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Diagnostic Thermal Imaging

Thermal Imaging is a nonintrusive diagnostic technology that converts infrared light energy into a representative visible image.  A thermal imaging camera allows practitioners to visualize very small surface temperature differentials in real time.  This proves especially useful when conducting building evaluations, energy audits and forensic studies. 

Thermal Imaging is often used when evaluating the following building systems:

  1. Electrical & Mechanical Systems
    • Detection of hazards in circuit breaker panels and fuse boxes
    • Detection of overly hot electric motor components indicating impending bearing failures, insulation failures, shaft misalignment, or unbalanced voltages
    • Detection of air leakage in air handling equipment and supply ducts
  2. Building Envelope
    • Detection of moisture intrusion
    • Detection of structural framing
    • Detection of air infiltration and insulation gaps
  3. Insulated Roofs
    • Detection of roof leaks and wet insulation
  4. Pests
    • Detection of pest infestation and related damage
  5. Photovoltaic Systems
    • Detection of panel obstructions
    • Detection of malfunctioning cells

 

Is all Thermal Imaging equal?

The value and quality of the information available from a thermal scan depends, in large part, on the skill of the practitioner and the quality of the camera.  All of our practitioners have obtained a Thermography Level 1 certification or higher.  The quality of a thermal imaging camera is based primarily on the following specifications:

  • Detector Resolution: Typical resolutions range from 80x60 pixels on the low end to upwards of 320x240 pixels on the high end.  A greater resolution improves image quality and allows imaging at greater distances necessary to capture an entire building.
  • Thermal Sensitivity: Typical sensitivities range from 0.18°F on the low end to less than 0.08°F on the high end.  Improved thermal sensitivity also enhances image quality by allowing more definition within the image.
  • Temperature Range: Typical operating ranges are between 32°F & 95°F on the low end to between -4°F & 2000°F on the high end.  This is the range of temperatures that a camera can detect.
  • Image Frequency: Typical operating ranges are between 9 Hz and 60 Hz.  A 9 Hz camera displays nine images every second while a 60 Hz camera displays 60 images every second. 

We utilize commercial grade cameras with the following minimum characteristics:

  • Detector Resolution of 320x240
  • Thermal Sensitivity of 0.08°F
  • Temperature Range of -4°F to 248°F
  • Image Frequency of 60 Hz

When is Thermal Imaging applied?

We can provide thermal imaging as a standalone service or as part of a broader engineering or forensic study. 


Limitations of Thermal Imaging

Thermal Imaging is not x-ray vision.  It simply allows the visual imaging of infrared radiation intensity (typically relating to surface temperature differentials).  There are still many deficiencies that cannot be identified through the use of thermal imaging.  Often times, thermal imaging is just one step in the forensic diagnostic process.  Ultimately destructive testing may have to be performed to identify the extent of damages or origin of cause. 

The effectiveness of Thermal Imaging is also dependent on the environment.  It is often not possible to detect missing or misapplied insulation or leaks in the building envelope when the ambient outdoor temperature is less than 18°F away from the indoor temperature.  Also, sunny conditions make it difficult (or even impossible) to obtain useful information during exterior investigations due to the sun’s glare and reflections.