Infrared Thermography Explained
Updated: Nov 3, 2020
Infrared thermography is a broad-spectrum service that’s applicable for a wide array of fields, used as a means to not only detect or diagnose faults but as a preventative measure to save on costs of maintenance. The costs of efforts made to detect and prevent future failures are significantly less than the costs of repairing broken parts or total system failures, which can result in unscheduled downtime that can last longer than regularly scheduled maintenance.
Many fields use infrared photography and scanning as a diagnostic tool or a means of quality control and inspection. It’s even a necessity in a number of inspections and depending on the machinery and fields involved, regular scanning is required to maintain your safety record and certifications.
Let’s break it down to better understand the intricacies and workings of the infrared thermography process.
What is Infrared Thermography
Infrared thermography is the use of equipment to detect heat signatures through scanning and specialised imagery. When problems or potential failures in a system only present themselves in systems, infrared scanning and photography are used to find the root cause of the problem. In both living creatures and machinery a high or low heat signature can indicate a problem. High heat can indicate insulating materials are failing, and the same can be said for electrical circuits and heat signatures in buildings.
High temperatures are indicated in red, orange and white, while cold shows up in shades of blue and purple when using infrared inspection equipment. These heat readings need to be read and deciphered by trained inspection teams and technicians, who can be hired to assist you, or you can have your own team trained to use thermal imaging equipment and read the scans.
Types of Thermal Imaging Services
Electrical fires and electrical short circuits aren’t only dangerous, they’re costly for your operations. Regular electrical infrared inspections of your electrical systems is a necessity not only for your peace of mind and to keep up a maintenance routine but to renew your fire insurance policies with insurance companies. Electrical inspections can be performed on machinery with electrical components, on switchboards, control panels, electrical boxes, and high-voltage distribution equipment.
Electrical infrared is used to discover what we call “hot connections”, where the electrical connections in your grid oxidize, which makes it harder for an electrical current to pass through them. This makes the connection grow hot, which is where the risk of fire and electrical damage comes in.
There are many parts that make up an engine, and any one of those components deteriorating can result in the failure of your equipment. These parts give off a heat signature as they start to fail, caused by excessive friction, a reduction or loss of air/fluid cooling, high electrical resistance, and poor flow of current through your engine. All of this can result in unexpected engine failure, or pose hazards for your staff as they operate your machinery.
The deterioration in your refractory lining for your equipment is no small fix, and it’s even more troublesome should it be a failure altogether. A failure in the refractory lining is so detrimental that your operations will have to shut down as the lining is replaced, and even then that’s not easy to find. This leads to substantial losses and downtime, and the refractory lining is ultimately more expensive to replace than other parts.
You may wonder why that is. To understand, we should look at where you’ll find refractory parts in your system. It’s used to line kilns, tanks, pipes, and furnaces, where the contents inside are hot enough to melt the external surfaces and parts of your machinery. The refractory lining is made to trap the heat inside as a protective shell, but once that fails, you’re going to need to shut down your operations to fix it. By spotting these problems early on through thermal imaging maps, you can source the replacements ahead of the time and schedule your downtime effectively for maintenance.
One might think the purpose of solar panels is to heat up, but the purpose of solar panels is to convert sunlight into energy. Hot spots in your solar panels are indicative of a fault in your systems, such as damaged cells and connections.
One of the best parts about thermal images is they allow you to capture information while your solar panels are still running. That way your solar panels don’t have to be taken away to be tested, and solar panels in production can easily be tested before they’re shipped out.
Like machinery, heat can be indicative of a problem in animals. Thermal imaging allows you to find the hot spots in an animal that can indicate fever, infection, and inflammation. While infrared thermography isn’t able to tell you what the cause of these conditions is, they can be used in conjunction with other diagnostic tests to aid a veterinarian in diagnosing a sick or injured animal.
Infrared imagery can also be used for many other tests, such as determining if an animal is pregnant, test the effect feed has on them, and find sore spots, especially in horses. Thermal imaging is often used to monitor the animal’s progress after surgery, monitoring for complications that would need to be addressed.
A thermal imaging technician isn’t capable of diagnosing an animal on their own and should work in partnership with a veterinarian.
Thermal imaging is a powerful tool during the construction process, as well for discovering abnormalities in a building or pipe structure. Hot and cold spots can be indicative of a leak of air or water, and inspectors or technicians can monitor the installation of in-floor heating and insulation to ensure it’s evenly distributed and operating as it should. Plumbers can find blockages and burst pipes with the aid of thermal imaging, detecting cold spots and how far they spread, or shapes in the pipes when it’s too dark to see.
The value of thorough and regular inspections and maintenance will far outweigh the costs, especially if it helps you avoid unscheduled and costly downtime. There are many areas that infrared technology can be applied and with the help of our trained infrared thermography specialists, we can assist you in capturing thermal maps and detecting problems with your structures and equipment. If you want to keep your inspections in house, we also offer thermal imaging training, certification, and top of the range thermology equipment and infrared cameras. If you have any questions about our services and equipment, feel free to contact us.