Heat Tool Buying Guide

Using a shrink wrapping gun for scaffold shrink wrapping or industrial packaging

The shrink wrap heart gun is used for;

  • Making a sealed join between two pieces of shrink wrap film
  • Securely attaching shrink wrap to the scaffold structure (by wrapping the film around a scaffold tube and heat welding it back onto itself)
  • Heat shrinking the wrap ‘drum tight’ so that it moulds tightly around the scaffolding structure
  • Making repairs to shrink wrap (by heat welding a patch of shrink wrap film over the damaged area

A shrink wrap hot air gun for scaffold wrapping should be powerful and robust yet lightweight for comfortable 'all day' use. 

Check the following with your supplier;

  • Will your hot air gun be supplied complete and ready to use including a regulator and hose?
  • Try and choose a shrink wrap hot air gun that is supplied in a tough carry case to prevent damage when being transported to and from sites.
  • Although just one gun is enough to get started and carry out small shrink wrap jobs of up to 150 square metres, you will probably need at least two hot air guns if you want to get jobs completed more efficiently.
  • Don’t forget your shrink wrapping safety gloves. See if your supplier will throw you in a pair for free.

If you are using an industrial or construction grade shrink wrap film for scaffold wrapping or to create a transport & storage cover for a large product, you need the right heat tool to complete the job safely, efficiently and to get a smart & professional appearance to your finished job.

In this heat tool buying guide, we will introduce heat tools and suggest some key areas that you might consider before purchasing a shrink wrapping heat tool.

To new users, a shrink wrap heat gun can first appear quite a daunting piece of equipment to use. In use, there is a visible flame which projects from the tool and burns with some noise and ferocity. However, it is not the flame itself that is used to shrink the plastic covering but the hot air that the flame creates. Different guns will produce a slightly different pattern of hot air, but normally a gas powered shrink wrapping gun will shrink an oval area of approx. 30cm in diameter. The temperature required to shrink plastic films will differ between thicknesses and grades (i.e. standard 'v' flame retardant films) but shrink wrap normally begins to shrink from around 100 Degrees Celsius. 

Using a propane gas powered heat gun to shrink plastic wrap is very much like spray painting with hot air. Rather, than the holding the heat gun still and directing the heat at a single place on the shrink wrap, you should keep the gun moving so that the ripples and creases are 'chased out' and the shrink wrap is left taught and tightly fitted around whatever it is covering. It is good practice not to go back and forth over an area of sheeting that has already been shrunk. The technique is; 'hit it hard and move on', as demonstrated in the video below.

Over the years, our installation teams have used all the types of shrink wrapping guns / heat tools available and this guide is the result of that experience. Read on and avoid wasting time & money when buying a shrink wrapping heat gun.

This guide does not review specific models of hot air gun - you can find that here; 'What Equipment is Required to Shrink Wrap a Scaffolding'. Also, this guide does not review heat tools in terms of their suitability for the 'standard' application of pallet shrink wrapping. Our focus here is what works best for scaffold wrapping and industrial covering, which are very tough and demanding applications that require a tool to work for long periods of time 'in the field'.

Where will you be shrink wrapping? (Gas versus Electric)

Whilst an electric heat gun may work well for small scale projects, such as heat shrinking sleeving around electric cables, it is typically not practical for large scale outdoor industrial projects.

During the installation of shrink wrap scaffold sheeting there will typically be many thousands of square metres of sheeting to be welded / joined and heat shrunk 'drum tight'. Even a very heavy duty electric heat gun, such as the Leister Forte S3, has greatly less power output (10kW) than a gas powered gun (30-70kW typical), which means it will take so long to complete the job, that it's use is not feasible in a commercial situation. Putting aside the extra time involved, there are limitations associated with finding a 3-phase electric power supply, getting that power to the work area, and operating the tool for long periods of time (weight of the Forte S3 is about 4 x that of a typical gas powered gun).

What will you be shrink wrapping? (Heat gun extensions)

A range of accessories are available for shrink wrapping heat guns. The most useful of these is probably an extension. A heat gun extension allows the operator to safely shrink areas of shrink wrap covering that may be difficult to reach otherwise. For example, when shrink wrapping a large motor yacht, the area over the bow of the boat would be very difficult to reach with a regular shrink wrap heat gun. However, not to shrink this area might lead to pooling of water or the cover flapping and detaching in strong winds.

Available for the Ripack shrink wrap heat guns are range of extensions which will allow the operator to reach up to 2.03m (6'8”). Heat gun extensions are most typically used for industrial covers - such as shrink wrapping a boat or large object. For scaffold shrink wrapping, the installer generally works from the inside of the scaffolding structure itself.


In terms of safety, hot air guns fall into two types, 'continuous operation' and 'dead mans handle'. Continuous operation means that when the tool is switched on, it remains in operation, until the operator manually turns the tool off. This could be a problem if for example, the operator drops the tool.

Tools with a dead mans handle generally have some kind of piezo ignition system. This means that as the operator squeezes the trigger of the heat gun, gas is released and simultaneously a piezo ignitor generates an electrical charge which crates a spark and ignites the gas. The operator is then required to apply a constant pressure to the on switch or trigger to keep the tool operating. If the operator drops the heat gun, the trigger is released which cuts off the gas supply, and the tool is switched off immediately.

In some parts of the world, roofing torches are sometimes also used for scaffold shrink wrapping. (These tools were originally developed for heating tar and laying felt roofing.) Whilst these types of heat gun are quite cheap to buy, and may have a type of dead mans handle which cuts off the gas supply when released, they do not typically have piezo ignition. This means they require a continuously burning flame or pilot light to ignite the gas which is a hazard if the gun is left unattended.

Rhino recommend a gas powered hot air gun with dead mans handle and full piezo ignition. However, whichever heat gun you choose you should always fully read safety instruction and operate in accordance with the manufacturers instructions. Always observe local fire regulations, obtain a hot works permit if required and ensure that fire extinguishers are located nearby.

Once you have decided on the power source (gas 'v' electric) and the type of gun (continuous operation 'v' dead mans handle) there are two important but often misunderstood areas to consider - power and reliability.


In our discussion of gas v electric powered heat guns, we have proposed that the power output of the tool is important to getting a shrink wrap job completed rapidly. So, does that mean you should choose the most powerful gas tool on the market? Well, not quite. Although power is important, once you have 'enough', (say around 40kW) the difference between 60kW and 70Kw in practical real world terms is not noticeable, perhaps just a few minutes time difference over an area of hundreds of square metres of shrink wrap. The short video below shows three popular shrink wapping guns, with different outputs, back to back shrinking one square metre of shrink wrap film.

In addition, more power means more gas consumption. A 30Kw heat tool, operated continuously, will use around 2Kg / gas per hour. With a typical gas cylinder size of 13Kg, a high output gun will require extra cylinders to be ordered and stored and may also cause the cylinders to ice and lose pressure. All gas powered shrink wrapping guns, and certainly all of the tools we supply at Rhino have sufficient power.

Before you make the final purchase, there is one very important factor that is often overlooked... reliability.


At Rhino Shrink Wrap, in addition to supplying shrink wrap materials & equipment we have a 10 man installation team who are using shrink wrapping hot air guns day in and day out. Based on many years experience working 'in the field' we feel that the most important thing you should consider when choosing an industrial grade heart tool for scaffold shrink wrapping and large scale industrial covers is the reliability of the heat tool and the cost and availability of spare parts. Just like everyone, we have sometimes got carried away with the latest 'new and shiny' tool released on the market with long lists of fancy features, only to find that during long term, heavy duty use, the heat tool is unreliable.

However, even the most reliable tool has parts that will wear out over time and so it is important to carry some common spares. Spare parts for shrink wrapping heat guns can be very expensive so we recommend that you choose a heat tool that has a wide range of spares at sensible prices. The most common parts that we replace on all shrink wrap guns are the spark generator (piezo ignitor), electrode and the hose.


We hope you have find this guide to choosing and buying a heat gun useful. All of the heat guns we recommend are stocked and available to purchase online. Alternatively, you are very welcome to download a catalogue and call us to discuss your requirements or place an order. We look forward to hearing from you.

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