As a building maintenance professional, energy manager, engineer, or diligent homeowner, it may have occurred to you that your role would be much easier if you could physically see energy. Your facility’s envelope might look like Swiss cheese with heat passing through during the winter or summer. Most people would never recognize this energy loss unless they carefully logged utility bills, or sat near heating equipment listening for patterns.
Thermometers or energy meters can help you fine-tune your understanding of where you’re losing energy in a facility, but they can be time and labor intensive to use correctly. An alternative to these methods exists in the form of infrared thermography, a technique performed using a thermographic camera, otherwise known as an infrared (IR) camera, or thermal imaging camera.
An IR camera won’t let you “see” energy, but the tool will display an image based on energy in the form of electromagnetic waves emitted by objects. This smattering of colorful hues on the tool’s screen can inform the user of a hot surface or cold surface in relation to the surrounding surfaces.
Specific applications of IR cameras include identifying:
· Unwanted heat transfer through a building envelope due to damaged or missing insulation, or air leakage;
· Loose or corroded connections in electrical installations;
· Missing or damaged insulation on boiler installations;
· Overheating motors;
· Damaged or leaking water lines behind walls or under floors.
These are all issues in a facility that are either experienced by occupants directly or discerned by facility management based on maintenance requests from occupants. In either case, proper preventive maintenance may alleviate these concerns and, if addressed, may reduce overall costs.
The South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff – Energy Office, the Sustainability Institute in Charleston, SC, and most county code offices have IR cameras available for organizations to borrow. Contact Conn Fraser for more information about borrowing the cameras and instructions for their use.