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Even though infrared cameras are increasingly easy to use, manufacturers still recommend training for the technicians to learn how to properly use them and interpret results.
As the director of the Infrared Training Center for FLIR Systems, John Keane finds that many trainees that go through his program do not realize the scope of functions an infrared imager offers until going through training.
"They see a lot more applications than they originally anticipated," Keane says. "They might buy a camera with the expectations they are going to do a weatherization-type application, and they have buildings and want to seal them up and know their energy loss far dwarfs electrical usage. They might buy a camera or rent a camera with that initially in mind.
"But they come to training and they learn about the electrical and some of the safety issues that (thermal imagers) can prevent. They learn about the roof leaks and the issues people have with mold and roof leaks — any type of water leaks. In some cases, some of those peripheral applications may be more significant than they originally intended."
The types of training programs vary by manufacturer. Some offer their own programs while others partner with a training company. The training sessions can be general in nature or component-specific, depending on the applications.
Technicians should adhere to requirements established by organizations such as the Occupational Safety & Health Administration and the National Fire Protection Association when operating infrared imagers. A training program from an accredited source can help technicians and make them aware of the standards.
Thermography training includes three levels, starting with the basics at Level 1, up to Level 3, which includes focusing on standards, writing procedures, certifying personnel, and overseeing training. Courses last about a week and cost roughly between $1,000-$2,000 to attend. Some training sessions are offered online. The best courses offer technicians classroom work, hands-on training and field tests.
"To get to the next level and get a (good) return on investment, we recommend that customers have somebody on staff who has gone to a Level 1 thermography class," Stuart says.
No matter what level of training takes place, the common view across the industry is that some professional training is better than none.
"Infrared (technology) is fairly complex," Keane says. "It is kind of part science and part art. With all the potential there is for infrared technology and predictive maintenance or even other applications, there's also definitely a potential for misuse and misrepresentation, largely as a result of a lack of knowledge."
Training Programs Recommended to Use Thermal Imagers