With the cost of thermal imaging cameras coming down, they have become an increasingly popular troubleshooting and preventive maintenance diagnostic tool for electrical and mechanical installations. Heat is created when electrical current passes through a resistive element. Increased electrical resistance can occur over time due to loosening of connections or corrosion. Thermal imaging cameras provide a non-contact method to quickly scan and locate high resistance connections, corroded connections, overloaded motor controls, fuse damage, circuit breaker faults or load imbalances.
A variety of mechanical systems can be monitored with thermal imaging cameras including couplings, gearboxes, bearings, pumps, compressors, belts, blowers and conveyor systems. Examples of mechanical faults that can be detected with thermal imaging are lubrication issues, misalignments, overheated motors, suspect rollers, overloaded pumps, overheated motor axles and hot bearings.Once major issues have been addressed, a baseline for equipment operation can be documented using thermal imaging cameras. The equipment should be running under a loaded condition and have reached steady state.
As the cost of energy rises, reducing energy consumption is becoming more important. In both electrical and mechanical installations, wasted energy is related to heat dissipation by the equipment. A thermal imaging camera can easily pay for itself by reducing energy consumption and reducing equipment downtime.
Thanks to Jamie McGhee for providing this month’s tip. Jamie currently teaches BOC 104 Efficient Lighting Fundamentals and BOC 107 Facility Electrical Systems. He also teaches in the Electrical Engineering Technologies department at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland Maine.