If someone told me a few years ago I would be able to turn my smartphone into a moisture meter or inspection scope I’d have laughed in their face. These were once tools that only professionals knew how to use and could afford (and most people never even knew existed).
Ryobi is changing all that with its line of Phone Works smartphone tools. These devices give DIYers like me access to some great instruments without much of a learning curve (and for a good price).
Along with the inspection scope and moisture meter, the Phone Works line includes an infrared thermometer, laser level, laser distance measurer, noise suppressing earphones, stud finder and laser pointer.
I recently tested the infrared thermometer, moisture meter and noise suppressing earphones and was quite surprised at how well they work (once I got them working). Here’s a breakdown of how the three fared.
Out of three devices I was sent I was most excited about the infrared thermometer. I’ve been busy upgrading areas around my house to be more energy-efficient and I wanted to ensure certain spots were indeed warmer than they used to be.
After spending 10 minutes breaking into the package (Ryobi really doesn’t make it easy to open these) I got the unit out and quickly discovered an issue – my Samsung Galaxy S4 is not compatible with the Phone Works app required to use the tools (more on the app below). Without the app the tools won’t work.
I switched to my iPhone 5S and was able to download the app via the iTunes App Store with no issue.
The infrared thermometer attaches to the back of your phone and plugs into the headphone jack to connect to the app. Using a laser beam it allows you to pinpoint a spot and get a true temperature reading.
I used it first to check my front door, which was replaced over the summer. Sure enough, it was warmer than the last time I had it checked with a similar device. But I also discovered some spots around the edge where the temperature dropped by a few degrees. This was caused by a bad seal and I was able to remedy the problem and instantly see a rise in temperature.
I also used it to get some readings on bedroom walls that are lacking insulation and around all my windows. During the process I was able to snap photos and keep everything organized as a project from within the app, which is a great feature of the Phone Works line.
The Phone Works infrared thermometer retails for around $47 at Home Depot.
I’ve never had the need to use a moisture meter before but was interested in the Phone Works one to see how it works.
Like the infrared thermometer, the moisture meter plugs into the headphone jack of your phone to connect to the app (it’s a handheld device so doesn’t physically attach to the phone). There’s two prongs on the end for sticking into wood, drywall, etc. in order to get a proper reading. There’s many different materials you can select to test from within the app, including different types of wood and concrete.
I tested it first in my basement and didn’t find anything out of the ordinary. I then had the idea of testing it on the firewood my father-in-law has stockpiled. Sure enough, this is where it came in the most handy as I was able to tell him what wood was ready to burn now and what wood was too wet. That alone is worth the price of the unit in my opinion.
The Phone Works moisture meter retails for around $32 at Home Depot.
Noise suppressing earphones
Out of the three Phone Works products I got to try, the noise suppressing earphones were the most underwhelming.
As far as headphones go they are more comfortable and sound better than the standard ones that come with most phones. As for using them as earplugs (they do meet applicable OSHA safety standards), the cord kind of gets in the way when trying to work with them on.
With a built-in microphone the earphones can monitor sound via the app and suppresses any noise over 82dB. They can also remove specific frequencies (you can manually set this) and record up to 30 seconds of sound (good if you have a problem with a machine and need to have someone remotely take a listen to it).
They’re nice to have but not a must-have piece of the Phone Works lineup in my opinion.
The Phone Works noise suppressing earphones retail for about $25 at Home Depot.
Phone Works App
The Phone Works app, which is free, is used to activate and run all the devices in the Phone Works lineup. It is built for certain Android and iOS devices so make sure you check the list of phones it works on [PDF list] before buying any of the Phone Works products.
Some of the nice features of the app include the ability to create and track a project between all the Phone Works devices and send photos and recordings via email or text message. It can be buggy, but if you’re patient with it and follow the instructions for each device you’ll find it’s a nice app to have.
For a DIYer who wants something more high-tech in their toolbox, Ryobi has done a great job with the Phone Works lineup and I highly recommend checking out some of the devices they offer (I’m personally adding the inspection scope to my wish list). If you’re a pro there is no need to run out and replace the tools you already have unless you want some secondary devices for preliminary purposes.
To find out more about Ryobi’s Phone Works line, visit ryobitools.com.