There are several different types of soldering irons available. The type of soldering iron that is right for you will depend largely upon how you plan to use it and the types of projects that you plan to do. When choosing a soldering iron, there are three main factors to consider: wattage, temperature and the tip of the soldering iron.
Most soldering irons have the ability to use interchangeable tips meaning that you can usually switch out the tip and use the proper tip for the job that you are doing.
When it comes to temperature, there are three basic temperature designs used by most soldering irons. The first type of soldering iron has no temperature control. You just plug it in and it is ready to go. These types of soldering irons are usually the least expensive and are typically adequate for most standard household soldering jobs.
Next are temperature controlled soldering irons. These soldering irons are more expensive than the basic models and offer built in temperature control. This helps to make sure that the tip of the iron maintains its temperature.
Finally, the most expensive type of soldering iron is a soldering station. Soldering stations usually consists of a complete bench top control unit where you can plug in a special soldering iron which is designed to work with the station. Soldering stations usually offer digital temperature readouts, the ability to adjust the temperature delivered by the soldering iron, and several other features. Soldering stations are usually best if you do a lot of soldering or if you need a soldering iron for professional use.
Most soldering irons are electric which means that they have a cord to provide power. One disadvantage to electric soldering irons is that they are limited by the length of the cord. If you need to solder a project that is not movable and is far away from an electrical outlet you will need to run an extension cord. An alternative is to use a cordless rechargeable soldering iron which allows you to access more places without being limited by a cord. These soldering irons are ideal for precision work.
The final consideration when purchasing a soldering iron is the wattage. Most soldering irons have a power rating of between approximately 15-25 watts. The higher the wattage the more power the soldering iron has. Higher wattage soldering irons are better for tackling heavy duty jobs than lower wattage soldering irons. A higher wattage soldering iron does not provide more heat, but instead has more power in reserve meaning that it can heat for longer.
As with any purchase it is a good idea to shop around before buying a soldering iron to make sure that you’re getting the best soldering iron for your money. Don’t forget to check online auctions where you can often find great deals.