The increased use of thermal imaging cameras in departments has paved the way for a number of emerging applications that manufacturers say had been overlooked. Proper training — most manufacturers recommend at least Level 1 thermography courses for users — can go a long way in helping uncover these opportunities.
"Thermal training is a key because it helps to guide through overlooked applications," says Kris Krawczyk of Testo, adding that thermal-imaging cameras "can check fluid levels in tanks just by measuring the different temperature of the air. They can detect air leaks. They can't see the air escaping, but they can see the cooling effect — the temperature difference where the air escapes."
Other areas that managers see the benefits of infrared cameras are to test the effectiveness of aging equipment and to monitor energy efficiency in both newer and older systems.
"There is a growing trend toward energy efficiency, and removing aging equipment affects efficiency," says Dickert. "Because of this trend, one of the newest applications is inspecting the electrical connections of high-efficiency, low-voltage systems, such as LED lighting and HVAC controls."
Building envelopes are another area in which infrared imaging cameras can help find potential problems.
"When (parts) are beginning to malfunction or wear and tear, a lot of times an infrared camera can be one of the earliest detectors," Sheets says. "This requires perhaps a little bit more heightened level of sophistication because you have to know what good looks like, so that you can understand what not good looks like.
"When looking at these large facilities, energy costs can be pretty astounding, and faulty installation, poor construction, inadequate structure, whether it's a roof that may be having issues — infrared imaging can be extremely effective at identifying these types of issues."
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