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Home > Resource Conservation > Heat > Heat Leak Detection 

Resource Conservation: Heat: Heat Leak Detection

heat leak pics
High heating and cooling bills may not be just from the weather. This discussion focuses on the detection of heat loss at your home or business. 



In general, before you have any work done to solve problems like a heat leak from your home or business it would be a good idea to find out where the leaks are coming from. This can be done by mapping the temperature profile of walls, windows, heating ducts and any other surfaces. When you find spots that have a higher temperature then the surrounding areas, you probably have a heat leak. This type of mapping is also good to help discover electronic components (such as fuses and dimmer switches) that are about to fail. These components will be warmer than normal, meaning that they are drawing more power than they should. We will discuss the types of instruments one can use to find these heat leaks in your home or business. The main solutions we will discuss use infrared technology to find the leaks. There is no faster system to map the temperatures of the surfaces we need to inspect to find the leaks.    
     Here we will discuss infrared thermometers and infrared cameras. They work by picking up the infrared light that comes into there detector. An infrared thermometer only looks at one spot at a time. An infrared camera looks and many spots and shows a thermal map of what is in front of it.

See our selection of infrared cameras

Energy Efficient?

To make claims about energy efficiency are a bit difficult here. What these devices can do is create some cost efficiency. What we mean here is this will help you make decisions as to where to insulate, which windows to replace, relays to replace and so on. If you feel that your house (or business) is not as well insulated you are faced with replacing everything. That is the only sure way to feel like you have covered all your bases unless you measure the heat leakage from your building. Also, after the refurbishment of your building this is a very good way to tell that the job is complete. Many of these devices run on batteries, to get the best energy efficiency the batteries should be rechargeable.
     Depending on the device you choose, you can get a great cost efficiency. At our store we have low end devices (starting at about $16) and we cover the high end (up to $8,000). As you go up in price you get more resolution and a finer temperature scale. There are tons of other functions that are improved the more you are willing to spend.
     Also, some of the higher end products can work with moisture meters to help determine areas where mold will grow.

See our selection of infrared cameras


Let's talk about "installation" in 2 ways.
     First. The instruments themselves may have software that you install on your computer. Some have cables to download the pictures (videos) taken so you will need cables to do that. Some are equipped with Wi-Fi so that data can be coordinated and downloaded. Some have analytical tools on board to analyze the readings. Depending on how complicated the instrument, the user may need a training course. If you want to find out training schedules for the FLIR products please click here. FLIR also has a knowledge base for answers to questions.
     Second. This is the installation of recommended repairs and follow up on the job.
Anyone can look at a thermal image and say some places are warmer than others. Someone who knows what they are doing needs to be able to determine what areas need to be repaired and the costs (energy loss, mold growth, rot) if the repairs are not done. Then be able to help the owner to find the right contractor to do any repair work. The user should also be able to follow up (with the instruments) to determine if the job is done right.
     Finding the right contractor to do these jobs may be hard but you can start by going to Angie's List to find a contractor in your area that can do this type of work.

See our selection of infrared cameras


All of the equipment recommended here are battery operated. Most will use a Lithium Ion battery but there are many other battery types that can be used in these devices. Dispose of the batteries properly.
     Thermometers: These devices are a little simpler in design (then the infrared cameras) but could have toxic materials. We will comment on that soon.
Infrared Cameras: These devices have manuals, cases, download cables and the instrument itself. We will discuss all of that soon.

     Repair work disposal: These devices will point out repairs needed. We will discuss the disposal of those materials.

See our selection of infrared cameras
Look here to find recycling near you.

We are finding it difficult to research the disposal of some of the products we recommend. If you have a suggestion for other means of disposal write us and we may post it on this site.

Our Picks:

thermometer picThermometers: For the smallish jobs. Ideal for a home owner or small business owner, these devices can show leaks.
     The HDE thermometer is a no name inexpensive thermometer that works. If you have a job that is small or do not care that your thermometer will not last year after year, this may be the unit for you.
    The Black and Decker thermometer is a great product and good for intermediate durability.
     The Fluke. What can we say? This is the top of the line. If you have big temperature recoding jobs with good accuracy and temperature range requirements this is the tool to use. With solid construction this may be the last infrared thermometer that you will ever buy.

Infrared Cameras: For the bigger jobs.
i series thermal cam i3/i5/i7 FLIR infrared Cameras:
Ideal for a contractor, home inspector or small factory the i-series of camera is a solid choice.
This line of cameras are for the smallest of the big jobs. The main difference between these cameras is the resolution with the i3 being 60X60 pixels and the i7 being 120x120 pixels (4x the resolution of the i3). There are other differences. Even though the i7 is about twice the price of the i3 it is more than 4 times the value. They have a good temperature range, -20C to 250C. They all can save images of a view but can not take videos.
Infrared Cameras: For the bigger jobs.

E series cams E- Series (30/40/50/60) infrared Cameras:
These cameras have a much higher temperature range (going as high as 1,200 deg F). They also have much higher resolution starting with the E30 at 160 x 120 pixels going up to the E60 at 320 x 240 pixels. All but E30 are capable of video. A very good value for the jobs that require more real time data, more resolution and more detail. For the real hot jobs you can digitally zoom with models E40 to E60. Definitely worth checking out.

Ebx series infrared cam E- Series (40bx,50bx,60bx) infrared Cameras:
This series of instruments function much the same as the E series above. The general specification for an infrared camera are the same. Where this series shines is in its analysis. These cameras can be coupled with other instrumentation to determine mold environments and other types of analysis. A great platform for the more detailed analysis jobs.

See our selection of infrared cameras

Specification sheets for these items here.

Quick Note On Savings:

Unknown heat leak:  A "Super Good Sense" home or a newly constructed building may not be the best thing to check with these devices. However if your facility is old there could be major heat leaks.  If the cost to heat/cool your home or business keep increasing year after year you will want to check the building. These devices don't just  notice heat leaks, they can show that a relay or switch is failing before it does. This can save money as well. Since this is unknown, the savings could be small or large. Known heat leak: In this scenario, you know you are spending too much to heat/cool your home or business but you do not know the biggest contributors to the problem. You may not be able to repair it all at once so you would need a tool to help prioritize the repair jobs to do them in order of having the largest effect for the least cost. As you save on heating/cooling you can afford to keep doing the repair jobs as they pay for themselves.

See our selection of infrared cameras

Green Calculator:

Currently, we do not have a green calculator for this. These items are likely to pay for themselves within the first year depending on your work.

See our selection of infrared cameras

Glossary Of Terms:

BTU: British Thermal Unit. A unit of measure of heat.

Return on investment: Usually measured in an amount of time to pay back an investment by saving money that you would otherwise spend.
Infrared: Rays of light not visible to the human eye. This is the main type of light that shows heat.


http://www.flir.com/thermography/americas/us/content/?id=17876 "What is Infrared Light", from the FLIR web site. taken 12/30/11.