Like our Line Laser Buying Guide This article will touch on a variety of areas that you may not have considered an important piece of information before.
To understand the basics of Laser levels you need to understand the basic functions of Laser Levels, from providing levels across a building site to allowing machines to work to a correct level, Laser Levels are incredibly important to construction sites these days.
The biggest differences between Lasers other then the price of them are the specifications and functionality each one provides. Depending on your application and what you are needing to achieve whether its just a flat plane to make sure concrete is perfectly level, Grade for water run off for housing blocks or a road surface needing to be built to government grade requirements Laser levels can do all these things and more.
Firstly, to understand Laser levels completely they must be broken up into 3 categories.
Basic Laser Levels
Single Grade Laser Levels
Dual Grade Laser Levels
Basic Laser Levels
We will start with the first category.
Basic Laser Levels are the most confusing market there is when it comes to Lasers, the price in this department ranges from as little as $500 up to $2500, why you ask? Well as with all things in this world, Quality is substituted for cost. The cheaper Laser Levels can do a fine basic job, but they don’t provide nearly accurate enough information for any professional tradesmen, If you find yourself looking at a cheaper laser level and your wondering why it varies so much compared to the other ones on the shelf ill note below the areas it differs from its competition.
Accuracy – Typically a lower quality laser level will have a lower accuracy level, this can vary quite drastically from 2.5mm @ 30M to 3.5mm @ 30M, this may not sound like a lot but think about the compounding effect over distance. If you need to work within a specific tolerance (which most jobs require) then these Laser Levels will only cause more harm, then good.
Battery Life – The Cheaper units generally run basic rechargeable batteries which have a life time of 6 months, after that it would require a new set of rechargeable batteries. A higher quality unit has a Li Ion Rechargeable Battery Pack, this allows for a lot longer longevity in terms of battery life before needing replacement.
Durability – The cheaper units are generally not housed very well, they may look rugged from the outside with rubber bumpers or a thick handle but it’s the internals that are needing to be fitted correctly. The cheaper units are generally glued in place and are a fix internal Laser, Compensator and Motor as a single unit This also doesn’t aid with repairability or allow for significant knocks to occur to the laser. A drop from a slippery handed lackie or a knocked over tripod can cause unrepairable damage to these cheaper units and there goes your initial investment. A higher quality Laser is drop Tested, has a selection of individual parts allowing easier repairs to be done and comes with a better warranty which is detailed next.
Warranty – The cheaper units come generally with a relevantly small warranty in comparison to the bigger brand-named lasers, this is because the big manufactures have faith in their products not breaking and having endless warranty claims placed against them. The cheaper Laser Levels will come with generally a 1- or 2-year warranty which is enough time for constant use to occur but not enough time to become careless with the product and sustain a serious incident.
Single Grade Lasers
The next subcategory of Laser Levels is the Single Grade Lasers. This category of Lasers is better described in the picture below.
As with the next category of lasers the word grade becomes prominent, Single grade means exactly as the name states. A consistent drop out of 1 axis of the laser. This is useful for Trenching, Pipe Laying, Excavating, Grading and many other applications. In basic terms out of 1 Axis the laser line will decline to a pre-set dialled in grade % and out the other end of the same axis it will climb so when using these lasers make sure you have a basic understanding on how these types of Lasers work. The main things in this category to look for are as follows:
Grade Range – This can vary quite drastically depending on the price, you may find a single grade laser at $1500 and then see one right next to it at $2000 and wonder where the difference is, Generally the answer to that question will be Grade Range. A Good single Grade Range for a point of reference is -10% to +15% this gives a broad cover of many applications. Where plumbers might only use a very low grade such as 2% but the excavators might use a greater range such as 8% for driveways, runoffs and mining runways.
Durability – Much like Laser Levels durability is very similar in single grade lasers as well, A poorly protected housing and a fused internal cylinder keep costs down but makes them unrepairable.
Battery Life – Another way Manufacturers manage to keep costs down on Grade Lasers are the battery packs they supply. Lower working hours in the 20 Hour range will indicate a lower end battery potentially saving hundreds of dollars, these have a poor life span and require replacing quite frequently.
The market place in this area isn’t nearly as flooded as basic laser levels, The Biggest point of difference between brands here is the Grade Range, this is the biggest way to save money from manufactures. So before purchasing a Single Grade Laser a few simple questions about, Grade Range, Battery Life and Durability will help understand why there could be significant differences in prices.
Dual Grade Lasers
Following on from the Single Grade Laser Range the next evolution of Laser Level is the Dual Grade Laser Level. This is most commonly used in the Excavation Field but by no means is it the only application for it. Other uses for Dual Grade Laser Levels are Trench Digging, Pipe Laying, Mining Works and many other unique forms of these categories.
Dual Grade Lasers are the most expensive of the Laser Level line-up, but that doesn’t make them immune from price gouging like the other categories of lasers. The biggest notable areas of difference are very similar to the Single Grade Laser range.
Grade Range – This is an area where there can be very notable changes in Grade and whether those grades can be reached while in Dual Grade Mode. For example, a Dual Grade Laser Can Say it has a -15% & +15 % Grade range, but, when you wish to use the Dual Grade Feature it can only do -8% & +8% at the same time. This is something that needs to be paid very close attention to as if you’re an earthmover buying a Dual Grade Laser and you work to 10 or 12% grades this can come back to bite you later.
Durability – Similar to the Single Grade Laser line-up differences the internal housing can become 1 unit which causes repairs to the compensator or Laser diodes to become very expensive and not worth the repair. Plus, the outer housing can vary quite a lot, rubber bumpers and a thick internal wall are ideal but some of the higher value Dual Grade Lasers will go with a moulded aluminium housing, this will protect from higher drops, vibrations and allow for less damage to occur internally.
Battery Life – like other Laser Levels Batteries can vary to keep the costs down, Li Ion Batteries are the best for Dual Grade Lasers but noting the battery life with alkaline and rechargeable batteries is always a question you must ask.
Laser Beam Colour – This is something that is starting to become more common in Laser Levels. The colour of the Laser beam is generally Red which works with most Receivers and Machine Receivers. But Green Dual Grade Lasers are starting to pop up more frequently on the market, the price is similar if not cheaper because the reseller has issues moving them, so they discount them to make them look like a good deal but, they don’t work with any of your previous equipment. This is always something you will want to check with any Laser Level.
I hope this article has given a distinct outline on what the most common pitfalls are when buying Laser Levels, some useful questions to ask when looking at Laser Levels and a basic overview of what they do. As always Cody Corporation as a plethora of people who have extensive knowledge within the construction, surveying and machine guidance fields so if there are further questions you may have please give us a call and we will be happy to help you make the correct informed decision.