When you have a lot of choices…
One thing about soldering irons, there are a lot of them on sale. When you have a lot of choices you may pick up the one with more power or less wattage than you need. For basic soldering, you do not need a soldering iron that reaches 100 watts or more. Lower power ones will do the job well.
To learn more about the different wattages soldering irons come with, just continue to read our article. It gives you the low down on the different wattages used by soldering irons.
How many watts does a soldering iron use
The answer to this question depends on how many watts the soldering iron is rated for. For example, the most common soldering irons are rated to use between 15 and 30 watts.
Then some soldering irons are rated to use between 35 and 65 watts. Finally, other soldering irons are rated for 70 + watts. You need to match the wattage to the task you are doing. For typical soldering tasks like circuit boards etc., you want to use a lower wattage soldering iron, between 15 & 30 watts, and they will do the job just fine.
For tasks involving heat sinks, motor casings, and 10 gauge copper wire, you will need at least a 50 watt soldering iron.
Does more watts mean more heat?
This is something that may confuse people. The logic goes the more wattage the more heat you will get from the soldering iron. This is not the case. The higher the wattage rating simply means that you will have the power available for the heat to last longer.
For example, a 15 watt soldering iron will only produce enough heat that comes with 15 watts. Once that level is reached, the heat will not get any hotter. A 50 watt soldering iron just has more power in reserve so that you can work longer, take your time and do the job right.
Soldering iron wattage pros and cons
|1.||Higher wattage means longer lasting heatSome higher wattage soldering irons can be expensive2.||Easy to work with and easy to handle||Both low and high wattage irons can heat up to slow|
|3.||Does not use high current||May take longer to regain temperature when cooled, slowing the job down|
|4.||Uses less electricity||Low wattage irons only good for small jobs|
|5.||Can have temperature control dials||Low wattage irons may not get hot enough for most soldering tasks|
|6.||Lightweight & sold in different sizes||Low wattage irons lose heat quickly|
|7.||When used appropriately they do not damage components||Low wattage irons may not have the power to keep the tip hot|
|8.||Can be used for an extended period of time||Can produce inferior joints|
The soldering iron temperature designs
There are a lot of different styles of soldering irons but their temperature design is restricted to 3 basic options.
- No control over the temperature– these are the plug and play models where you just have to wait for the iron to warm up before using it. You cannot control the temperature levels and they may lose heat faster than they warm up. The good news is that they are usually the cheapest option and best for home soldering work
- Temperature controlled soldering irons– this option allows you to raise or lower the temperature at the tip. The device gives you more control over your work and lets you adjust the heat to your needs. These are usually more expensive but handle a variety of tasks
- Soldering station- using one of these models still allows you to control the temperature but the dial is on the station and may be out of arm’s reach. Besides digital displays, you get a lot of other features to help you do heavier soldering jobs. Their design makes them the most expensive unit of all three
Soldering iron and wattage FAQs
#1. What type of soldering iron should I use?
This will depend on where you are going to be using the soldering iron. If you are using it at home for basic home projects then go with a soldering iron rated no more than 50 watts.
#2. How many watts should I have in my soldering iron?
If you are doing big tough jobs, you will want to use a soldering station and make sure they are rated for 65 watts and higher. If you are using the iron at home a 15 to 30 watt iron should do the trick.
#3. Does more wattage mean more heat?
No, it doesn’t. The soldering iron will only heat up as much as the watts will allow. If you need 50 watts of heat, you won’t get it using a 30 watt soldering iron.
#4. Does a higher wattage mean more power?
In a word, yes. What the higher wattage soldering irons have is more power so you can work longer when the job is large. What the wattage tells you is that the soldering iron has a lot of reserve power and will maintain the heat longer.
#5. Do the tips lose a lot of heat?
The smaller tips and low wattage soldering irons will lose the heat very quickly. Usually, a 15 watt soldering iron using a very slender tip will lose its heat the moment you touch the circuitry and solder. Then you have to wait for the tip to heat up again.
Some final words
More wattage does not translate into more heat. No matter what size of soldering iron you buy, the wattage rating restricts the amount of heat you will be able to use. Which is fine as then you can purchase the right soldering iron for your needs.
There is no need to go to overkill mode and buy a 70 watt soldering iron when a 25 watt model will suffice. The right tool for the job works the best and saves you money.