THERMOGRAPHY COMFORT LEVEL – Will an Infrared camera see …..? It depends!


Your THERMOGRAPHY COMFORT LEVEL – Will an Infrared camera see …..? It depends!

Thermographers are often asked: “Will an Infrared camera see  ….? Through walls, through clothes, etc?  The answer to these questions is NO.  But some questions cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”.  For example, what if someone asked you if your thermal imaging system can see the location of a hot water pipe in a wall cavity?  Well, the IR camera cannot see through the wall, as we all know.  But the correct answer to this question is:  “It depends.”  It depends on whether the heat from the hot water pipe reaches the surface that you are directly looking at.  Heat travels any of three ways: conduction, convection and radiation.  It’s possible that the hot water pipe is hot enough to transfer its heat to the wall to a degree that it changes the temperature on the last coat of paint that you are looking at.  It also depends on insulation and distance from the wall.  Although the temperature change might be very slight, a sensitive IR camera will pick it up.  Notice the image below.

Hotel lobby hot water pipe

This is the interior wall in the lobby of a hotel.  The decorative canopy is directly over the lobby bar, which has a hot water feed.  The hot water pipe in the cavity has a continuous flow of hot water.  The temperature difference (∆T) on the surface is around 2 degrees F.  I’m using a 70mK detector in the Fluke IR camera.  So, sometimes you can locate hot water pipes.  It just depends.

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