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What is a Thermal Scan?

A thermal scan is not actually a photograph, rather a display of approximately 307,200 individual temperature readings (in some cameras).

Infrared inspection technology has recently become more popular as advanced electronic technology has made the thermal imaging equipment more affordable whereby it can be utilized as a cost effective means of identifying adverse conditions all around us.

Everything around us has a specific heat signature and emits infrared light in different proportions, referred to as emissivity. This emitted heat is absorbed from other heat sources around it and is re-emitted, or is the source of the generated heat.

Unlike the reflected light our eyes see, the infrared camera sees heat energy which is radiated from objects as well as reflected from other heat sources. The thermal imaging equipment can virtually "see in the dark".

When conditions change in a viewed object, a temperature differential or anomaly becomes apparent. Identification of exactly what the anomaly is must be further investigated with other testing equipment to verify the source.

Things that cause an anomaly are numerous.

  • Air infiltration: due to inadequate building envelopes or air leakage from mechanical equipment.
  • Moisture intrusion: water retains its heat longer and appears warm.
  • Evaporative cooling: liquids cool below the ambient air temperature as they evaporate and appear cool.
  • Condensation: water vapor warms the cool object that condenses water vapor to a liquid.
  • Specific density changes: the ability of a substance to retain its heat will change when deterioration from rot or insect infestation occurs.
  • Changes in fluid flow: increased or decreased fluid flow is apparent during the heat exchange in hydronic heating equipment and even blood flow.


What Thermal Imaging Is Not

Thermal Imagine is not:

Night vision: night vision equipment amplifies visual light.

X-ray vision-thermal imaging cannot "see-through" opaque objects.

A mold detector: thermal imaging detects the effects of moisture which is always related to the growth of mold spores.

More sensitive than human touch: thermal sensors of the skin are more sensitive to temperature change than most electronic equipment.

Advantages of Thermal Imaging

Advantages of infrared thermal imaging are that non-contact temperature acquisition can be obtained without touching the object. This is particularly advantageous when we are not able to access the object (for safety reasons) or that a system must otherwise be shut down for evaluation.

Two-dimensional evaluations can be made by comparing the temperature of multiple targets within the same scan. This temperature differential between like objects produces the anomalies which we seek.

Thermal imaging is real-time. It is not necessary to wait for processing of images and immediate evaluations can be obtained.

Thermal Imaging for Flat Roof Inspection

Infrared technology is an excellent tool to map the distribution of trapped water in insulated flat roof systems. In most cases, it provides 100% inspection coverage of the roof surface and often allows an experienced thermographer the ability to trace roof leaks back to their source. Some provide textbook thermal patterns of wet insulation. Others possess slight variations of these "classic" patterns and still others leave one wondering "what am I looking at?"

This presentation will cover thermal patterns typically encountered on roofs constructed with various board and lightweight concrete insulations and their associated overlaying roof materials. Also presented are patterns associated with sprayed polyurethane roof systems and the challenges reflective roof surfaces present.

To read more on the process of flat-roof inspection using thermal technology click here!

Ready for the next step?

Download the Thermal Inspection Agreement here!