Find trouble before it finds you with thermal imaging cameras

April 25, 2018

Recording closed Radiator Heater with Infrared Thermal Camera

Thermal imaging cameras have been around since the Korean War. But in recent years, thanks to technological breakthroughs and cost savings, facility managers have found ways to use this technology to detect early signs of building deficiencies, troubleshoot electrical and mechanical systems, and prevent other problems before they cause serious damage.


The idea behind thermal imaging is that all objects warmer than absolute zero emit thermal radiation (i.e., heat)—even ice. Thermal cameras can pick up on these temperature differentials and display them in an artificially colored image, allowing the user to see things that would normally be invisible to the naked eye. Thermography allows you to spot temperature anomalies, which often means that equipment is not operating properly. If you spot these anomalies early, you can repair your equipment before it fails.


The key to using thermography is to have a visual record of how your equipment and systems are supposed to look when everything is operating perfectly, so you can compare that image against future images.


Some applications for thermal imaging cameras include:


Bearings inspection. When a motor bearing fails, the motor heats up and lubrication begins to break down. Thermography can monitor the temperature of operational equipment, allowing you to see hot spots before they cause failure.


Detecting electrical unbalance and overloads. Because equal loads should mean equal temperatures, a difference in temperature will allow you to spot performance anomalies.


Steam system inspection. Scan transmission lines, underground steam lines, heat exchangers, boilers, etc. for leaks and blockages.


Electric motor inspection. While thermal imaging cameras can’t see the inside of the motor, the exterior surface temperature will give you an indication of the internal temperature.


Moisture in building envelopes. Moisture in building envelopes can have serious consequences, including structural deterioration, leaks, and mold growth. Thermography can reveal anomalies in roofs and walls that can indicate the presence of moisture.


Loose or corroded electrical connections. Thermography can indicate the operating condition of electrical systems.


Electrical fire prevention. Thermography can spot poor connections, insulation failure, overheating, overloading, wiring mistakes, and more.


Among other things, thermal imagery can also be used for:

  • Maintenance programs
  • Transformer monitoring
  • HVAC inspections and audits
  • Furnace and boiler inspection
  • Pump, fans, and compressor inspection


To learn more about about thermography and the various products you can buy, read “10 Thermal Vision Cameras For Drones And How Thermal Imaging Works.”


For help in improving your preventative maintenance programs at your facility, contact Vanguard Resources.