Using a Thermal Camera To Detect Heat Loss

Thermal imaging camera used in industrial process

Harnessing Infrared Vision for Industrial Energy Efficiency and Detecting Heat Loss

Using thermal cameras to detect heat loss isn’t a new idea. The process is known as ‘Thermography’ and is regularly used in the building and construction industry. Thermal cameras use infrared scanning to detect thermal defects.

But it’s not just for building surveys. Wasted energy takes a heavy toll on industrial facilities – increased utility bills, inflated production costs, and reduced profit margins. However, identifying the root causes of energy loss isn’t easy.

Traditional temperature sensors only measure specific spots. Thermal cameras enable a clear and constant visualisation of heat distribution across entire systems.

Before we learn how a thermal camera can detect heat loss, let’s take a quick look at how they work.

How Does a Thermal Imaging Camera Work?

A thermal imaging camera is a non-contact device that detects infrared energy (heat) emitted from an object. The infrared camera has an optical system that focuses this infrared radiation onto an internal sensor array.

The sensor array consists of thousands of detector pixels that convert the infrared signals into electronic signals. A camera processor analyses these signals and applies a mathematical algorithm to map out the apparent temperature across the target object.

Different temperatures are assigned different colours. The resulting thermal image visualising the variation in heat is displayed on the camera and stored internally.

Process Parameters offers a wide range of compact thermal imaging cameras which meet the requirements of almost all industries.

How Can A Thermal Camera Detect Heat Loss?

Thermography detects infrared radiation – light outside the visible spectrum – emitted by all objects based on their temperature. Onboard sensors within the cameras translate these infrared signals into thermal images mapping surface heat variation.

Thermal scans can diagnose areas needing repair, maintenance or increased insulation to minimise wasted energy.

Armed with system-wide visibility, thermal images can isolate various causes of industrial heat loss. Some examples include:

  • Detecting faulty insulation as hotter surface temperatures
  • Identifying leaks and gaps as cooler spots on pipes or ducts
  • Pinpointing equipment overheating as local hot spots
  • Mapping uneven heat distribution and highlighting performance issues

Infrared cameras minimise the energy consumption across each step—from smelting to rolling.

Benefits of Industrial Thermography

For manufacturing plants, minimising heat loss is really important. Thermal imaging puts facility-wide temperature data front and centre. Equipped with actionable visual intelligence, operators can slash energy bills, boost productivity, reduce insurance premiums, ensure regulatory compliance, improve safety, and maintain output quality.

Heat loss occurs when heated components dissipate energy to cooler surrounding areas. So what’s causing it?

Factors Causing Heat Loss in Industrial Facilities

  • Faulty insulation leading to structural heat transfer
  • Leaks, holes, and gaps allow heated air/fluid to escape
  • System inefficiencies wasting steam, heat, etc.

The Impact of Heat Loss

  • Spiking facility energy bills
  • Equipment damage from overheating
  • Frequent replacements as opposed to repairs
  • Substandard product quality

By providing system-wide temperature mapping, thermal cameras can catch heat loss culprits missed by traditional sensors.

Types of Thermal Imaging Cameras

Unlike spot sensors, thermal cameras survey expansive areas, visualising heat patterns across entire buildings and systems in their entirety. And that’s not all. Small differentials – 1°C or less – appear as contrasting colours, instantly highlighting inconsistencies.

Advanced analytics integrate images from multiple cameras to uncover system-level losses, and thermal video feeds enable dynamic inspections under live operating conditions.

So what are the different types of heat loss cameras?

Handheld Thermal Cameras: Versatility and Portability

Handheld thermal cameras provide versatility and portability for on-the-spot inspections, empowering engineers and technicians to quickly identify heat loss issues in various industrial settings.

Optris Xi410 MT High Temperature Infrared Thermal Camera

Fixed-Mount Thermal Cameras: Continuous Vigilance

Fixed-mount thermal cameras continuously monitor critical areas, ensuring round-the-clock vigilance against heat loss. Strategically positioned cameras can provide real-time data and alerts, enabling proactive maintenance and preventing potential disruptions.

Drone-Mounted Thermal Cameras: Panoramic Perspective

Drone-mounted thermal cameras offer a panoramic perspective, identifying heat loss patterns across vast facilities. These cameras can cover large areas efficiently and provide insights into overall energy distribution.

View our range of thermal imaging cameras.

Applications of Heat Loss Cameras

What are the Industrial Applications of Thermography?

Electrical equipment: to detect loose connections, poor contacts, overloading, capacitor breakdowns, unbalanced loads, and overheating.

Boilers and steam systems: to detect insulation breakdown, hot gas leaks, joint or valve leakage, and steam trap malfunction.

Mechanical equipment: to detect blocked air coolers and radiator tubes, air leaks, clogged condenser tubes, overheated bearings, increased discharge temperatures, excessive oil temperatures, broken and defective valves, insulation breakdown, corrosion, and increased bearing and gear.

Surveillance and security: to search and rescue, night operations, enemy identification, smoke-filled rooms, weapon and chemical detection.

Medical and veterinary: to detect cancer, arthritis, circulation issues, muscular and skeletal problems.

Paper Industry: Thermal imaging helps paper mills operate efficiently by detecting excess heat in rollers, identifying steam leaks that waste energy, mapping moisture profiles influencing paper quality, and enabling early fire detection in paper storage areas. It is a cost-effective technology for boosting efficiency.

Food Processing: Thermal cameras improve energy efficiency in food production facilities by checking seals on ovens and refrigerators. A split fridge seal can increase energy use by 11% while an oven door leak results in 20% more heat loss. Thermal monitoring significantly lowers waste.

Metal Production: Thermal cameras optimise metallurgy processes like smelting and rolling to minimise energy consumption. They pinpoint insulation issues, temperature variability, and problems in furnaces that waste energy.

Other: to detect condensate buildup, increased bearing temperatures, liquid levels, inadequate insulation, insulation breakdown, gas generation, leaks, sub-surface combustion, particulate plumes, watercourse pollution, and building pest control.

You can find more details on metallurgy, paper, and food applications here.

The Verdict?

With rising power costs and climate impact as key concerns, industrial efficiency is on everybody’s radar.

Industrial facilities can no longer afford to let energy and cost drain away undetected. A heat loss camera delivers infrared vision that exposes hidden deficiencies so they can be addressed early.

Uncover energy waste, optimise efficiencies, prevent equipment failures, and improve your bottom line.

Contact Process Parameters today to discuss leveraging thermal imaging at your facility. Our energy efficiency experts can advise the best thermal solutions for your needs and budget.

Please send us an email at, call 01628 778788, or complete our online enquiry form.

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Heat Loss Camera FAQs

What should I look for in a thermal camera for industrial use?

Key capabilities to look for include high thermal sensitivity for small temperature differentials, interchangeable lenses for versatile viewing angles, radiometric images and video for quantitative analysis, and integrated software for convenient data analysis.

How difficult is it to interpret thermal images for heat loss issues?

Modern thermal cameras provide clear, precise images mapped to temperature scales and colour palettes. This makes it fairly easy to spot abnormalities and issues. Some training and experience analysing images is helpful for more advanced diagnostics. Many cameras also integrate helpful analytical tools.

What steps should I take to get started with thermal inspections?

Consult with thermography experts on selecting cameras suited to your needs. Proper setup and placement are key. Scope out baseline readings under normal conditions so future imaging reveals developing problems. You can use consulting services to conduct and interpret initial scans before moving in-house.

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