Thermal cameras aren’t new: initially developed for military defense purposes around the middle of last century, they became over time better, faster, smaller and recently, affordable. Every year the modern thermographic camera finds new applications for itself, now being widely used everywhere from science, medicine or industrial applications to fire protection, archaeology or even … paranormal investigation.
At the moment you are reading this article, a high-performance thermal camera orbiting in space is looking for new planets, while somewhere down below a mother is using a small handheld thermal camera for checking if her baby’s milk is warm enough. Literally, they are everywhere.
The success of thermal cameras in so many applications is due to the advantages they bring and if you are a contractor doing building, electrical, HVAC or mechanical work, here are a few reasons you should start using one right away.
1. Saves time
The saying “”A picture is worth 1000 words”” was invented before thermal cameras were around. Now, a picture that carries thermal information might be worth much more than that, since you can see at one glance what is going on in the unseen world of infrared. For example, if a terminal gets abnormally warm due to a poor contact, the heat radiating from it will be obvious on the screen of a thermal camera – no need to turn the power off and check every wire and contact.
Walls, doors or windows losing heat in a building ? Spot it in seconds. HVAC installation malfunctioning ? See on the camera’s screen exactly what’s wrong. Maintenance work on mechanical equipment ? Identify excessive friction, reduced airflow or components that are close to the end of their life in a much safer manner.
Some jobs can be done up to 55% faster if a thermal camera is used – for some, a workday can be finished at lunchtime.
2. Easy way to check that everything works properly
Thermal cameras are not just for finding faults, they also prove invaluable for periodic inspections and maintenance. A lot of items change their thermal signature long before a failure takes place and if their condition is periodically monitored with the help of a thermal imaging camera, catastrophic failure can be prevented saving alot of downtime, expense and resources. Even when you are evaluating equipment or an installation for the first time, a thermal image will offer you information that can’t otherwise be observed.
3. Gain an advantage over competitors
Thermal imaging will make your work easier, faster and of a higher standard. As we all know, the market is always competitive and somebody is always trying to offer a better price or a better service. Using the advantages of technology will ensure you offer the most professional and competitive service.
4. Rich selection available
Manufacturers are offering a thermal camera for almost every scenario. Some are more rugged, some are meant to be used in precision laboratory conditions, some have batteries that last a long time and some can wirelessly send captured images directly to a computer.
There is even a small ONE you can attach to your mobile phone. The full featured models are generally suited for most jobs, but there are also compact ones that make a great addition to the toolbox or can even be carried in your pocket, affordable ones that can be used for basic troubleshooting or high performance ones that are suited for in-depth thermography surveys.
You don’t have to carry around a huge camera if you don’t really need it or invest too much in an equipment that doesn’t get enough use.
5. Now is the best time to buy
Thermal cameras are more affordable now than ever before. Since developments in uncooled sensors allowed thermal cameras to penetrate the civilian market about 15 years ago, prices have been constantly declining while the performance has been steadily increasing.
An important recent step in the direction of price reduction was marked by the launch of the FLIR C2 in March 2015, which introduced an unseen before mix of compact size and affordable pricing level.
This year FLIR took it even further with the TG130, being stripped of some features but offering similar performance at 1/3 of the price.
In the full featured thermal camera category, both FLIR and rival Fluke are running time limited promotions right now, with 160×120 cameras like the FLIR E6 or the Fluke TiS40 being very agressively priced.
6. 1-day introductory courses
Yes, thermography is not something you can master overnight. However, there are good 1-day courses out there, designed by experts in the field, that will provide you with the basics required to operate a thermal camera and understand your results. For example, our 1-day ITC-approved thermography training courses will not only guide you through the basics of thermography, heat transfer and material properties, but they will also show you the most common problems and common mistakes.