Imagine this. You’re in the middle of a cleaning session and you mistakenly step on your vacuum cleaner’s
cord. It stops working suddenly and upon investigation, you discover this happened because the wire was disconnected from the device. It could even be your electric iron
with the same issue. It’s very easy to toss these appliances aside and plan to purchase a new one or send it for repairs if you don’t know better. In fact, all it would take you is probably a soldering iron and solder to fix it.
A soldering iron is an important tool most especially for DIYers who prefer to handle their repairs themselves and that is why we thought it necessary to talk about what you need to know while choosing a soldering iron or kit. But first, you need to know there are various types of soldering irons:
This is arguably the most common of all types of soldering irons as it operates on a power rating of between 15 and 35 watts. This is ideal for DIYers as this is sufficient power for many electronic repair jobs in homes and offices. These simple irons run at uncontrolled temperatures determined by environment and conditions.
This is particularly for the highly experienced professional working on mission critical soldering jobs. The soldering station is made up of an electrical power supply, a soldering head which comes with a temperature sensor tip and temperature and display control circuitry. This also features a stand for storing the soldering iron when not in use and a wet sponge to clean the dripping from the surface of the soldering iron. As a professional, you may want to consider getting a hot air gun, a vacuum pump and a vacuum pickup tool as well.
These are mainly used for soldering and de-soldering small components that are surface-mounted on an electronic unit with two electrical terminals. Soldering tweezers are mostly used on resistors, capacitors, batteries
and diodes. Tweezers are either free standing or operated from a station. You require steady hand control to use them effectively.
These are designed to look like cordless hand drills. They possess rapidly cooling wire looped tips and so the guns do not need holsters for safe storage. This means you rarely experience fire hazards with these guns, thus they are great for DIYers. Soldering guns’ easy to grip handles and convenient trigger mechanisms endear them to DIYers as the tin-made tip is activated only when the user pulls the trigger.
These are usually powered by acetylene or propane gases which ensures delivery of heat in short bursts. This is deployed by jewelers who use torches to melt precious metals like copper, silver and gold. We recommend soldering torches for highly skilled electronic professionals because of safety concerns.
Let’s look more deeply into the factors to consider when choosing your soldering iron.
Price should not be the only factor you consider when choosing any product and that also applies to soldering irons. This holds true because a lot of factors determine the price of a product.
You will notice there’s a wide range of prices for soldering irons, starting from as high as $1,000 to as low as $6. That’s quite a range and there must be a reason for this disparity. We trust you don’t want to buy a cheap soldering iron that will not serve the purpose for which you got it either because it is not well earthed or it is made of a less durable material.
There are many factors affecting the price of a soldering iron such as accessories, the number of tips, temperature capacity and the material the soldering iron is made of. It is advisable that you consider these factors before making your choice.
Apart from the brand name, the determining factor for the cost of the soldering iron lies in the features it bears. And most brands ensure they create soldering irons that are so feature-laden, you can’t ignore them. Here are some features to consider when shopping for your soldering iron:
- Cord or Cordless
- Temperature Controls
- Good tips selection
- Durable materials
- Trustworthy brand
When you have selected the most important features to you, you can then compare prices of soldering irons with those features to make your choice.
Construction and Design
With the advance in soldering iron technology, many soldering irons include a method of controlling temperature. These methods range from controlling temperature range for variable power control, usually the simplest method, to a thermocouple working in conjunction with the circuitry of the station to adjust tip temperature. There are others that have a thermostat which automatically switches power on and off depending on the power settings for a particular soldering job. When it comes to handling delicate soldering jobs, professionals depend on temperature controlled soldering irons, like when soldering or desoldering the motherboard of a television set.
When it comes to tips, most soldering irons have tips that can be easily interchanged. These tips, sometimes referred to as bits, are in different sizes and shapes and are intended to deliver flexibility to the user. Some of these tips include tapered, pyramid, fine conical and chisel. So, when choosing a soldering iron tip, you should pay attention to the type of job you want to do. It’s been proven that copper, chrome and nickel solders provide the most durability.
One more thing to consider is the power output, otherwise known as wattage. This determines the amount of power supplied to properly heat objects. Too much power or wattage could burn through electronic parts or boil the flux before it has the chance to clean the electronic components. Professionals can handle power of up to 60 watts but novice DIYers should stick to a power range of 15 to 35 watts.
Performance and Ease of Use
In working with soldering irons, portability and convenience are two things that should have your careful attention. Both professionals and DIYers prefer cordless soldering irons because of these two factors. Depending on the kind of job you’re doing, working with a cordless soldering iron means you are not restricted by a cord, so you can easily move from one point to the other. Cordless soldering irons depend on gas combustion from a distinct self-contained tank.
For the DIYer, you are safer going with a known brand. These known brands give you warranty on their products which shows the amount of confidence they have in their product. Users should consider brands that have, over the years, created a track record for making top-class soldering irons. These brands are known for products that are easy to grip while delivering the right amount of heat for every soldering job.
The runtime and refill time is of utmost importance in your gas-powered soldering irons as you do not want to be working and suddenly be cut off because you have exhausted the gas need to refill. You may also need to consider how to access your solder wick for refill when you have decided on which soldering iron to go for.
We trust our buying guide has illuminated the features of a good soldering iron. Now you have a good understanding of what to look out for in a soldering iron, let’s look at some of the best soldering irons we have picked out for this review with their varying prices and features. Let’s go!
Now you are here, we believe you have sufficient information on what the best soldering iron for you should be and you are well on your way to making your purchase. If, however, you did not find the exact soldering iron for you, feel free to check out other products from the selected brands above.