The value of infrared inspections

As commercially available infrared cameras (thermal imagers) approach their 50th Anniversary, the technology continues to be under-utilized. The most popular inspection in buildings and plants is the Electrical System Infrared Inspection. While many facility managers contract Electrical Infrared Inspection services, they do not utilize infrared for other applications which could save companies thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Here is a sampling of them:


Electrical Inspections – The risk of electrical failures and, more importantly, reducing the risk of electrical fires are the main reasons to have an Electrical System Infrared Inspection performed. 
Building Inspections - Infrared cameras play a vital role in making any building more energy efficient. Using the proper infrared camera, the entire building envelope can be inspected to identify areas of heat loss in Northern locations or heat gain in Southern locations. Infrared inspections can maximize the performance of insulation products and the effectiveness of air sealing measures. 


HVAC Inspections - Boilers are often used with hot water and steam sent throughout the building. Improperly insulated piping can literally cost tens of thousands of dollars a year in increased energy costs. Mechanical issues with air handlers can be identified and corrected. Non-visible leaks can be detected leading to increased efficiency and lower energy costs. 


Mechanical Inspections – Infrared easily determines when motors and bearings are abnormally hot due to deficiencies. This early identification allows for targeted maintenance which is far less expensive than mechanical failures and unscheduled downtime. 


Moisture Inspections - Infrared cameras can identify moisture in roofing systems before the leaks are visible to the eye. This water not only leaks into the building, ultimately causing costly repairs later on, but these unknown leaks add significantly to heating and cooling costs. The earlier a leak is detected the less costly the repair.


Should you buy a camera?
Infrared Technology is a powerful and useful science. If you’re going to buy a camera, you will need appropriate thermography training, such as learning when outside factors impact infrared scans, and if you will be using the infrared camera regularly, purchasing an infrared camera may be the way to go. Prices have come down over the past several years. A mid-price range infrared camera with good resolution for commercial/industrial applications now costs from $7,000 to $10,000, down from twice that just 10 years ago. Higher-end infrared cameras range from $11,000 to $20,000 or more. Training can add another $2,000 or more per person for offsite class. If you are going to use the camera just a few days month, an Infrared Inspection Service may be more cost-effective.


Should you contract the services?
The Thermographer performing the inspection should have achieved at least a Level 1 Thermography Certification for Electrical Inspections and a Level 2 Certification for more complex inspections. Ask about the experience level of the person performing the inspection and the history of the company doing infrared inspections. Ask what infrared camera they are going to use and why. Less expensive entry-level infrared cameras have low resolution and will not evaluate commercial/industrial systems effectively. Once you have found a good, reputable inspection company with properly trained personnel using appropriate equipment, you will begin to enjoy the tremendous cost savings Infrared affords.
Monroe Infrared is headquartered in Brunswick, Maine with locations in Florida, Michigan, and Texas.

 

 

Bill Fabian is vice president of Monroe Infrared Technology and can be reached at: billf@monroeinfrared.com. 

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