A small electrical problem can have extremely far-reaching consequences. The efficiency of the electrical grid becomes low, and so the energy is spent generating heat. If left unchecked, heat can rise to the point where connections start to melt. Not only that, but sparks can fly, setting the environment on fire. Insurance companies are now taking this into consideration and require regular thermal inspections. This provides new opportunities for dedicated specialists.
A Duisburg success story
The electrical systems specialist EGI was established in Duisburg in 1980. Today EGI provides its customers in the areas of industrial, commercial and building technology with electrical installation services.
Thermal imaging inspections: An additional service
“I asked myself the question which service we could offer that requires additional know-how that our customers don’t have themselves. Thermal inspections of electrical installations were a perfect opportunity.” explains Michael Weigt, Managing Director.
In 2007, Michael Weigt researched the thermal imaging camera market, obtained information about different manufacturers and tested various thermal imaging cameras at trade shows.
Worldwide thermal imaging camera from FLIR Systems quickly made the shortlist.
Time for training
Michael Weigt was convinced of the potential of thermal imaging for electrical inspections.
He and some of his technicians followed a training course at the Infrared Training Center (ITC) in order to gain more in-depth knowledge of the FLIR thermal imaging camera and FLIR Reporter software. Extra training was provided by FLIR sales partner Herzog.
In the beginning, the jobs consisted of examining individual electrical cabinets in schools, hospitals, banks and public buildings. Today, EGI inspects electrical installations for industrial customers.
Thermal imaging for electrical inspection
Control rooms can include up to 40 electrical cabinets and they have to be inspected every 4 years. This is not only stipulated by law, but also required by insurance companies for fire prevention. Old cable coating can become porous. External factors such as UV radiation and subsequent chemical processes in the material change the softening agents in the plastic coating over the course of time, thus making it more brittle and causing it to break off.
In addition to this, contact points oxidise and fuses become overloaded. The FLIR thermal imaging camera detects this immediately. Defective electrical components are then noted for replacement during the next planned shutdown.
Inspection with a thermal imaging camera allows the system to be under load. Electrical systems tend to heat up before they break down. A thermal imaging camera will clearly identify “hot spots” so that preventive action can be taken before failure occurs.
Thermal imaging can also be used to detect asymmetrical loads. The reason for this is not always faulty modules. Older systems have often been extended over the course of time. In such cases, an electrical circuit could be exposed to more load than originally intended. This requires immediate action, because excess load can cause heat problems and poses a fire hazard.
“If serviced regularly, even older electrical installations can run smoothly and unplanned shutdowns and high costs of downtime can be efficiently avoided.”, says Michael Weigt.
Thermal imaging for quality control
EGI not only provides thermal services, but builds its own electrical switchboards and cabinets. EGI uses thermal imaging also to monitor the quality of their own cabinets and document this for the customers. All components are wired and each screw contact has to be tightened to a specific torque. A thermal imaging camera is used before commissioning the system to detect excess heat and to immediately correct the problem.
Interchangeable wide-angle lens for tight spaces
The FLIR T440 comes equipped with a 25-degree lens, which is ideal for many applications. But thermal imaging professionals often don’t have enough space in tight rooms. Therefore, EGI decided to purchase an additional interchangeable 45-degree wide-angle lens, because sometimes the distance to the electrical cabinet is only 80 cm when taking thermal images. Even at such short distances, the 45-degree lens provides a full picture, in which problem areas, even in thin cables, can be clearly identified.
FLIR MeterLink technology makes it possible to transfer, via Bluetooth, the data acquired by an Extech clamp meter into the thermal imaging camera. This saves time since there is no longer the need to take notes during the inspection. Furthermore, it eliminates the risk of erroneous notes and speeds up the reporting process since all values are automatically included in the inspection report.
For more information, contact:
FLIR Commercial Systems
Luxemburgstraat 22321 Meer Belgium
Phone: +32 (0) 3665 5100
Fax: +32 (0) 3303 5624