Puget Sound Thermal Imaging Services

An Infrared Scan of Your Electrical Panel Is a Smart Idea

Thermal gradient at 110-volt breaker connection

Do you live in an older home with an older electrical panel? Has your dated electrical system had several add-ons and fixes over the years leaving you concerned about reliability? Here’s the dilemma – electrical connections and components do not get better with age! Therefore, it is a smart idea to have the electrical panel within your home evaluated for safety. An infrared scan by a qualified thermographer is simple, doesn’t take much time, and won’t break your wallet.

Defective main feed for 200 amp breaker with extreme temperature rise

Defective main feed for 200 amp breaker with extreme temperature rise

Resistance is the key . . .

Increased resistance and heat are the primary reasons most electrical components fail. In electrical systems increased resistance can be caused by component age, fatigue, oxidation, wear, loose connections, or poor installation. Infrared cameras detect this heat. Because most things electrical tend to get hot before they fail, an infrared inspection is an important diagnostic technology that can detect early failures in electrical systems. This is especially vital when visual clues may not be apparent.

The procedure . . .

Loose breaker clip - gray scale

Loose breaker clip – gray scale

In order for infrared to be of value, the house electrical system must be energized or put under a load; ideally this is normal operating load. And when a load is put on an electrical circuit, heat occurs. Simply said, the thermographer will need to turn on ALL 110-volt circuits (lights, exhaust fans, small appliances, etc.) and ALL 220-volt circuits (electric oven/range, electric dryer, electric furnace/heat pump, etc.) in the house – ideally putting a minimum 40% load on whole electrical system. With the panel cover removed, the thermographer will then use the IR camera to scan the components and connections within the panel. A loaded circuit that is properly behaving will not have a heat signature OR have even heat distribution. A problem area, however, shows up as a “hot spot” with a predictable thermal pattern that a trained IR thermographer can interpret and rate. For example, a loose breaker connection in infrared produces a signature thermal gradient traveling from the “hot” breaker connection along a “cooler” electrical cable.

Who is qualified for the job?

Thermal gradient at 110-volt breaker connection

Thermal gradient at 110-volt breaker connection

An electrical IR thermographer should be well established, fully insured, have a minimum of Level 2 infrared certification. The infrared camera used should have sufficient resolution to provide clear imagery of inspected components. The thermographer should be experienced with quantitative thermography and thus be able to accurately pinpoint problem electrical anomalies with measurable temperatures. The infrared company should produce a quality report that references an accepted industry-standard criteria that can be easily interpreted by a licensed electrician.

The cost of an IR scan is small in comparison to its benefits. Return on investment is very easy to justify! Contact Puget Sound Infrared to set up an ElectricIR scan appointment at your home today.

Pete Sutch – Level 3 Certified Infrared Thermographer #66019ELECTRICIR_LOGO_Color

Authorized “ElectricIR” Contractor with United Infrared, Inc.

Common Sense Infrared Camera Calibration

Infrared cameras are precision measurement tools that are factory calibrated for accuracy. Like any other high quality measurement instrument, best practice dictates that each IR camera undergo a regular calibration “check” to maintain reliability. How often and how comprehensive a test, though, will largely depend on who you ask.

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A Successful Infrared Roof Scan Takes Planning

checklistWhether you are a beginning or seasoned infrared thermographer, it is important to go out on a Roof Scan Survey fully prepared and fully equipped. The last thing you need is to travel to site and transport all your gear to the top of some apartment building or high rise only then to discover that you are missing a key component to completing a quality roof scan. The following is a list of items that I have compiled to help the job go without a hitch. At first glance, you may see this checklist (and explanations) as totally overboard. Sometimes, however, it’s the simple things that are forgotten that can embarrass you in front of a new client and potentially turn a simple 3-hour roof scan into a multi-day nightmare. 🙁  Before you head out to job:

  1. Grab your handy checklist and start loading up vehicle!!!
  2. Record weather conditions and time of sunset for day of inspection –
    • The weather should be dry with wind speed less than 6 mph. There should be adequate solar gain during the day to allow for an optimal ΔT at the time of the roof scan in the evening.
  3. Print outline of inspected roof with north indicated –
    • Obtain an aerial view of inspected building(s) from the Web and print out. This print out can be a great resource for marking on and labeling during the roof scan.
  4. Locate any neighboring vantage points – buildings
    • It is very advantageous to locate any taller buildings next door that may permit an elevated vantage point for greater IR image accuracy of inspected roof. Taller structures may also block solar gain on the roof surface that you are inspecting which may force you to adjust your roof scan window schedule.
  5. Find out age of roof, surface and decking material, and history of repairs –
    • Unfortunately, most of the time, the owner/buyer does not know the make-up of roofing system that you are to be inspecting. To solve that issue, search out the professional roofing company that has been doing maintenance – they should be able to answer any roof system questions.
  6. Have the roof cleaned/swept off prior to scan OR make sure the client understands the limits of having debris sitting on the roof surface –
    • broomBecause infrared technology only detects surface temperatures, any debris on top of roof to be inspected (plant debris, ice, dew, standing water, gravel, condensate discharge, etc.) will skew IR scan interpretations and thus reflect invalid results. It is therefore imperative for the thermographer to pinpoint all debris-covered areas of inspected roof in final report as inaccessible.
  7. Roof scan inspection agreement/terms –
    • It is important to have your client read and sign an inspection agreement prior to the roof scan job. I make a habit of sending agreement days in advance in order to allow the client adequate opportunity for review. The inspection agreement should spell out what you are inspecting as well as what you aren’t. I use the agreement as a tool to educate my client emphasizing the IR roof scan doesn’t detect concealed moisture; the IR camera detects thermal patterns indicative of probable and possible suspected concealed moisture. I also explain that I am not offering a guarantee or warranty and that the thermographic report is strictly a good faith – best effort attempt to discover concealed conditions.
  8. If possible, travel to site beforehand –
    • By going to job site beforehand, you have the opportunity to walk the roof to be inspected and check for safety hazards and IR scan impediments. It is also best to attempt to complete an interior ceiling inspection to look for visual clues of moisture (stained ceiling tiles), especially underneath roof-top equipment and near internal drains.

Roof Scan Equipment:

  1. Infrared camera in carry case, 3 lenses (15, 25, and 45 degrees), camera strap, and miscellaneous cords
  2. 3 fully-charged IR camera batteries with charger
  3. Tramex RWS moisture meter (or equivalent) in carry case with extension handle and extra battery
    • The Tramex RWS meter is a dielectric capacitance scanner and is primarily used to provide a second verification of hidden moisture.
  4. Thermometer/anemometer (for temperature, wind speed, and humidity readings)
  5. Ladder(s):ladder
    • Ask building owner beforehand if ladders are required for accessing roof. If needed, can they provide them? If not, what is approximate height of roof from ground?
  6. Rechargeable flashlights (fully charged)
  7. Head lamp with extra batteries
  8. Orange spray-can marking paint (4 cans minimum) with holder/dispenser
  9. 100-foot tape measure
  10. Digital camera (fully charged)
    • cameraI have found that the digital image function for most IR cameras does not work for night scans as the flash system is not powerful enough. Therefore a good quality digital camera is important for taking nighttime photos to include within your final report.
  11. Daypack for getting equipment onto the roof
  12. Tripod
  13. Binoculars
  14. Clip board, graph paper/note pad, and pencils/pens/highlighters
  15. Generous length of rope for safely hoisting equipment to roof

Clothing/food/miscellaneous:

  1. Extra warm clothing1302375751
  2. Comfortable work shoes
  3. Thermos of coffee
  4. Energy bars
  5. Wallet
  6. Cell phone (fully charged) with compass application

IMPORTANT: Whenever possible, enjoy an assistant and employ a “buddy” system for increased safety and efficiency when scanning large roof areas – AND price the job accordingly. BE SAFE out there and remember…to never walk in reverse at any time during an IR roof survey as falling from a roof is not an option.

Contact Us

P.O.Box 4283
Tumwater, WA 98501
Call: 360 480-8083
Email: pugetsoundinfrared@gmail.com

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