Green Laser Levels vs. Red Laser Levels – What’s the difference?

Knowing which type of laser level to purchase can be a difficult task. Asides the varying options for laser levels, there’s also two different types of color.

So which is the best? red versus green laser line levels? That’s what I’m going to answer in this article. As it’s not a cut and dry choice.

If you’re in a hurry, then this is the laser level I personally use, and I love it.

Over the years, our eyes have evolved into seeing green a lot better than the other colors in the light spectrum.

This is why many green laser levels appear to be a lot brighter in natural light. This includes ambient light found in an outdoor environment, during the daytime. Apart from the obvious color difference, there are other very significant differences between these two types of laser levels.

This has a lot to do with our eyes’ sensitivity to green-colored light. In most ambient light conditions, our intrinsic ability to see any sort of light (regardless of color) peaks at around 555 nanometers (nm). As this graph shows, green is in the middle of Relative Sensitivity / Wavelength (nm) spectrum.

For example, a green laser can appear to be four times brighter than the red one. This holds true even if both the lasers are delivering the same power output.

Eyesensitivity
Source: wikipedia

The PLS green laser levels (for instance) emit green-colored light at an approximate frequency of 530nm. This is very close to the 550nm peak. But the red laser level typically emits red light in the  635nm range, where our overall sensitivity to light is not very high.

Ultimately, the brightness of any laser level depends on multiple factors, including:

  • Ambient light conditions
  • The  total power output
  • The overall projection surface area of the level’s beam

Green Colored Laser Levels are Expensive to Own and Operate

A green beam generally appears brighter to the eye, making it much easier to see. However, it will use up your laser level’s battery power more quickly due to its higher power consumption. It is also more expensive. You will have to decide which color laser level you need, based on the ambient light in your area of operation and your budget.

There is no real difference in the accuracy ratings between the two different colored laser levels. The main differentiating factors consist of the following.

  • Battery life
  • Price
  • Brightness
  • Visibility range

Just because a green laser tool easier to see, it doesn’t mean that it is the better choice.

Safety Considerations for Different Laser Levels

Laser levels today are typically either Class II (between 0.5mW and 1mW) or lasers in the Class IIIA and Class IIIR (1mw to 5mw) range.

A Class II laser is generally considered to be safe and will not cause damage to your eyes unless viewed directly for an extended period, or via some form of magnification device.

But the Class IIIA and Class IIIR devices are more dangerous, and there is a risk of eye damage in case of any sort of eye contact.  It is advisable to check all relevant local as well as federal regulations regarding power requirements whenever you decide to use a Class IIIA or Class IIIR laser product.

When should you use a green laser?

DEWALT DW0822LG 12V 2 Spot + Cross Line Laser, Green

Personally? All the time.

A green laser beam is great for jobs that are done outdoors because its diode is two times stronger than a red laser.

Because of this, it’s much more preferred when doing jobs such as:

  • round constructions
  • working with drywall
  • ceilings
  • plumbing
  • pavement
  • kitchen installations

These days, people tend to buy a green laser over a red as the prices are falling and it is a much clearer beam.

Choosing green over red just makes sense.

Green Line Laser Level: Pros and Cons

Pros

  • High visibility and brightness: The green laser beam can be detected up to 4 times better than any other laser beam. This makes it suitable for both indoor works. In the optimum working conditions, the laser is visible for a thousand feet, that’s a fair distance!
  • Green is more visible to the eye: As such a green laser level is a more sought after tool since the green beam uses more energy, it is also very bright making it suitable for use in interior jobs.
  • The distance it covers is longer: A green laser level can be projected over a longer distance, and it can be projected onto a long surface.

Cons

  • Green laser levels are more expensive: Green laser diodes are more expensive to produce compared to red laser level beams. Green laser levels also have more components and require more maintenance.
  • These laser levels use more power: Green laser levels use high energy to generate the green beam. This will lead to less total operation time compared to a red laser level. Green laser level operates at a higher temperature, this makes the green diodes more prone to damage.

Green versus Red Laser Levels in the Field

DEWALT DW0822LG 12V 2 Spot + Cross Line Laser, Green

The distances at which you take your readings also dependent on a host of factors:

  • The specific type of surface on which the beam is being projected
  • The external ambient light
  • The total remaining battery life and strength

The last one is particularly important since the fading battery of a green laser might mean that the dot is less visible than a red laser level with a fresh battery pack.

If you work in an indoor work environment at short distances, the red vs. green argument is rendered irrelevant since either one will give you a decent reading up to 30 feet or so.

However, at greater distances, the green laser will easily outperform the red one because it is likely to be more visible to the naked eye at distances ranging from 2 to 60 feet (provided you are using a set of fresh batteries).

In case you work outdoors during the day, and you must be able to see the laser clearly, in this case, I would suggest a green laser level.

If you don’t intend to move your level around too much, the green laser level will easily be able to outperform a red one.

While a green laser level is more expensive, and will and will require more frequent battery changes, the convenience, and the added time savings will offset the cost difference in the long run. And there is a bonus as well.

Since red laser levels are more popular, using a green one will allow you to easily distinguish your marker from the other laser levels at the construction site. This can save you from making a critical error by reading the wrong laser.

You’ll find that red laser levels are the most popular options with DIY’s and on job sites, but as green laser levels are becoming more affordable, I’m seeing them in use more and more.

This holds particularly true when you are working in places such as warehouses and other large construction spaces where you might require consistent visibility up till 60 feet.

This is precisely why green laser levels are being favored by electricians and construction industries. The average green laser offers considerably greater visibility whenever you are transferring plumb points through the installation process or even when conducting a preliminary site layout.

They are also very useful if you are installing an acoustic ceiling grid or when setting level baselines at large sites.

However, this does not mean that the era of the red laser is coming to an end. Many professionals use red laser levels with laser enhancement goggles.

These unique goggles work by filtering out all the other visible light colors that are opposed to your own laser level.

This is a very cost-effective way of increasing the visibility of a red laser level without spending money on a green one. However, this has the drawback of decreasing your overall visibility in a hazardous environment.

Where to buy a Green Laser Level?

DEWALT DW088K Self-Leveling Cross Line Laser

You can find green laser levels in all the big box stores. I have heard that in small towns and areas that a green laser level is hard to come by. This makes sense as they are still on the pricey side so less likely to be bought by your average consumer.

But places such as Lowes or Home Depot will certainly stock it.

That said… Amazon is your friend, I personally purchase most of my tools via Amazon, it saves popping to my local hardware store to find they don’t have it or that it’s not competitively priced.

Red Line/Beam Laser Level

DEWALT DW089K Self-Leveling 3-Beam Line Laser, Black

If you are only going to be doing home DIY improvements, then a red laser level will be all you really need.

That said they do suffer in direct sunlight which can be a pain at times when the sun shines on your beam, so if you can afford it I do recommend just going for the green, it’s worth the investment.

A red laser level is readily available and will cost typically ~20% less than a green laser line level.

You can use them outdoors but as soon as the sun shines, they are next to impossible and if distance is involved… just give up.

When to Use a Red Line/Beam Laser Level?

DEWALT DW088K Self-Leveling Cross Line Laser

Whenever you need to make something plumb/level. I’ve used a typical bubble level for years, and they work well, but sometimes getting your level into tight spaces can be difficult or as I’ve found my level isn’t long enough, and my next level is too long for the gap!

That’s not a problem for laser levels.

You may have had a handyman in and they’ve used a red laser level, so I asked my friends in the construction industry why they were using red over green, and the answer was….

They aren’t going to be yet another tool, they can do their jobs with a red laser level, but if green had been affordable as it was today when they bought their laser line levels, then they would have gone for the green every time.

Red Line Laser Level: Pros and Cons

Pros

  • It is relatively cheap: A red laser level is cheaper compared to a green laser level. The red diode doesn’t cost nearly as much to produce as a green diode.
  • They’re readily available: Any hardware store will likely stock them, and they are useful for most jobs so can be used on almost any work-site.
  • Lower power consumption: Red laser level does not consume a huge amount of power. It’s easier to project a red beam than a green one, as such less power is used and you required fewer batteries, meaning more money in your pocket (batteries aren’t cheap!).

Cons

  • The visibility distance is shorter: A red laser level compared to a green laser level has a small distance where it is observable. The distance is less than 100 feet with a good power source when working outdoors. This can lead to time wastage where you need to work on a larger project, due to having to move the laser level.
  • Relatively low visibility: A green laser level is four times brighter than a red laser level. The red beam compared to green at ambient lighting is less visible.
  • Not suitable for exterior work: A red beam dissipates easily in daylight. Red diodes are susceptible to extreme temperature damage. This drawback is resolved if you have one with an outdoor function mode for visibility and a beam detector. The detector will help you trace and locate the beam on the surface on which you are working on.

Where to Buy a Red Line/Beam Laser Level?

DEWALT DW089K Self-Leveling 3-Beam Line Laser, Black

You can get a red line level in the same places as a green line level. Your local hardware store, Home Depot, Lowes and the like.

This is a common type of laser level, so you’ll find it almost everywhere.

That said, I still get my tools from Amazon.

Personally, I recommend you get this one if you want a red laser level.

Conclusion

Here’s a quick video showing the differences between a red and green laser level.

When you’re using a laser level the beam is your point of reference, this is what gives you your high precision. The last thing you want is to not be able to see the beam at a distance or if sunlight is cast directly onto the beam.

Which is why I recommend going for a green laser level if you budget will allow.

Both types work well for installing ceiling lights, painting straight lines, hanging pictures, curtains etc. But for the more involved jobs you really want a green laser level.

Personally, I always invest in my tools so I’ll go for green every time, even if it means spending more green.

If you are a pro, these are a must have, red just doesn’t cut it anymore.

If you are a DIY’r chances are a red line laser level will serve you well, but for how long? In my early years I went for the cheaper options which solved the task right now, but then I would find later on that they weren’t up to the next task. So I always go for something which will be able to cope with my needs now and in the future.

There isn’t a clear winner it comes down to what you want to do and what you budget is. I have a DeWalt DW089K which gets used often and it’s red! My father in law has a DeWalt DW088K and loves it.

I use my DeWalt DW0822LG more often these days as just works regardless of environmental factors.

I was hanging a set of blinds the other day and the sun shone through the windows behind me (windows on both walls) and made seeing the red beam next to impossible, switched the laser over to the DW0822LG and those blinds where up and level in no time!

I’d be interested in here about your choices and experiences in the comments section below.

Green Laser Levels vs. Red Laser Levels – What’s the difference?

Last update on 2019-08-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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