Best Thermometers Not Made in China

Best Thermometers Not Made in China

The most accurate thermometers are NOT made in China

Ironically, electronic medical equipment is a clear cut example of how we think technological progress has improved our lives, but it’s made it completely worse.

I remember when I was a kid, my parents never had to question whether the thermometer they stuck where the sun don’t shine was accurate or not: every time it was 100% accurate. I didn’t really enjoy the process very much, but I’m sure as parents, my folks were grateful to have an instrument that gave precisely accurate information since 1724 when Gabriel Farenheit invented the first modern mercury thermometer.

I grew up calling these “mercury thermometers” and being scared to death of breaking one and dying of mercury poisoning. I learned only recently (today, in fact) that the red liquid in these thermometers were never “mercury”, which is a silver-white to grey substance. They were actually alcohol or mineral spirits dyed red. They were never as accurate as real mercury thermometers, but they were close.

Fast forward to today. When my daughter was growing up my wife and I were desperate to find digital thermometers that were accurate. This was before my NMIC days, so I would check Amazon and sites like Slickdeals every day for “deals” and then grab the first $5 thermometer I’d see, patting myself on the back for being such a great consumer.

What happened next? We have a closet full of thermometers. They all look nice, they all light up and make wonderful little noises. And they’re ALL WRONG. I literally can sit at a table and take my temperature 10 times with 10 different thermometers and get 10 completely different answers. I’m not talking 98.6 vs 98.7. I’m talking 98.6, 101.9, 106, and 82.

Welcome to the 21st century of consumerism. Every single one of these piece of crap thermometers made an American executive and a Chinese factory owner rich because dumb consumers like me would buy a new one every month, thinking that the next one would finally be the accurate one (and each time, making a new executive rich).

Digital thermometers are a good example of a category where competing brands once might have spent years and years innovating and perfecting. With the advent of cheap manufacturing in China and other countries, brands realized that consumers are too stupid to know the difference between a good thermometer and a bad one, and so they fired their R&D staff, hired factories in China employing slave laborers, and sat back counting their money.

Digital Thermometer Technology

The one thing I’d recommend first and foremost is not to fall for the trap of buying thermometers “on sale”. Amazon is filled with cheap thermometers with rave reviews from dumb consumers. Worse, affiliate review sites will often just glimpse at Amazon reviews and choose the most popular models that’ll make them money.

Yes, I make money when you click on a link and buy something, but as I hope you see by now, I never recommend a product unless I’ve confirmed in multiple ways that it’s not made in China, and that it’s reliable. With this category, I’m going to turn to sites like Consumer Reports who actually run tests using scientific methodology.

There are two basic types of digital thermometers: digital stick thermometers and infared thermometers.

Digital stick thermometers work using the principles of electronics. Each has an electrical sensor that detects the resistance of atoms within a piece of metal. Atoms within hot metal vibrate more, atoms within cold metal vibrates less. When you stick the thermometer in your mouth, it should be able to detect the temperature inside your mouth quickly.

Infrared thermometers, on the other hand, detect the light and heat waves coming from an object to the detector. Forehead thermometers, temporal artery thermometers, and “gun” like thermometers all work on this principle.

In theory, all of these instructions should give precise readings every time. Sometimes when a thermometer reading isn’t right, it’s the user’s error (for example, taking oral temperature after drinking a hot drink or not holding an infared thermometer in the right place). But more often than not, it’s just a reflection of cheap manufacturing—the few products that get tested go through rigorous quality control, but the rest just get mass produced and packaged by a company that knows that very few customers are actually going to return it.

Stay away from Berrcomm (a.k.a. Guangzhoushi Beierkang Yiliaoqixie Youxiangongsi), Homedics, Kinsa, Boncare (a.k.a. Shenzhen Times Ark Technology Innovation Co., Ltd.), iProven, iHealth, and Vicks. These are all either China-owned, or deep into China manufacturing.


Best Theremometers Not Made in China

1. Braun ThermoScan 7 – Best Ear Thermometer (made in Mexico)

The #1 rated thermometer by Consumer Reports—and the model its testing showed was the most accurate—is the Braun ThermoScan 7.

This is an in-ear (tympanic) thermometer, which measures the infared heat generated by the eardrum and surrounding tissue. They’re generally considered more accurate than infared (forehead) thermometers.

It’s ideal for babies and squirming toddlers. But it’s just as accurate for adults too (there’s a setting that you can adjust to provide the most precise temperature by age). An accurate temperature will register in just a few seconds.

A lot of reviewers say that they went to this model after going through forehead thermometer after forehead thermometer that didn’t work, and rave at its accuracy. It’s made in Mexico.

The one annoying thing about this model is that it requires the use of a disposable lens filter (the unit will not work without one). They’re not terribly expensive ($6 for 40) and they are made in the USA. But there is a part of me that wonders why they didn’t just make a reusable cover instead of this solution that feels a little like a money grab (and ends up just feeding Chinese manufacturers who make knockoffs).

Still, a the 21-count supply of filters that comes with the unit should last you quite a long time, assuming your family only gets fevers a few times a year, and the 40-count refill should last you longer. In the long run, it should be cheaper to buy these than the “disposable” made in China thermometers we’ve gotten so accustomed to using.

There’s another highly rated Braun thermometer called the No Touch 3-in-1 Thermometer. This is an infared thermometer you can point at a forehead, but also objects like bath water or food. Sadly, this one is manufactured in China, although some reviewers report getting ones that are made in the USA.

2. Fora IR42 Medical Grade Non-Contact Forehead Thermometer – Best Forehead Thermometer (made in Taiwan)

Forehead thermometers use infared sensors to measure the temperature of the temporal artery in your forehead. They tend to be less accurate than oral, rectal, or tympanic thermometers because they might be affected by things like dirt, sweat, or heat sources that get in the way of the sensor and the forehead.

It’s practically impossible for find a forehead thermometer that’s not made in China, but here’s a happy exception. ForaCare is a medical device company based in Moorpark, California. While they do make a lot of their products in China, their IR42 forehead thermometer is happily made in Taiwan by TaiDoc, a medical technology manufacturer.

You may be tempted to trust brands you’ve heard of like “Vicks”, “HoMedics” or “Safety 1st”, but remember that all of those brands are just names slapped onto product produced by China manufacturers. There was a time when you could at least trust a well-known brand to at least have a little pride in their brand name by selecting only the best contractors to build their products, but sadly that’s not the case anymore. All too often brands that were once well-known are now run by executives who are only interested in their bonuses or VC firms only interested in a quick profit. Fora was smart to outsource its thermometers to TaiDoc, which is a publicly listed Taiwanese firm and one of the top medical device makers, not some obscure factory of laborers in China.

It’s certainly paying off for them. This thermometer stands out from other forehead thermometers in its accuracy and consistency.

If, heaven forbid, Fora ever decides to switch to a cheaper China manufacturer as it has so many other of its products, it looks like TaiDoc sells the same, unbranded unit directly to consumers.

3. Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer – Best Temporal Artery Thermometer (made in the USA)

The first thing I noticed about the Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer is the big American flag on the box that reads “Invented, designed, assembled, tested, and packaged in the USA by Exergen Corporation”.

The second thing I noticed is the claim on its packaging that over 70 published clinical studies have verified its accuracy; many reviewers say that it’s just as accurate (in some cases more so) as rectal thermometers, generally considered the standard. The Exergen site lists out some of these studies. Yes, they’re cherry-picked, but they also seem to be pretty legit.

The disconnect for me was when I looked at Amazon reviews and saw a number of review complaining about inaccurate numbers. After reading a number of reviews, my conclusion is that people just aren’t using it correctly.

Like other forehead thermometers, Exergen uses a sensor to measure the infared radiation that the body gives off. What makes it a little more accurate than other infared thermometers is that rather than pointing at a single spot on the forehead, you swipe it across the forehead, and it takes 1000 readings a second and selects the most accurate readings. There’s a video on their site that demonstrates exactly how to do it.

4. Geratherm Analog Thermometer – Best Old-Fashioned Thermometer (Made in Germany)

Huge hat tip to Paul for mentioning Geratherm on the forum. Geratherm is a Germany company that still makes the kind of old-fashioned thermometers that a lot of us grew up with as kids. The difference is that instead of containing mercury, it contains “Galinstan”, an alloy they patented and trademarked that’s made up of gallium, indium, and tin.

While it has similar properties to mercury in the way it reacts to temperature changes, Galinstan is completely safe and can even pass through the digestive system without any effect and can’t be absorbed by the lungs. Of course, care should still be taken when handling the glass, and the liquid metal may cause some irritation if touched, but certainly nothing serious.

As you can imagine, China manufacturers have flooded marketplaces with Amazon and Temu with cheap imitations. It’s highly likely that the raw materials they use were sourced in polluted, environmentally unfriendly ways and it’s a certainty that they won’t measure accurately. But consumers foolishly continue to throw money China’s way. Do yourself a favor and get the authentic one.

You can get it at Amazon using the link above, or check a local drug store like Rite Aid.


China has all but dominated thermometer production following the same old model as always: take a mature industry in the United States, become the lowest bidder to greedy American corporate executives who don’t care how they became the lowest bidder (hint: slave-level laborers, lax environmental practices, poor quality control, government interference), and unleash your cheap product on an American public who thinks they’re getting a “deal”.

Even better, unleash a virus on the world that causes high fevers so everyone has dozens of these cheap thermometers in their house.

Enough is enough. Support the manufacturers above and stop the cycle.

Do you know of other thermometers not made in China? Please share it in the comments!

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