A Deeper Look at Thermal Cameras

Thermal cameras are incredibly powerful tools that boast a multitude of applications across several industries. In this piece, we’re going to explore some of their main uses and which cameras will best fit your needs. But first, let’s start with the basics…


How do thermal cameras work?

Thermal cameras allow you to see any heat signatures above absolute zero that are radiating off people and objects. The higher the temperature of an object, the more infrared radiation it produces. They detect various temperature ranges via infrared light that is then converted into visible light so we are able to visibly “see” the temperatures on-screen. 

They feature a group of small detectors, called microbolometers, that capture infrared radiation. Each pixel in the camera sensor has one of these detectors and, after recording the temperature of an object, assigns a colour value to the pixel, eventually producing the thermal image we see on the imaging screen. 

Thermal Camera Applications

Electrical Here they play a big role in identifying issues with your electrical systems such as detecting overheating circuit boxes, finding hot or loose connections and detecting multiphase imbalances.

Plumbing Thermal cameras can help you identify hot and cold water pipes, find leaks and can help detect hard-to-find clogs in pipes by running hot water through the system and seeing where the flow is obstructed.

Roofing Roofs are usually one of the biggest expenses in both construction and maintenance, making it essential to identify problems before they become bigger issues. With thermal cameras, you can locate holes in the roof by seeing where the air is escaping and creating cool spots, and locate damaged roof shingles by seeing where water is accumulating. 

Health Risks They are great at identifying certain health risks such as fevers, inflammation and infections. For instance, excessive heat spots on humans or animals are usually an indication of health problems and, in many cases, a thermal camera can pick up an oncoming fever before the individual even starts showing any symptoms.

Security Thermal cameras, for the most part, were originally developed by the military, which is why they see such widespread use in the military and law enforcement. Here, they are largely used to spot intruders in the dark by identifying the perpetrator’s body heat. Additionally, they are also effective in outdoor camping situations to spot dangerous animals lurking nearby. 

First Responders They can play a pivotal role in emergency situations. Rescue crews can use them to find people trapped in collapsed buildings or under debris. Firefighters use them for similar reasons, but they are also extremely helpful for seeing when your vision is blocked by dense smoke.

Auto Repairs Much like electricians, thermal cameras can be used to detect overheating in cars, which is usually an indication of an automotive issue. 

Various Thermal Camera Options

Handheld  Handheld thermal cameras are usually the cheapest of the bunch and are great for everyday use. They are ideal for preventive maintenance, electrical inspections and frontline troubleshooting.

Mounted These are perfect for when you need to monitor heat signatures and collect infrared data over a long period of time. They are often used in research, science and engineering.

Articulating They are usually more expensive as they provide you with pinpoint accuracy at both short and long distances. They are often used for research and development purposes but are also used in the electrical utility industry.

Gas detection  These unique thermal cameras are specifically designed to detect Sulfur Hexafluoride (SF6) leaks in electrical substations. For this reason, they are also fairly expensive. 

Get in Touch

For more details on thermal cameras, their range of applications and how it can significantly improve the execution of your work, please contact us at smarttech@firsttechnology.co.za

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