How To Choose A Digital Level: The Definitive Guide
Here is the ultimate guide to choosing a digital level
If you want to:
- lay pipelines
- level heavy equipment
- profile a road
- or do anything else that requires high-precision data of height or elevation of an object
Then you'll love this guide.
Who Uses Digital Levels?
Traditionally, excavators, surveyors, and engineers were the only digital-level users. However, as technology keeps advancing, the list grows.
Today, this list includes:
- Metal Workers
- Construction workers
- Stone Masons
What EXACTLY Is A Digital Level?
A digital level measures elevation and distance values via electronic image processing. Before we jump into our guide on choosing a digital level, let's discuss different levels and their use. Once we understand the various levels and their purpose, we can identify the right digital level for you.
Bubble levels, or spirit levels, as some call them, are simple instruments designed to indicate whether a surface is horizontal (level) or vertical (plumb). You're probably well acquainted with bubble levels. Chances are you have one or two of them lying around your house.
This level uses a tube with an air bubble that rests in the center when the level is horizontal or vertical. As the level gets less balanced, the bubble shifts from the center, allowing the user to measure with the naked eye.
Bubble levels look something like this:
Bubble levels are great for leveling tables at home but not for surveyors, engineers, or excavators who need high-precision data. One major drawback of bubble levels is that you can't transfer data from a bubble level to computers or other devices, causing you to move data manually, leaving room for error.
Electronic inclinometers measure angles of slope and inclination of an object to its gravity. This is similar to tilt sensors, tilt indicators, slope meters, slope gauges, gradient meters, gradiometers, level gauges & level meters.
The Electronic Inclinometer is commonly used for aviation and civil engineering. Electronic inclinometers have gyroscopes and look something like this:
We're sure you don't have one of these lying around your home anywhere.
But What is a Digital Level?
Or, to ask more precisely, what is a digital spirit inclinometer?
In short, it's a combination of a bubble level and an electronic inclinometer. Additionally, digital levels give surveyors, engineers, and excavators fast and correct angular measurements to quickly transfer data to a computer or other device. These levels are portable and easy to move from job site to job site.
Why a Digital Level Though?
While Bubble-based levels are great for carpenters and home projects and electronic inclinometers are used in aviation and by the military, the limitations of each make them impractical for most survey, excavating, and engineering applications.
Fast & Precise Data
It would be best to use a level that transfers accurate data to computers or other devices quickly, which is not possible with a bubble level or electronic inclinometer.
Fast Field Calibrations
Sometimes bubble levels malfunction and need to be returned to the manufacturer for repairs. The length of the repair process varies and can create costly delays to your work schedule. If your digital level loses its plumb, you can instantly field calibrate with little to no delay in your work schedule, saving you money and keeping up productivity.
Minimize Human Errors
Using a digital level minimizes human errors that may create incorrect data and calculations. Data mistakes that result in repeating your work kills morale, wastes time and is a financial loss. Using a Digital Level to ensure you get accurate data initially saves you those headaches.
Works in Low Light Situations
If you have ever used a bubble level in a low-light situation, you know how hard it is to get a reading from it. With the digital level backlit display, you'll never again have trouble getting the data you need in dark circumstances.
Earth Curvature Correction
If the earth were flat, surveyors would never have problems with rods reading too high or data errors growing more significant over distance. But unfortunately, the world is round and those problems are real for surveyors. The good news is digital levels automatically take into account the curvature of the earth, so your data is always accurate.
How Accurate Are Digital Levels, Though?
The difference in accuracy between a digital level and bubble level is invisible to the human eye.
So why get one?
Digital levels are easier to read and use. Their displays identify the precise calculations to the millimeter. While spirit levels might be accurate, a digital level is better for precision and porting data elsewhere.
To achieve even more accuracy, consider laser levels. But that's a topic beyond the scope of this guide.
What Are Features Available in Digital Levels?
When deciding on which digital level will be right for you, it's essential to know what features will best serve your needs.
Here's a handful of them.
Digital Level Audio
With this feature, you can set your digital level to beep when you get close to the plumb and can't see the display. It saves you a vast amount of time working in low-light situations or spaces where it is hard to see the display.
Digital Level Backlight for Easy-read in Low Lit Work Environments
Working in low-light situations poses extra problems and getting the readings you need from your digital level isn't one of them anymore. As previously mentioned in this guide, digital levels have an easy read backlight so that you can use your laser in any lighting.
Digital Level Rotating LCD Screen for Easy Top Reading
If you often find yourself working in tight spaces, getting a digital level with a rotating LCD screen is a must. You can't always place the level in an easily accessible spot. With a rotating LCD screen, you can twirl around the display to an angle where you can see it. So easy and convenient!
Digital Level Push Button Calibration
Field calibrating a digital level is easier with push-button calibration capabilities. Gone are the days of sending your level back to the manufacturer to get it plumb again. Just push a button for instant calibration.
Powerful GripTight Rare Earth Magnets
(Johnson Level products only)
Your data won't be worth anything if your level keeps slipping across surfaces when you use it. Our Johnson Level products (only) have GripTight rare earth magnets that hold levels in place firmly. You will be amazed at the strength of the magnets.
Laser Beam for Transfer of Reference Points
Having a digital level with a laser beam to transfer reference points makes a quick and efficient work product. However, beware that not all levels have this feature. Make sure you need it before you buy it too because this feature can be pricy.
Automatic Shut-off After 10 Minutes
We all forget to turn off our tools from time to time. As a result, dead batteries can cause costly delays to projects. But now, if you fail to turn off your digital level, an automatic shut-off feature will turn it off for you after it sits dormant for 10 minutes, keeping you productive and saving money on batteries.
Pick the Right Digital Level for Your Needs
Picking the digital level that works best for you will require a bit of thought on your part. Here are some tips to help you avoid making a mistake with your purchase.
Consider Your Budget
The good news is there is a digital level for just about every budget.
Knowing what you can afford to spend upfront will help you save time on the process. However, please resist the urge to spend more than you can afford because today's lesser-priced models are phenomenal pieces of technological equipment.
Consider the Features You Need
What features do you need on a digital level?
Outlining your work scenarios and identifying needed features will help you evaluate which digital level suits your needs best. Getting a firm grip on what you need in the level will save you headaches down the road.
Consider the Space Allowed for Your Project
Another vital factor in determining the right digital level is the amount of workspace you have available. Digital levels come in all sizes, so pick one that fits your space requirements.
Read Plenty of Reviews and Testimonials
Researching the user reviews is a great way to figure out that a digital level will suit your specific needs.
Different Types of Digital Levels
This digital level is a technology breakthrough from Johnson Level.
Uses: Machinery installation and machinery relocation.
It comes with a remote control that features an extensive green backlit LCD screen that displays digitally and graphically the level in the X or Y-axis. It measures plumb within a maximum accuracy of 0.01 degrees.
The SmartTool Gen3 Electronic Digital Level brings you precision & accuracy. It is also super durable and packed with features.
Available in three sizes: 24", 48", & 72".
The Johnson Bull's Eye Level is a valuable and precise slope measurement tool that determines the angle of slope, elevation, the inclination of an object, and tile angle to gravity.
Uses: leveling appliances, electronic equipment, or RVs.
Featuring a rotating LCD screen for easy top reading and a dot laser, the Johnson 12" Digital Magnetic Laser Level is handy in an extensive range of situations.
Includes: degrees, percent, mm/m, in/ft in decimal, and in/ft in fractional.
The Stabila 196-2 TECH Digital Level is a sturdy and multi-functional measuring tool that offers efficiency and accuracy for a wide range of construction applications.
Available in four sizes: 14”, 24", 48", & 72".
The Stabila 96M-2 TECH Magnetic Digital Level is a perfect measuring tool for fabrication and metalworking trades.
Available in two sizes: 24" & 48"
The Sola Digital Box Beam Level uses an integrated electronic inclinometer module, accurately measures inclination and angles, and features a digital display in °, %, in. /ft. and mm/m.
Used for machine installation, handicap ramp installation, and measuring slope or incline, this Johnson Level 6" Magnetic Digital Level features powerful GripTight rare earth magnets that hold to ferrous metal surfaces to allow hands-free use.
The Leica Sprinter 24x Digital Auto Level is a high-quality construction device and state-of-the-art made for error-free height and distance measurements and readings.
The Leica Sprinter Digital Auto Level has a 2-Year Warranty and comes with package options and various models available.
So that's our Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Digital level. Let us know in the comments what you think of it!