By allowing technicians to effectively scan equipment, structures, and processes from a longer distance, without the need to make contact with the object being inspected, thermal imagers can help reduce exposure to hazards and in some cases eliminate the need to secure a hot work permit. This is especially helpful for electrical, process control, and building inspection applications.
Electrical system inspection
Electrical inspections usually involve energized equipment. Currently, most electricians perform these inspections by de-energizing the system, opening the panel door, re-energizing the system, and scanning the panel with a thermal imager. One of the biggest danger points—particularly with 480 V and higher electrical systems—occurs as the enclosure is opened. That can trigger a phase-to-phase or phase-to-ground arc flash, which is an extremely high- temperature discharge [up to 35,000°F (19,427°C)].
Inspecting with an infrared camera can help reduce the risk of arc flash and increase your efficiency by:
- Allowing you to inspect the equipment from outside the arc flash zone.
- Avoiding the need to open the enclosure by accurately scanning equipment through special infrared transparent windows or viewports in enclosure doors or covers.
- Reducing the amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) you need to wear based on your distance from the inspection target and other requirements noted in standards such as National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 70E.
Potentially explosive environments
Any industrial environment where a mixture of gases, dust, or vapor could ignite and cause an explosion is especially hazardous. Some of the most common are petrochemical processing, oil platforms and refineries, and pipelines. The most obvious way to minimize the risk of an explosive event occurring is to avoid those environments wherever possible. While that is not always possible, there are situations where you can get the information you need by scanning the process or equipment from a safe distance with an infrared camera that provides the appropriate resolution and distance-to-spot ratio. In some cases, you may need to add a 2x or 4x infrared telephoto lens to see enough detail from a safe distance. In addition to keeping technicians out of the most extreme danger zones, this long distance scanning can save a lot of climbing and allow you to inspect areas that you wouldn't be able to get close enough to otherwise, without shutting down production.
Building inspection thermography
Using an infrared camera equipped with a telephoto lens can help you avoid having to climb up into the rafters of a warehouse or factory to inspect ceilings, walls, and ductwork. With a wide angle or standard lens you can inspect a lot of roof area quickly from one position and avoid having to get too close to the edge or move around too much on a weakened structure. This can reduce your risk of falls and expedite your inspections.