The best rotary laser level is a favorite of many construction workers, thanks to its ease of use. Unlike other laser levels, this option rotates, so you do not have to keep adjusting its angle during use. Again, the best rotary laser levels work automatically so that you can carry out your projects fast and efficiently.
While a laser level is common with construction workers, the unit is also great for DIYers who need to carry out simple tasks such as hanging art in their home, or for any other home improvement project.
What are rotary laser levels used for?
A rotary level is used in different applications including:
Window and glass fitting
Fitting an acoustic ceiling
Installation of slabs
Laying the foundation
Carrying out trim work
Underground utility work
In the above applications, the level helps you create horizontally and vertically level surfaces for your projects, or to find the slope for a project. You can also use it to set walls or to find the perfect level for art on your wall.
Interior uses for rotary laser level:
For interior work, the rotary level installs on a ceiling or a wall, and you do not need to have a laser detector. If you have to use these laser levels outdoors, you need a laser detector. You can operate the levels using a remote control. On a clear day, you may not see the beam clearly, which is why sometimes a laser detector might come in handy for interior work.
Exterior uses for rotary laser level:
These units are ideal for exterior work. You mount them on a tripod during use. You can use the laser level without a laser detector, but the range may not be as much as you need. If you use a laser detector, the range doubles. These laser levels offer a green or a red beam – be sure to get the right color for the application you need.
What makes a rotary level different is the rotation of the beam, which goes around at a 360-degree angle. High power units can make up to 1000 rotations a minute, but the number of rotations will depend on the power of the unit you are using and the application. For roadside projects or large outdoor projects, a high-power fast-rotating level comes in handy. For simple indoor tasks such as hanging art on walls, you need a simple low-speed unit.
Rotary Laser Level Specifications:
Auto-Leveling Feature – This is a feature in almost all new laser levels. The unit adjusts automatically when you set it within a specific range, usually +/- 5 degrees. This means that even when you do not set the laser on level ground, it will adjust to ensure that the beam travels on horizontal ground.
Accuracy from different distances – Modern rotary beam levels is highly accurate to make them easy and efficient to use. Low-cost models have an accuracy of +/- 5mm at a distance of 30 meters, while advanced models are accurate to a millimeter when used at a distance of 30 meters.
Beam Power determines how far the beam of light travels from the unit. This is also referred to as the operating range. Low-cost units can cover a distance of up to 175 meters while high-end units can cover more than 700 meters. The operating range you choose will depend on the application you need to carry out. For instance, roadside applications require a unit with a high range while indoor applications can use units with the smallest range.
Light Source and Color – Most of the units come with a red beam as it is more visible in different applications. However, green is also common, especially for indoor applications. The light can be visible (either red or green) or can be invisible (infrared). In instances where you cannot see the light with your naked eyes, you will need a laser beam detector to help locate where the unit falls.
Temperature Range - If you will be using your rotary level under extreme conditions, you need a unit with a broad temperature range to function right in all temperatures. Most high-end models can perform in snow as well as perform under the hot sun. Some units are also specialized for either sunny days or cold days. Whichever you pick should match the application.
Weather Protection – This determines how well the unit can withstand adverse weather conditions such as moisture and dust. The IP Code, or Ingress Protection standard, shows how well a unit can resist being used in water. Lower priced models come with an IP54 Rating while high-priced units come with an IP66 rating. A higher rating shows that a unit is able to resist dust and water better.
The Ruggedness of the Enclosure – You need to handle your laser level carefully to avoid damages. However, some manufacturers make the levels tough and rugged to ensure the unit does not break during use. The glass windows and the delicate internal structure needs protection using a tough enclosure. Higher-end units come with tough outer materials such as metal or tough ABS plastic. Avoid low-end units with a cheap plastic casing.
The Rotating Beam Speed – Modern rotary levels offer high-speed operation. These beams can rotate between 0 and 600 RPM while others can go up to 1000 RPM. Some offer variable settings that allow you to adjust the rotations as you please. For roadside applications, a unit with a high RPM comes in handy.
Power – Laser levels draw power from an alkaline battery or a rechargeable battery. Rechargeable batteries are more cost-effective when you use your unit outdoors most of the time. Check the power of the rechargeable battery to ensure that it will serve you for an extended period of time.
How Does A Rotary Level Work?
Like other laser levels, the rotary level projects a laser beam dot that shows a 360-degree line on the area you need to show the level. Modern units can adjust their angle automatically so that the beam generated is perfectly horizontal or vertical during use. You need to place it on a flat surface mounted on a wall or on a tripod. The unit will do automatic adjustments to project a horizontal dot. There are also manual leveling options.
The units also come with a single line generator with a plumb up and plumb down capability. Their ruggedness and their long-range make them ideal for exterior work such as grading, laying pipes, and laying foundations.
The options range from simple units that you can mount on a tripod, but others are large that they need to be mounted on a tractor or a platform. The latter are designed for grading work and large projects. If you need a unit for simple projects at home, a simple unit comes in handy.
These devices use laser emitted from a diode. The diode produces light when electrons are stimulated, and they give off a beam of light. The light is then passed through mirrors and prisms and pointed in one direction to give a laser beam.
The laser level then projects the beam of light in the form of a dot. You can use the dot as a level reference point for your project. The rotary level rotates 360 degrees to make a complete line, so you never have to create two reference points with dots. This way, once you set the unit on the angle you need, it will be set to go.
The size of the laser beam is dependent on the size of the diode. You need a smaller beam for more efficiency. While the first units were only used indoors, today you can use the laser level anywhere. They pair with a laser beam detector that is able to read the beam from the laser level. This detector is positioned a specific distance away from the diodes. It is then moved up and down until it detects the laser beam and blinks or beeps.
The green lasers are becoming more common than the red ones as they can offer 400 percent more brightness for easier use. These green ones, however, require more power to use, and your battery will last less long when you choose them. The red lasers are more accurate, and they work under a wide range of temperatures.
Features of rotary laser levels:
Grade Match – Grade match allows you to slope the plane of the laser on one or two axes. This way, you can project a grade from the unit to a remote point. Once you set the grade, you can then match it to the remote point. This allows you to project the grade over a wide area. This feature makes it possible for you to perform a host of grade works.
Out of level Warning – If you disturb the unit, and it falls out of level, it starts blinking and to show that it is no longer level. This feature ensures that you get the correct readings at all times. Some units will display the warning at the receiver too. In other units, when the unit is out of level, the laser rotation stops and the unit goes off.
Machine Control – If you need a high-power laser beam, you need a high-end laser level that can be machine-controlled. These units have a long operating range, and you may need them for earthwork and other related applications. If you need a unit that helps you tackle such an application, check its suitability for machine control.
Remote Control – Modern laser levels can be operated remotely, but not all of them have the capability. If you are using the grade match function, you need a remote control – otherwise, you will need an extra set of eyes to observe laser beam. The operating range of the remote is usually half the operating range of the laser level.
Temperature Compensation – This is a feature on almost all new systems. The function protects the laser level from the effects that temperature has on their performance. With this functionality, the laser output, auto-leveling, and strength of the beam are not affected.
Low-Battery Warning – This is a standard feature on most units, and it tells you when you need to recharge the unit or change the batteries.
Self-leveling Feature – The rotary level contains a transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter mounts on a tripod (this is the part that contains a diode that emits a laser beam that rotates). The receiver mounts on a grade (also called a transit), which is a large ruler on the unit. The receiver is the one that detects the laser and indicates whether it is lower, higher, or at level with the beam. Units with this feature are more advanced, and they are used for a lot of applications. The unit can self-level for up to five degrees.
Adjustable Rotational Level - The rotational angle helps keep the laser on the target. Most units offer between one and three rotational angle options. Once you understand where you will be working and the angle you use most, you can limit the laser level to that angle.
Rotating Laser Level Accessories
A rotating laser level also needs a few accessories such as a tripod, mounting brackets, alkaline or rechargeable batteries, and a charger. You also need a receiver and a receiver clamp to start using your unit. You also need a unit that comes with a hand carrying case with foam padding that protects the interior components of your unit. The case also makes the unit easier to carry to different work sites.
If you work with your rotary level every day, you need special red or laser beams glasses. The glasses make the beam more visible, and they also protect your eyes.
Horizontal and Dual Beam Lasers
Horizontal laser levels are the most common. These levels emit a horizontal beam that shows you the level across a horizontal axis.
Dual-beam lasers are more versatile as they emit both horizontal and vertical beams. With these laser levels, you can establish both the plumb reference and level lines. However, the units do not produce both horizontal and vertical planes at the same time. Instead, they produce the horizontal plane and then a reference dot on the ceiling.
For the best rotary laser level, a dual-beam means a straight horizontal line across the room and a plump up the dot on the ceiling of the room. So far, there is no unit that produces vertical and horizontal planes at the same time.
Fixed and Variable Rotation Speed
Rotary lasers can either run on a fixed speed setting or on a variable speed setting. The speed of the unit is indicated in RPM (rotations per minute). If the unit has fixed RPM, it doesn’t offer a speed setting button. A fast RPM travels further than a slow RPM beam. However, the fast RPM bean is dimmer, and you need a laser detector to see it clearly. Any level speed higher than 600 requires a laser detector.
Laser levels with adjustable speed are ideal for use in indoor applications. Here, you can adjust the unit to a lower speed for the best visibility. As the speed of the rotating laser level reduces, the laser dot becomes a solid line on the wall. If you need to have a solid dot instead of a line common with rotating laser levels, you can adjust the rotation speed to zero RPM.
How to use a rotary laser level?
The rotary level can be used on a tripod or freestanding. When mounting them on a tripod, the level will either be magnetic, or it will have a clamp to hold on to the tripod.
Three ways to level a rotary laser level:
Manual Leveling is common in low-end models where you use the bubble vials built into the unit. You have to find a flat surface and then keep the vials in the center position within the vial lines. The accuracy of these units depends on how perfect the vials are and how well you adjust them. These laser levels are inexpensive, and they take longer to set up. Accuracy when using these units is at 1/8th inch for 30 feet.
Self-Leveling is on high-end models, but most modern levels come with these features as explained above. The system uses magnets and a pendulum to adjust itself to the level. The accuracy of this unit is better than the manual leveling unit – it stands at 1/8th inch for 100 feet.
Electronic Self-leveling is also referred to as automatic self-leveling. This unit uses small servo motors to automatically level itself to an accuracy of 1/16th inch for 100 feet.
How to use a Rotary Laser Level Step by Step
Setup your rotary level a distance from where it is to be used on an elevated surface. You can set it up on a tripod, a bucket, a sawhorse, or any other raised surface. If the level adjusts manually, adjust it until the vials show that it is level.
After the unit is level, turn it on. If the unit is self-leveling, you need to allow it time to adjust to the correct level. The self-leveling process can take up to a minute.
Once the unit is set, the receiver will beep to indicate that it has made a connection with the laser as you may not see the laser in daylight.
Aim your unit on the surface where you need to find the level. Mark where the beam falls according to the application.
Calibrating the Rotating Laser Level
Calibrating your laser level keeps it working efficiently for a long. You need to calibrate the laser level at least once every six months to keep it accurate. You might take the level to the manufacturer or to a manufacturer-recommended shop for calibration if your level is still covered by the warranty.
If your rotary level is automatic self-leveling, you need a professional or the manufacturer to calibrate it for you as these are a little more complex than self-leveling or manual leveling rotating levels.
Checking the Calibration of Your Rotary Level
To check how your level is working, you need to place it on the ground on a clear stretch. Mark two fixed points that are at least 100 meters apart on the ground. If you are on the road, you can use chalk marks on the ground on the concrete curb. If you are using an auto-level, you need someone else to hold the rod for you.
Set up your level in a way that you will be able to read it without swinging it a lot.
Take two readings from the two points marked; say point A and point B. Subtract the heights from the two points and note the difference.
Move the instrument close or further away from either of the points and take readings again. This time, rotate the instrument 180 degrees. Take the readings between point A and point B. If the reading is the same as before, then your laser level is good and doesn’t need any calibration. If the readings are different, then your unit requires calibration.
If your readings are different by half an inch, then your level is off by about quarter an inch in 300 feet. This is the accuracy that most rotary levels offer. If the difference is significant, you need to look for a professional to calibrate it and tune it to accuracy.
How to Grade Using the Rotating Laser Level
Grading is what happens to level the ground before construction work begins. The process ensures that the ground is level enough to accommodate the foundation of a building. The laser level shows when the ground is level and when no digging or filling is required.
How to use the rotating laser level for grading:
Place your level on an even and solid place on the ground. Ensure that the legs of the tripod are spread out to keep the level stable.
Find the original height of the ground you need to grade. This height will be your basis.
Check the current grade by having someone move around the site holding a rod positioned at the desired level. The person holding the rod will adjust the laser so that it shoots directly at you. Adjust the receiver to detect the laser and find the height. The receiver beeps until you find the desired height.
Move around the construction site and find the heights for different points to determine how much to dig or fill. You need to take the readings for all the points on the construction site even when you can clearly see that an area is below or above the needed level.
Place stakes to indicate the height. You can mark the stakes to indicate where the leveling starts, or you can sink the sticks until they are at the desired level.
After this, you only need to jot down the readings and start grading. Because the laser spins around the site, it is easier for you to move from one stake to the next, marking the level point.
What are the best rotary laser levels we recommend?
The best rotary Laser levels come with varying features from variable rotating speeds, rechargeable batteries, grade capability, and beam scanning to remote controls. The range and the nature of the beams also vary greatly from one level to the next. The best rotating laser level for you should be the one that meets your applications. Such a level should offer the visibility, the functionalities, and the range that accommodates your application succinctly.
Consider the following brands:
Leica Rotating Laser Levels
Leica has a wide range of best rotary laser levels to be used in different applications. Our best rotary laser levels include:
Leica Rugby 610 – This is a horizontal rotary laser level with only one button for ease of operation.
Leica rotating laser levels sport modern self-leveling technology that makes them easier to use. They are designed for different industries and applications such as pure surveying, reality capture, public safety, heavy construction, building, monitoring, mining, agriculture, and utilities.
You can choose between horizontal, vertical, and dual-beam lasers. Most of the lasers have simple buttons that allow you to operate them with ease.
Topcon Rotating Laser Levels
Topcon offers a number of rotating laser levels to meet the needs of different users. The levels have features such as auto-leveling and red and green beams to choose from. A special feature on these levels is Smartscan, which adapts to how you work, making the level easier to use.
The levels feature high-quality design with top-notch machining to ensure they stay on level wherever you use them. The self-alignment functionality makes the units easier to use. They are designed rugged to withstand outdoor weather and remain reliable every day you work outdoors.
The best rotary laser levels are offered based on the application:
Slope laser levels are used over long distances to the exact slope.
Exterior laser levels are engineered to withstand the outdoor environment.
Pipe/Utility levels help you build utilities before you construct a house or a road.
TopCon also offers associated accessories such as receivers, sensors, and theodolites.
Spectra Precision Rotating Laser Levels
Spectra offers an easy way to check elevations, transfer levels, and calculate the fill and cuts. Some of the main features offered on these levels include:
Optional IR Remote – This feature allows you to slope the laser while it is still cross-leveled in the cross axis. This feature makes grade matching easier.
Shockproof - The unit can withstand dropping from a height of one meter on concrete. This makes them rugged enough for use in different conditions.
Self-Leveling – This feature takes the guesswork out of the way so that you can use your unit with the needed accuracy.
Spectra Precision Rotating Laser Levels accommodate different applications with some simple enough for one person use and others sophisticated for use on heavy construction and other large projects.
The automatic, self-leveling dual grade laser levels are the most rugged, cost-effective laser levels that do multiple jobs. Dual Grade Laser Levels can withstand drops of up to one meter (three feet) onto concrete and tripod tipovers up to 1.5 meters (five feet). This strength, combined with full weatherproofing and dustproofing, reduces downtime and lowers repair costs over the life of the product.