Thermal imaging testing, sometimes referred to as thermal imaging surveys, can play an important role in being able to establish possible defects in a building, often at the very earliest of stages. These tests may be carried out at a similar time to air tightness testing or perhaps other acoustic test procedures being carried out.

Knowing what these tests are, how they work and why they may or may not be necessary is an important part of the process or undertaking or not carrying out these tests.

But how exactly does it work, and what does it entail?

What is Thermal Imaging?

Thermal imaging helps to identify issues that may be prevalent in electrical systems in buildings, therefore helping to prevent electrical and fire hazards and acting in the interests of fire safety procedures. Thermal imaging technology is a widely used test, used in order to determine problems that would not be visible to the naked eye. These tests are not intrusive or invasive in any way.

Furthermore, thermal imaging testing systems do not require the need to isolate circuits in order to detect any problems that may exist within the electrical distribution system. This is a convenient characteristic of thermal testing, as there is no need to shut down electrical outlets and distribution boards at your facility (which can lead to a loss of money and time in the workplace) in order to identify faults.

This makes thermal imaging a very effective way of finding problems, as it is often the case that electrical faults can be difficult, costly and often time consuming when it comes to being able to actually diagnose them via other, more manual means.

Infrared and thermal imaging can tackle electrical problems quickly; diagnosing problems in potentially a matter of seconds. They are also able to detect potential problems sometimes far ahead (potentially months) before they could end up failing and causing difficulties or pose a danger in the workplace.

That means that for those responsible thermal testing can ensure that maintenance is scheduled ahead of time and workflow can continue mostly uninterrupted, making it a cost-efficient way to help identify electrical faults.

How Does Thermal Imaging Testing Work?

Thermal imaging (also known as thermography) is technology that uses a special camera that is specifically designed to identify heat signatures. This is performed by way of infrared waves and this is also how thermal imaging testing is able to detect anomalies that would otherwise be impossible to see with the naked eye.

The reason why a camera designed to looked for heat works is that it is often the case that problems can be found through an excess amount of heat being released by a particular electrical system, as well as those that would produce a certain amount of heat whilst working at their normal level.

Thermal imaging can be an invaluable resource, as it is possible to detect faults in electrical systems and mechanical systems such as:

  • Corrosion
  • Phase imbalances
  • Loose connections
  • High resistance in fuses and switchgear
  • Valves
  • Turbines
  • Hydraulic, steam and hot water systems
  • Insulation breakdown
  • Worn bearings
  • Motor overload
  • Turbines
  • Flat roof leakage
  • Seals
  • Continuity of insulations
  • Ventilation heating and air conditioning


What Is the Electricity at Work Regulations, 1989?

For all landlords and employers in the UK it is a legal obligation for them to comply with the Electricity at Work Regulations of 1989, and thermal imaging testing is a way in which they can keep compliant.

These refer to a set of regulations that are in place to ensure that those who are in control or manage electrical systems and devices have made sure that the systems in question are safe to use for those in the building or workplace, and that those present are not put at risk of death or other personal injury from electricity whilst carrying out work activities.

The regulations require compliance when it comes to electrical systems, conductors as well as other types of electrical equipment. This also extends to work activities taking place near on or on this electrical equipment.

Who Can Carry Out Thermal Imaging Testing?

As with acoustic testing, where having professionals carry out the test is important, it is vital that any thermal imaging testing work carried out in a workplace is done by a qualified test engineer.

You should ensure that any contractors that you intend to hire can provide you with evidence of their qualifications before allowing them to carry out work on your behalf, in order to ensure that the work is carried out correctly, safely and legally.


Why is Thermal Imaging Testing Important?

Thermal imaging testing is important as it can often detect potentially dangerous issues that cannot be seen by the naked eye. It prevents failures which could end up in expensive production loss or downtime in the workplace, or in the worst-case scenario a fire, which could lead to death or personal injury of people in the workplace.

Furthermore, if a workplace has a regular programme of thermal imaging testing implemented as part of their regular routine maintenance, it can also help to indicate potential problems that could arise before they occur, again saving time and money for the employer, with regards to energy and electrical efficiency.

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