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Infrared Electrical Inspection: Myth vs. Fact

MYTH: An infrared electrical inspection may be performed without removing the panel covers of the equipment being inspected. The heat is visible through the cover.

FACT: Infrared heat shares most of the same properties as visible light. Infrared heat will not radiate through a panel or transformer cover just as light will not shine through them. The amount of infrared heat visible by ANY infrared camera is directly dependant on the surface temperature and emissivity of the object being viewed. Since moderate temperature rises in most electrical distribution systems are normal, simply viewing the cover surfaces will not suffice. Wherever safe, covers and obstructions must be removed to expose the actual electrical component for proper inspection.

MYTH: Infrared spot radiometers work as well as infrared imaging systems to perform electrical inspections.

FACT: Spot radiometers (heat guns), by definition, can only view one small spot at a time. Since an electrical panel consists of hundreds of points, viewing them all with a spot radiometer is time and labor intensive. Infrared imaging systems, such as those used by Pro-Line Inspections, can view an entire panel at once. Additionally, spot radiometers display the average temperature within its viewing range of approximately one square inch, making accurate analysis of smaller hot spots extremely difficult.

MYTH: True RMS load readings are sufficient to diagnose electrical problems.

FACT: Both true RMS and peak load readings are required to determine harmonic distortion problems. Click here to obtain an article on harmonic distortion.

MYTH: An infrared inspection will interrupt production.

FACT: On the contrary, equipment must be running at normal operating load to find most problems.

MYTH: Proper diagnosis of electrical problems can be made without load readings.

FACT: The severity of a problem is dependant on its temperature rise above ambient as well as the percent of rated load on the faulty equipment. It takes a technician with both infrared and electrical training to properly diagnose most electrical problems.

MYTH: The radiation emitted by an infrared imaging system can be harmful to your health.

FACT: An infrared imaging system makes use of a camera similar to a video camera, but reading in the infrared spectrum instead of the visible light spectrum. It does not emit radiation the way an x-ray machine does. It simply captures the radiant heat emitted from the object on which the camera is focused and translates this information into a visual format with precise thermal information.

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