Soldering Iron Buying Tips

Whether you are a home owner looking to solder half round copper gutters or a roofing contractor who solders flat lock every day, you’ll want the right soldering iron for the job.  This post will outline some thoughts to consider with regard to the 3 main types (propane, acetylene, and electric) and varying brands of soldering irons available. Don’t forget to check out our post on the 8 Soldering Tips You should Know.

What Are You Using It For?

Photo Credit - Levine Co.

Photo Credit – Levine Co.

Many panels of flat lock? If you know you are going to be doing hours and hours of soldering, you’ll want to buy an iron that runs off a tank.  This will save money when compared to gas cartridges. Also a heavier style soldering tip will make the job easier.

Indoor pre-tinning? Electric irons are better suited for indoor work where an outdoor environment doesn’t come into play.

Soldering in winter weather? Acetylene irons will burn hotter than propane.  If you have a job in New England in January, an iron that runs hotter will help your chances of successful soldering.  The Aero torch runs off of acetylene which requires a different regulator and tank than propane.  It is not as available of a gas as well.

Ferret & Hound

Ferret & Hound

Difficult to access gutter work? Consider buying a portable iron that runs off gas cartridges because they are lightweight and easy to climb a ladder with (you don’t have to worry about a hose and tank). A new model from Express  connects to a bernzomatic gas cylinder is a happy medium between a tank and a small gas cartridge.

donotusearoofingtorchtosolderDon’t Use a Roofing Torch! Roofing torches for modified bitumen membrane roofing should not be used to solder.  Not only are they are huge fire risk but the work will not be quality oriented. Enclosed flames are preferable when soldering.

What Else Should You Consider?

Every soldering iron that we sell is specifically picked because the manufacturer comes highly regarded.  Considerations are self igniter, feel, durability,and price.

express self igniting soldering iron

An iron with a self-igniter

Self Igniter – Ask yourself, do I want to use a striker or lighter every single time I want to ignite my iron?  There will be times when you are on a job and you’ll want to turn the gas flow down for conservation sake and the flame goes out.  Grabbing a lighter from your pocket can get annoying.  You can save yourself about $100 dollars by going with the non-self igniter feature.  If you are only buying this iron for a one time job, save the money.  If you are buying it for every day use, it makes sense to have the convenience of the push button.

Feel –  Each iron has a unique feel to it. The Express iron is tilted on an angle whereas the Perkeo has a flame heating the tip straight on, which is better?  It’s what you’re comfortable with.  If you grew up soldering with hand coppers, you’ll probably find the straight on irons more familiar to you.  A tilted iron has a comfortable feel to it when dragging across straight joints.

Durability – A soldering iron is built to last.  The soldering tips get swapped in and out which is going to be the main component that gets replaced.  Every so often you’ll have to change the gas nozzle which commands how much gas flows through it.  A clean orifice leads to the strongest gas flow.  If you take care of your iron and don’t drop it off a roof, you’ll get years of use.

Price – Save the best for last.  Here is a quick breakdown on the most popular units and their prices.

A few more points to keep in mind:

  • This is Sievert’s only self igniting iron which is a bit unfair to compare on price alone.
  • The soldering tips by Express sell for around $50 and each variation has a long life  option tip that sells for around $115.  The Seivert copper tips sell closer to $70.
  • Perkeo has the least options with regard to tips.