What should I look for when buying a heat press?

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Heat presses are basic machines but they perform a very important role in many businesses. A heat press (or heat transfer machine as they are sometimes labeled) uses temperature and pressure to apply materials like vinyl or sublimation ink to fabric, paper or other items.

It’s important to take care in shopping for a heat press, because while they are straightforward machines, models with uneven heat or inaccurate temperatures can end up ruining projects, wasting money and causing endless aggravation.

First off, what size do you think you need? Are you interested in pressing designs for baby clothes?  Won’t those little ones grow up quick though? A good rule is to get a little bigger than you think you need. Once you get started, your projects are bound to get more ambitious, and you’ll be glad to have a bigger work surface.

Common sizes of “medium” heat presses are 12 x 15”, 15 x 15” and 16 x 20”. Presses in this category will be up to the challenge of most home craft projects and small business needs.

On the other hand, getting a larger heat press can take up more room in your home or shop than you expect. Heat presses are big and bulky, often over 50 lbs. and not exactly the kind of item you can tuck in a cupboard when not in use.

If you need a press that has to travel with you or has to be stored away while not in use, there are great small craft presses like the Hotronix Pink Craft press or the Cricut EasyPress 2 that store easily and travel well.

Many heat presses will have similar settings like temperature range, but it’s more important that the heat press has a consistent temperature across the entire heat platen to give the desired result.

It’s not like a manufacturer will advertise it’s product as being inconsistent in this way, so look for reliable reviews, and prepare yourself to measure the performance of the machine after you buy and start using it. How do you do this? Try using an infrared thermometer to test the heat at different spots on the platen to ensure you are getting consistent heat.

So, what happens if you happen to get a heat press that isn’t heating like it should? Before you buy, make sure you look up the warranty and returns policy of the seller, as well as the repair and service guidelines.

Quality of warranty can vary greatly between low-cost imported heat presses and machines from established brands. Our research of bestselling heat presses on Amazon showed that many models were sold by third-party companies that did not specify any warranty information and had no company website where this information could be found either.

Established brands like Hotronix, Swing Design, Cricut and Siser are very clear about their warranties. Most offer at least a year and many also offer extended warranties. These warranties can include full replacement of the press or replacement parts.

Some companies also offer technical support that can guide you through solutions to your problems step by step. Repairing heat presses is common and most companies allow it under warranty protection.

If you have to return a damaged or defective heat press, it’s good to go with a brand that offers good return terms. Many low-cost press sellers will only accept returns at the buyer’s expense, making it impractical to ship a heavy item back to the company.

This may sound like buying a heat press is more trouble than it’s worth, but trust me…having a good, reliable heat press at your disposal is life changing. You can make so much cool stuff for your friends, for yourself or for a small business. You need to take care in how you choose, and be aware that cheaper isn’t always better.

For a more complete buyers guide to heat presses and our top ten reviews of best heat presses for crafting, for beginners, for t-shirts and more, click here.


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