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Bright Spark – Electrical Thermal Imaging

So what is Electrical Thermal Imaging?

Having superhero powers would be very useful in life. But while we can’t see through solid walls or metal casings with the naked eye, Electrical Thermal Imaging – or Thermography – is the next best thing. Essentially, it involves using a thermal imaging camera to check the condition of electrical connections and equipment.

When is Electrical Thermal Imaging used?

It’s particularly useful for checking hidden wiring, otherwise inaccessible systems and machinery that is permanently in use and would be inconvenient to turn off. While all systems can be checked, the focus is usually on key electrical panels and any connections that carry a high load.

How does it work?

Infrared radiation emitted by wiring or machinery is detected by a thermal imaging camera. If wiring is damaged or has come loose, there will be a resistance to current that causes the temperature to rise. The ‘hot spots’ created will be detected by the thermal imaging camera, showing up as red.

Why is it used?

Because it can expose potential problems before they develop into something more serious, Electrical Thermal Imaging has become an important diagnostic tool.

What are the benefits of Electrical Thermal Imaging?

Every company would be well advised to keep systems maintained and have them routinely tested as it invariably saves time and money in the long run.

First of all, if heat is escaping it means a system is not working at its most efficient. With energy prices continually on the rise, this is an unnecessary waste of resources – and bad for the environment too.

If a fault is left to develop unnoticed and unchecked, the increase in temperature can cause electrical system failures, forcing a shut down of machinery and downtime in production. It can even prove dangerous to staff operating the machinery or cause a fire to break out.

What’s better, waiting for disaster to strike or a regular, managed schedule of preventative maintenance that heads trouble off at the pass?

Who should carry out the testing?

A qualified electrical engineer is the best person to test your electrical systems and machinery. They will be able to operate the camera correctly, they will know what they are looking for and they will be best placed to work out what maintenance is required if any potential problem areas are spotted.

After testing a system or machinery, the engineer will prepare a report with images, detailing where any elevated temperature has been spotted and, if so, whether it’s within acceptable parameters. It will also provide recommendations in case of potential problems, for example to load test the circuit breaker and inspect cable connections. The recommendations can range from plans for repair at the next scheduled outage to urgent investigative and corrective action.

Your best bet is to find a good, reliable company to carry out the testing and book them to make regular visits, so that they can compare the read-outs each time with previous results.

Other points to consider

  • Thermal imaging can recognise a wide range of temperatures, from around -50°C to more than 2,000°C.
  • Testing can be used in most environments, from office spaces to heavy industry and everything in between.
  • Thermal imaging involves non-intrusive ‘point-and-shoot’ equipment – no need to turn off machinery or damage building structure to carry out the assessment, or for the testing to take place outside normal working hours.
  • A qualified electrical engineer will know what the correct temperature of an electrical system should be, including surface temperatures of equipment and machinery.


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