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By Dave Lubach, Associate Editor
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Thermal imagers are a popular option for predictive maintenance, as technicians use them to locate and address issues before a system or component must be shut down for an extended period of time.
"Predictive means you're predicting at what point (an issue needs addressing), running an analysis over time," Lux says. "Preventive maintenance means you're shutting down a (system). The difference is huge. It can save millions of dollars over time."
When deciding what imager to purchase, managers often consider applications for electrical systems, building envelopes and roofs, and motors.
Haas estimates that 50-75 percent of thermal-imaging applications involve electrical systems such as power distribution, insulators, circuit breakers, controllers, and transformers. Mechanical applications include such components as measuring bearings, gear boxes or belts to find spots where friction might occur, indicating that a motor might need cleaning or repairing.
"It varies by the user in terms of the category they're interested in," Haas says. "We've got some customers that just have a regular maintenance program and they check every (electrical) panel, and in their facility there might be six different buildings and 200-some odd panels, and they go open every single one, every quarter, and check them all."
Another important application for thermal imagers is to detect roof leaks and insulation problems, both of which can create issues of mold and mildew in the building and put employees and customers at risk health-wise.
"Buildings as a system are imperfect," says Michael Stuart with Fluke Corp. "They've got penetrations that can cause air to leak in and out, and with air comes moisture. People are starting to realize that buildings are like machines, and they're not just a shell we live in. They go through cycles day in and day out, and as they go through these cycles, they wear out and don't perform like they were originally designed to perform.
"A thermal imager can see variations in the building envelope and help you make decisions about what to do to try to make it better, extend that building's life a little bit longer, or to increase the energy efficiency of the building."
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