Thermal Imaging for preventative electrical maintenance
Thermal imaging identifies possible electrical problems before they fully form and wreak havoc. This technology is a realistic solution for everyday electrical maintenance.
How does Thermal Imaging work?
A qualified electrician points the thermal imager at the equipment in question and scans the immediate area, looking for unexpected hot spots. The imager produces a live image of the heat emitted from the equipment, and with a quick squeeze of the trigger, captures a thermal image. When the inspection is complete, the technician can upload the images to a computer, smartphone, or tablet computer for closer analysis, reporting, and future trending.
Most thermal imaging is a comparative process. You do not need a specific temperature measurement. Instead, look for a spot that is hotter than similar equipment under the same load conditions that you do not expect.
Basics: Electrical load, safety, and emissivity
Although the imagers are easy to use, you require a qualified technician who understands electrical measurement and the equipment being inspected. The following three points are especially important.
The electrical equipment being inspected must be at or above 40 percent of nominal load to detect problems with a thermal imager. Maximum load conditions are ideal, if possible.
Electrical measurement safety standards still apply. Standing in front of an open, live electrical panel requires personal protective equipment (PPE). Depending on the situation and the incident energy level of the equipment being scanned, this may include:
- flame-resistant clothing
- leather-over-rubber gloves
- leather work boots
- arc-flash-rated face shield, hard hat, and hearing protection or a full flash suit
Emissivity describes how well an object emits infrared energy, or heat. This affects how well a thermal imager can accurately measure the object’s surface temperature. Different materials emit infrared energy in different ways. Every object and material has a specific emissivity that is rated on a scale of 0–1.0. For thermal imagers to report accurate temperatures, the higher the emissivity, the better.
Troubleshooting electrical systems
If you are chasing breaker problems or load performance issues, check for hot spots. Once you have completed your repairs, take another thermal scan. If the repair was successful, the hot spot you first detected should have gone away. It is important to note that not all electrical hot spots are loose connections. For a correct diagnosis, it is smart to have a qualified electrician either perform the thermal scan or be present while it is finished.
Extra Mile Electrical have extensive experience in using this technology for effective, preventative maintenance. Contact us today for more information on how this can fit into your preventative maintenance plan.
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