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By Dave Sirmans
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Not that long ago, infrared thermography was relatively unknown within most institutional and commercial facilities. Many technicians and managers in maintenance and engineering departments generally understood the concepts behind the technology, and some had used it, but few had applied it regularly to diagnose problems with facility equipment and materials.
Today, thermography applications are growing rapidly, along with technicians' familiarity with the technology. Of course, misconceptions still exist regarding the way thermography works and its applications in facilities.
Managers need to address one misconception — return on investment (ROI) — immediately in order to cost-justify the investment in infrared thermography. Not surprisingly in this era of extreme cost-consciousness, questions related to value and ROI remain in the minds of many end users. A significant variable in the ROI equation is the imager's initial cost. As affordable as infrared cameras have become, managers can choose from among many levels of equipment features and functionality.
Gone are the days when purchasing an infrared camera was a major capital expenditure. More departments now buy imaging systems, send technicians to training classes and bring inspection programs in house. The largest driving force behind this trend relates to advances in imager technology that have led to much more affordable cameras.
Today, thermal imagers can cost less than other, more common specialty maintenance tools. Cameras are available with adequate features and resolution for $2,000-10,000. These prices are dramatically lower than a decade ago, but it still is not exactly pocket change.
Such sums of money can buy a lot of V-belts, air-handler filters, and compact fluorescent lamps, so managers need to make sure their specification decisions maximize the investment. Managers who shop around and compare pricing can spend significantly less and still meet the department's needs.
Successfully Specified, Infrared Systems Can Deliver a Solid Return on Investment
Training is Essential for Successful Use of Infrared Imagers
Quantifying the Bottom-Line Benefits of Infrared Imagers