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A Thermal Imaging (TI) device is a really useful addition to any toolbox. Here, we look at one of the most common areas we get asked about – pipe and leak detection, with underfloor heating being one of the primary applications.

It is important to note that Thermal Imaging isn’t some magical technology that can see through walls !  A TI device detects temperature radiated from the surface. For example, a hot water pipe buried in plaster will transfer heat through the plaster onto the wall surface and this pattern is what a TI device picks up. If the pipe is sat at room temperature then no heat is being conducted so the presence of the pipe is unlikely to be detected.

We recommend you run the underfloor heating on maximum for at least an hour before using a thermal device to ensure you get the best possible heat transfer (ideally at least a 10° C difference of temperature).

Thermal image of underfloor heating

 

Thermal Imaging devices come in many shapes and sizes, but there are two main categories:

1. Thermal Imagers – give a basic heat map and single temperature measurement point, are suitable for simple fault diagnosis.
2. Thermal Cameras – capture high quality thermal images and record temperature measurements for each sensor pixel (e.g. 80 x 60 = 4,800 data points).

The latter has far more powerful imaging capabilities with greater functionality and built-in features (e.g. multiple colour palettes) that can be useful for properly analysing a situation and producing a report.

As a rule of thumb, the more pixels (resolution) and the better the sensitivity (the ability of the device to distinguish between different temperatures giving crisper images. For example, TI cameras with 0.05°C / 50mK are about 4 times as sensitive as cameras with 0.2°C / 200mK) then the better the thermal imaging device. However, some manufacturers offer technology that can super enhance images giving a much better picture quality than the detector resolution suggests, or by overlaying digital and thermal images to give greater clarity (often referred to as “picture in picture” or “blended image”).

Here’s our pick of thermal imaging devices suitable for basic pipe or leak detection:

Thermal Imager:

  • Martindale IRC325 – image capture, blended image, spot temperature measurement
  • Martindale IRC327 – adds SD card image storage, adjustable emissivity, LED Torch & UV light

 

Compact TI Camera:

  • Flir C2 – pocket sized, 4800 measure points, 100mK sensitivity, blended image (MSX)
  • Flir C3 – adds WiFi and on-screen min/max temperature

 

Pistol Grip TI Camera:

  • Fluke TiS20 – 10800 measure points, 100mK sensitivity, WiFi (Fluke Connect)
  • Flir E6-WIFI – 19200 measure points, 60mK sensitivity, WiFi, blended image (MSX)

While this selection ranges from as low as £179 up to about £1600, prices can go much higher for high-performance cameras.

Instrotech hold a good range of thermal imaging cameras within our Hire Fleet that are available to hire on a weekly basis (some with 3-day options available).

We also offer very competitive rates on thermal imaging camera calibration within our dedicated UKAS traceable Calibration Laboratory.

Should you wish to add Thermal Imaging to your skills portfolio then, as a Regional Training Provider for the ITC (Infrared Training Centre), you can qualify via Instrotech to become an ITC CAT1 (Level 1) or ITC CAT2 (Level 2) certified Thermographer. We also have introductory courses available. The ITC are the world-leading provider of infrared training and Thermographer certification programs.

If you are unsure of what will work best for you then give one of our Thermal Imaging Specialists a call on 01923 442244 and they will help guide you.