Here at NZ Thermography, we’re often asked about the benefits and uses of thermal imaging. The truth is there are too many to fit into a short answer! In this blog, we’re going to break down the basics of thermography, outlining what the technology is and what it can be used for. Read on for our helpful introduction to this fascinating technology.
What is infrared radiation?
Before we can discuss what thermal imaging is, we need to talk about infrared radiation. Simply put, it’s heat! Heat gives off light as it radiates off objects into the surrounding environment, but the human eye can’t normally see it. Infrared light has a wavelength longer than the human eye can process. At the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find ultraviolet light, which has wavelengths shorter than the human eye can see.
Thermal imaging cameras can see this infrared light, however, and they can process the information into an image that we can interpret to accurately see heat. As you can imagine, this sort of technology has a virtually unlimited number of applications, from electrical audits to property valuations. Thermal imaging cameras are available to the public, but many professional thermal imagining companies have access to much more powerful technology.
How do thermal imaging cameras work?
Thermal imaging cameras typically use both infrared sensors and a normal light lens to detect infrared light and superimpose it over an image of the subject being measured. They synthesise all this information into an easy-to-read picture of the area, in which red means warm and blue means cool. It can take as little as a thirtieth of a second for a thermal imaging camera to do this! Some thermal imaging cameras may differ, but they all follow the same basic concept.
What can thermal imaging be used for?
Thermal imagining was first used by the British military following WW1. It was invented by a Hungarian physicist and proved effective at spotting aircraft at night. Since then, the technology has been applied to hundreds of industries. Some of the most common modern uses of thermography are the following:
1. Preventative Maintenance
Thermal imaging is excellent at finding issues with machinery or electrical systems, both of which tend to overheat before failing. Thermography allows trained professionals to quickly identify potential mechanical problems, overheating outlets, or hot circuitry. All of these can be signs of a system under stress and finding them before they fail can help people make repairs before a major system outage, rather than after. Without thermography, it can take a lot of methodical searching (or lucky guesses) to find the source of potential problems. This is especially true if you’re dealing with a large system, such as many commercial electrical generators. Thanks to thermal imaging, it can take as little as a few minutes to highlight what would otherwise be an elusive problem.
2. Property Inspection
Another key use of thermography is property inspections. Insulation is a major consideration in all New Zealand homes. Poor air circulation or poorly installed windows can make a home more expensive to heat and less comfortable to live in. No one wants to live in a mouldy home but, sadly, many houses in New Zealand do suffer from this issue.
Thermography is an easy way to inspect a property’s heat envelope and quickly isolate any areas where heat is escaping. Once you know where the leaks are, it’s much easier to plug them up, making your property much more valuable and comfortable. A commercial thermal imaging camera should detect heat leaking through doors, windows, or the walls if proper insulation hasn’t been used. Sometimes the roof can also be a major culprit in heat loss. Thermal imaging can detect this as well.
3. Solar Panel Inspection
Systems that harness the energy of the sun are a fitting application for thermal imaging, which can be used to detect faulty cells in solar panels. The amount of electricity that solar panels produce can decline over time as the cells lose efficiency. Faults may even result in reverse currents (electrical currents that are forced in the wrong direction through the panel’s modules) and even fires. Thermal imaging inspections can locate these faults under load, allowing the solar system to continue operating without shutdown. Solar panels can also be inspected at a distance, which makes the process fast, efficient, and far easier than one-by-one manual inspections.
Want to use thermal imaging for something yourself?
If you’ve got a job that you think thermography might be cut out for, give us a call. Our infrared thermography inspection services cover a wide range of industries, and our cutting edge technology allows us to get the job done quickly and efficiently. Talk to us today for a free quote!