When most people picture thermal cameras, they imagine them being used by police or by military special forces. You may even be picturing FLIR (forward-looking infrared) cameras used aboard aircraft for detecting sources of heat on the ground. Whatever your preconceptions, thermal imaging actually has a huge range of uses in private industry. Contractors in particular can benefit greatly from this technology, and this is even more true now that thermal camera imaging systems are affordable for just about any budget.
How Do They Work?
Normal digital cameras generally work by using a charge-coupled device (CCD) to record visible light that is captured by a lens. Since these cameras operate in the visible spectrum, they are recording the same light that we see with our eyes. By contrast, thermal cameras use special lenses to focus infrared (IR) radiation onto an array of detectors and ultimately process that information into a usable image. Since most objects will radiate the majority of their heat as infrared radiation, this allows IR cameras to act as a kind of heat detector.
Why is Thermal Imaging Useful for Contractors?
You may be wondering how detecting heat will help your contracting business. The primary advantage to building contractors comes from the ability to use these tools to conduct minimally invasive inspections. There is a huge array of applications across a wide range of fields, and these are just a few of the possibilities:
Plumbing Blockages: Thermal imaging and some hot water can help to very quickly locate pipe blockages. Since the water will heat the pipes and ultimately cause them to emit IR radiation detectable by a thermal camera, blockages can be detected simply by finding the farthest extent of a pipe that is still heated. This can be especially useful for pipes that are behind walls and not easily accessible, so that demolition is not required simply to locate the problem.
Water Damage and Leak Detection: Since moisture behind walls or under floors will create a temperature differential, thermal tools can be used to detect both the source of a leak and the extent of any water damage. Specialized moisture and thermal imaging tools are available as well, and these are invaluable for projects involving flood damage or major leaks.
Energy Efficiency Inspections: Recent trends have favored drastically more energy-efficient homes, and infrared imaging is a must-have tool for this service. Doors, windows, and any other openings can be quickly evaluated for insulation problems and heat leakage. Being able to rapidly identify problem areas will save you time and save your clients money, allowing you to focus your efforts exactly where they are needed.
Pest Control: Thermal imaging can even be used for pest detection and control. Since not all pests are kind enough to build nests in the open, thermal cameras can be used to locate infestations behind walls, inside insulation, or in difficult to access crawlspaces. As with other forms of thermal inspection, this is a great way to hone in on the problem areas and avoid costly exploratory demolition work.