Thermal Imaging

Energy efficiency and carbon reduction are becoming increasingly important for all businesses. The increased cost of energy is affecting profitability and customers.

Stakeholders and employees are becoming more concerned about climate change and are beginning to favour opportunities that can demonstrate that they are taking firm measures to reduce their energy usage and carbon emissions.

The amount of CO2 emissions that construction can influence accounts for almost 47% of total CO2 emissions of the UK alone and buildings offer the largest single potential for improving energy efficiency. This was the reason why the EU has formed a directive for Energy Performance of Buildings (European Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, EPBD), mandatory within the EU for all new buildings and large constructions since 2008. This has manifested itself in the form of Part L of our building regulations.

Energy efficiency is key to ensuring a building’s environmental impact is reduced, along with keeping energy costs at a minimum. If the building fabric is flawed then this will hinder the success of implementing energy efficiency projects identified through building surveys.

There are many reasons why building surveys are conducted. Building surveys are a routine part of buying and selling properties, helping prospective sellers identify problems they are legally responsible for and helping buyers know what they are getting into.

Property managers also use surveys for preventative maintenance. Building inspectors are called upon in the process of construction itself, to help the builders with structural design issues, storm water handling issues, and electrical concerns. As buildings age and settle, or weather storms, or undergo renovation or construction of additions, fabric of the building degrades over time.

New technologies come to the market place to increase air tightness and insulation in order to find ways of mitigating heat loss from buildings, hence reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions.

Fortunately, we can assess the levels of energy loss through the building by utilising thermal imaging technologies which accurately assess the energy reduction opportunities from facades.

Thermal imaging
Thermal imaging is an extremely effective technique for immediately detecting, visualising and recording temperature differences, heat loss and anomalies. The applications are numerous and varied and heat loss from buildings caused by missing cavity wall insulation, defects and moisture ingress or damp and be identified by using this technique.

Moisture is an efficient conductor of heat energy and wet insulation is in fact worse than no insulation. Heat loss from buildings can be caused by a combination of drafts from poorly fitting windows and doors and or insulation integrity. Thermography can display surface temperature variations that provide information in the underlying structure.

The thermal image below is of a new building to the left and a Victorian building to the right. External ambient temperature was 2.5 Deg C when filmed at night. Left side had double glazed windows and a wall cavity with insulation. Right side has single glazed windows and a solid wall. Both buildings were occupied and heated. Cars are parked in the foreground

What is thermal imaging?
Thermal images, or thermograms, are actually visual displays of the amount of infrared energy emitted, transmitted, and reflected by an object. Because there are multiple sources of the infrared energy, it is difficult to get an accurate temperature of an object using this method.

A thermal imaging camera is capable of performing algorithms to interpret that data and build an image.

Although the image shows the viewer an approximation of the temperature at which the object is operating, the camera is actually using multiple sources of data based on the areas surrounding the object to determine that value rather than detecting the actual temperature.

What are the benefits?
Thermal imaging surveys are non-invasive and non-destructive allowing the thermal imaging survey to be completed whilst plant and equipment is running.

The main benefit of infrared (thermal) imaging is that it’s a fast way to see potential areas of leaks and heat loss from the building envelope that may not be captured during a nonintrusive energy survey.

Locating air leaks and inadequate or damaged insulation within a commercial building can be difficult; it’s also very time consuming. It takes energy to generate heat for boiler plant and also for chiller during the summer months. With the use of specialist equipment such as a thermal imaging camera, these areas can easily be identified in a short space of time.

The use of the thermal imager is a lot more beneficial during the winter period when heat demand is a lot higher and heat loss and air leakage is a major factor in terms of wasted energy.

Other benefits of our thermal imaging surveys are:

  • Non-invasive and non-disruptive, allowing the thermal imaging survey to be completed whilst plant and equipment is running
  • Real time and produce fast, accurate and immediate temperate measurement and fault detection, clearly showing temperature variations
  • Increased reliability and efficiency of plant and equipment resulting in reduced breakdowns and stoppages which in turn can significantly reduce maintenance costs and production losses
  • Increased energy efficiency
  • Increased capital equipment lifespan
  • Performed at a convenient time, tailored to the client’s individual requirements
  • Identifying areas of the building that may also require additional thermal insulation

The use of infrared cameras is not only able to detect hard to spot problems it also allows building inspector is to see problems before they become serious issues. Infrared survey also helps inspectors to diagnose not just the extent to but also the source of many of these problems. This can result in a large reduction in costs.

Early detection of moisture inside a wall, for instance, allows for an early, simple, cheap fix which would not be possible much later, after extended exposure to moisture creates a pervasive problem with mold. It is far cheaper to replace the small section of roof where a leak originated than it is to replace the whole roof. Infrared cameras provide a quick and effective method of moisture tracking that allows the source of any leak to be readily determined.

In summary, thermal imaging offers a non-invasive, low cost solution to identifying energy loss from buildings. It will allow action plans to be put into place to allow improvements to be made which will provide a cost benefit towards energy reduction and co-operate significantly to organisation carbon footprint.

Combining thermal imaging with energy surveys of existing buildings will also further identify opportunities to reduce energy in buildings. For further information please contact Richard Whitaker on +44 (0)7766 312031.