Thermal Imaging Identifies Energy Loss And Deepens Public Awareness

The carbon emission and energy consumption targets set by the London Borough of Camden are indeed ambitious. By 2015 it wants cuts of 21% and by 2020, 40%. Thanks to its investment in thermal imaging however, the efficient identification of problem areas and the creation of public awareness through specially designed tags, is well underway.

Last year Camden Council purchased a FLIR B620, top of the range, thermal imaging camera. And in the opinion of The Local Authority’s Energy Management Officer, Danny Hunt, it was a significant move. “There is surely no quicker, non-invasive way to identify heat loss and gains. A thermal image is easy to explain, provided the operator is trained, and a good quality image is a very powerful means of raising awareness.”

To support its energy saving initiative, Camden Council had been planning significant investment in carbon reduction measures and needed a method to assist scheme evaluation and verification. Having seen the benefit a colleague derived from FLIR thermal imaging, Danny Hunt proposed the FLIR B620 as the best tool for the job.

The camera was purchased in 2010 and has become an essential part of Danny Hunt’s work. He is responsible for collating and analysing energy data from council buildings with a view to identifying energy saving measures which can be used to lower Camden Council’s emissions. And this, in turn, will also cut costs.

“It allows me to conduct this detection work while auditing our building portfolio. I can see any anomalies quickly, easily and safely,” Danny Hunt adds. “And for these reasons we chose the best possible camera for the money that was budgeted to obtain the quality and functionality needed.”

The FLIR B620 has a 640 x 480 pixels detector, the largest detector that is commercially available. This provides up to 307,000 measurement points, a resolution that is particularly important in the building industry as it allows smaller targets to be spotted and measured accurately at greater distances. The camera’s field of view is also larger and therefore fewer images need to be taken. On average 25% fewer images are required on a typical survey, allowing the camera user to get the job done quicker and more efficiently.

Danny Hunt continues: “It produces crisp and clean images which lower specification models can’t match. The difference in quality is amazing.” The camera’s quick refresh rate was also a factor in its purchase as was the viewfinder’s elimination of glare in sunny conditions.

Although no startling discoveries have yet been made with the camera it has led to the introduction of a tagging system, the reaction to which has been extremely positive. The tag is, in effect, a calling card whose principal purpose is to enable the Authority’s maintenance department and contractors to pinpoint the problems identified by the FLIR B620.

Created and designed by Camden Council, the tag is totally biodegradable and has a visual element that highlights the exact position of the area surveyed through the camera.

“The tag helps raise awareness with the building users too as it contains the clear message ‘this area has been thermal imaged’ and on its reverse explains we’ve identified that this area could be more energy efficient.”

The next goal for Danny Hunt is to take advantage of the advanced, dedicated software that is available for the FLIR B620. FLIR BuildIR visualises and quantifies building related problems such as structural and insulation defects, thermal bridges and moisture ingress. It includes ten pre-designed report templates for easy report creation.

One of the reports which will prove of great benefit to Camden is the energy cost comparison report that allows the easy calculation of achievable cost savings when the identified structural problems are fixed. FLIR BuildIR also includes a humidity report for calculating dew points and an air tightness report.

Whilst the principal use for Camden Council’s FLIR B620 is in the identification of energy management measures in Authority-owned buildings its potential application scope is, of course, much wider. For example, it has recently been used to check insulation consistency after a major work programme to install cavity wall insulation in private dwellings in Camden.

The camera is also helping in preventive maintenance work, for example, in applications such as identifying heating mains leaks. As Danny’s familiarity and experience with the camera increases so does the scope of his investigations, resulting in further cost benefits to the Council.

Find out more about FLIR Systems Ltd by viewing their company profile, here.

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