Answer: get digital assistance. And one of the cheapest ways would be via the CD-R King Ultrasonic Tape Measure.
The name is a bit of a throwback: the actual name of the instrument should be a “distance measurer,” but the marketing whizzes at CD-R King know that it’ll be hard to explain that. So just call it an ultrasonic tape measure.
Let’s just call it the UTM for short.
The CD-R King UTM is a bright orange device that’s the size of a boxy flashlight. It has a funnel-shaped opening up front that houses the ultrasonic transceiver. Battery is an old-fashioned boxy 9-volt dry cell.
Buttons include “Measure” (which does the actual measuring, natch), “Laser” (a laser pointer to help you aim your device), three memory storage buttons, English/Metric button, “Area” and “Vol” buttons (to compute area and volume), “All Memory Clear” and “Store.”
So how does it work?
Point to a distant wall. Press Measure. That’s it. And if all goes well, the readout displays the distance. The distance resolution is up to 2 decimal points (i.e. centimeters) for meters, and up to half an inch for English measurements.
I say “if all goes well” because, this being an ultrasonic device, it can get pretty picky with the target. The device works like a bat’s sonar, emitting clicking noises and calculating the time it takes for the sound to bounce back. So many factors can work against it. Like temperature, for instance, which can affect air density (which is why the first thing the UTM does at startup is to calculate temperature).
Urgh. So how well does it work?
The biggest challenge for the Ultrasonic Tape Measure would be irregular surfaces. If you’re aiming at anything other than a flat wall (such as a book shelf with books of assorted sizes, for instance, or a cluttered surface), you get the dreaded “Error” readout. That’s because the device will be getting a lot of different echoes.
The laser can help you with your aim, but that’s not much help if your target ain’t a flat wall anyway.
Remember: measurements include the length of the device. It’s the digital equivalent of pinning a tape measure flat against a wall: the idea is for you to rest the butt end of the UTM against one end of the room and take the measurement from there on. That’s the result that you’ll get.
Is it accurate? Assuming your target wall is flat and friendly enough, it is remarkably accurate. I’ve been comparing readings with a tape measure and the UTM was pretty darn consistent with its findings.
The UTM can also help you compute area or volume. Store two distances into memory slots M1 and M2, press Area and you get the area calculation. Or add one more measurement into M3 and you can get Volume. Perfect for when you’re trying to figure out your room area to decide on what size air conditioner to get.
Just don’t expect pinpoint precision measurements. This isn’t the device for that. Get an old fashioned tape measure if you need precision to a fourth of an inch.
Is it worth it?
My brother is an architect, and they use a laser version of a rangefinder that’s really accurate. And because it uses frickin’ lasers, it can take on any surface and most any condition. But the device costs several thousands.
I didn’t need that much firepower. I just wanted decently accurate readings for measuring my outdoors (I rest the butt end of the UTM against the firewall and shoot at the house wall… voila). And this thing did the job pretty well at a relatively cheap price point.
So yeah, it’s worth it for quick and dirty measurements.
CD-R King Ultrasonic Tape Measure
Price: Php 780.00
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