Heat guns are handy for a wide variety of applications for DIYers, craftsmen and professional and their applications will range from paint and varnish stripping to bending pipes and even thawing frozen pipes.
But many heat gun users are always looking for a cheaper but still effective enough alternative, and this is what drives many to the hair dryers. Although still not as effective as heat guns, hair dryers can still be quite useful for simple tasks such as removing watermarks from furniture.
Heat guns will deliver temperatures of up to 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit while the hair dryers will hardly provide anything more than 205 degrees Fahrenheit. These tools will also differ in many other aspects, and here explain them in more detail to help ensure you know what you need.
Heat Gun Overview
Photo: Black & Decker
Heat guns are a classic tool that will be hard to miss in any workshop as there is always something to do with one for almost every project you do whether you are framing a house or making furniture.
These power tools will consist of a heat source or heating element and an electric fan. When in operation, the heat produced is blown out of the gun by the powerful fan, and it is this hot air that is then used for the intended application.
A typical heat gun or hot air gun as it is fondly known as will also have a special nozzle designed to direct the hot hair. These nozzles are available in different types for different applications.
Heat guns are known for generating high temperatures and also for having a wider temperature range which makes them more versatile as they can be used for various applications.
Heat guns allow for more precise temperature control than air dryers and some modern models will also include a more advanced LCD for displaying the temperature and to make it even easier to use. These more advanced displays eliminate the need to touch the hot appliance when in use.
But when compared to the hair dryer, the heat gun tends to be more expensive and the higher heat output also poses greater danger for the users.
- Generates higher temperatures
- More versatile tool
- Most models come with more advanced features
- Poses greater safety risks
- Relatively pricier
Hair Dryer Overview
Hair dryers are not built as power tools or for use in the workshop despite more and more DIYers and woodworkers adding them to their tool collection. These machines are purposely built for drying hair just as their name suggests, but they are still quite versatile.
Given their intended application, they will not provide temperatures that are as high as the heat gun which limits their use. Worst yet, the air dryers will not have a very wide temperature range which makes them less versatile.
But, these are often smaller and much lightweight when compared to a typical heat gun which comes with many advantages such as easier handling and increased portability.
The hair dryers will cost way much less than a heat gun as you can easily get a basic model for a few bucks given that they are more widely available and common.
Unlike heat guns that will often come with shorter warranties, you can get a hair dryer that is covered for a couple of years, but the chances are that you will probably void this warranty if you choose to use it for woodworking and crafts.
Like the heat guns, they will also come with some drawbacks such as not getting hot enough to do some typical heat gun jobs.
- Often more affordable
- Many models come with longer warranties
- Smaller and easier to handle
- Lower heat output
- Limited uses
Average Heat Output
200 to 1,400 °F
100 to 200 °F
More precise temperature control
Paint drying and removal, refrigerator defrosting, plastic bending, defrosting water pipes and removing rusted bolts
Drying hair, removing water rings from furniture, removing adhesives from wallpapers and stretching out fabrics
Tougher and durable
Poses greater risk
Safer to use
Heat Gun vs. Hair Dryer
Heat guns and hair dryers work in the same ways, and for many DIYers and woodworkers, this is a good thing as it means the latter can help you finish a project in case your heat gun dies out. But, a hair dryer cannot replace the heat gun completely given that the two are still distinct tools, and here are some of the key areas where they differ.
1. Average Heat Output
The heat output that you get from the heat gun and hair dryer is what sets them apart. And given that they are built for different uses, it should be obvious that they will generate a different amount of heat.
The material types and kinds of tasks that the heat gun has to deal with require higher hot air temperatures for the gun to be effective enough. But, because these guns are designed for different uses they will also be capable of working at low temperature.
You can expect to get a temperatures range of anywhere between 200 and 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the heat gun mode you are using. But, for most applications, something that can reach at least 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit is often good enough.
Hair dryers are built for drying hair which does not require super high temperatures because besides ruining your hair, these high temperatures can cause serious burns.
Most hair dryers will hence have smaller heat outputs when compared to the heat guns as most will work at between 100 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit which might not sound like much but can still be useful for certain tasks in the workshop.
2. Temperature Adjustment
Besides just getting a higher heat output from a heat gun, these tools are also built to make it easier for the users to adjust the temperature to suit the task at hand.
Many models will come with an easy-to-use dial that allows you to select the temperature that you want as there will be some clear markings. Better yet, you can also get some more modern heat gun models which have an LCD screen that displays the current temperature and hence allowing for even more precise adjustment.
Hair dryers, on the other hand, do not seem to put a lot of emphasis on the temperature adjustment because many models will have either high or low settings. Some models might have a few temperature settings in between, but they will still not allow you to adjust the temperature as precisely as you would with a heat gun.
3. Typical Uses
With many modern tools, it is possible to use them for a wide variety of things besides what they are intended for. And a good example of this is the hair dryer as it will do way much more than get your hair dry.
Heat guns are the more versatile of these two given that they have a wider temperature range and can work at both high and low heat efficiently.
A typical heat gun will be used to speed up the paint drying process when finishing up a project, remove old paint, bend plastic materials and remove troublesome rusted bolts.
But, keep in mind that these different applications will require different temperatures, and so when choosing a heat gun, you need to make sure it can generate them. For example, removing rusted bolts will require a temperature of at least 1,150 degrees Fahrenheit.
With woodworking in mind, the hair dryer will often be used to remove those annoying water rings that often form on furniture without damaging the surface.
Also, they can be handy for removing adhesives from things like wallpapers, and if your projects require some fabric, the gentle heat from these appliances can help to stretch it out to remove creases.
The speed with which either of these tools will finish the job will mostly depend on the particular task you are doing and also the heat output the model you are using can deliver.
Given the higher heat output and a more efficient overall construction, heat guns will typically get the job done much faster than the hair dryer. This will be the case for tasks that require both low and high heat output.
Hair dryers can still eventually finish the task, but most users might not have the patience to sit around and wait for it. In many instances, most users will give up and use something else or even abandon the task.
5. Built Quality
The built quality always matters when buying any tool as you do not want to end up with something that will fail after a few uses.
Because both heat guns and hair dryers do not cost much, you should not expect to get something made with very heavy-duty materials designed to last for ages.
With that said, the heat guns tend to be much tougher and more durable than the hair dryers which are mostly built from thinner gauge plastic materials.
Heat guns have to withstand very high temperatures and any substandard or light gauge materials would easily melt. So everything from the internal components to the housing and controls is often relatively better quality than what you would get on a typical hair dryer.
6. Safety Concerns
Since there will be some electricity and heat involved when using both tools, you cannot ignore the safety issues that come with these elements.
Overall, a hair dryer will be the safer tool to use of the two given that it will not produce much heat. With the heat gun, you will not only be at more risk of getting burnt by the hot hair, but you can also easily damage other things around you.
But, since both tools will produce hot hair, they will expose you to significant risk, and so for safety, you need to always concentrate on what you are doing and remember to wear protective gear.
Both the heat guns and hair dryers will be available in various models from different brands and will hence come in varying price ranges. However, these are generally fairly priced tools that will cost a small fraction of what you would pay for the larger power tools.
The heat guns tend to be the pricier of the two as most good models will cost at least $20 while the industrial quality models retail for hundreds of dollars.
With the hair dryer, you can get a simple but still effective enough model for as little as under $10 and even the top tier ones from the leading or more famous brands will still sell for under $50.
While a hair dryer can be a lifesaver in case your heat gun dies out on you in the middle of an important project, you cannot use the two tools interchangeably as they are meant for different purposes.
The two can be used for some similar tasks, but to make sure you have the right tool for the job, it is vital to keep the differences highlighted above in mind as they will help make it clear what you need.
As with any other power tool, which of the two is better for you will depend on what you will use it for, but overall the heat gun will always be the best tool for the regular user. But, if you want something to do occasional jobs that do not require a lot of heat, having a cheap hair dryer around is still not a bad idea.