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Best thermal imaging camera for electrical inspections

Best thermal imaging camera for electrical inspections

Wondering what the best electrical thermal imaging camera is? Read on.

Thermal imaging cameras are the best way to identify temperature variations in industrial three-phase electrical circuits. Using electrical thermal imaging during regular maintenance allows you to compare unbalanced circuits to their normal operating conditions. Maintenance technicians can quickly spot performance anomalies on individual legs of the circuit due to unbalance or overloading by inspecting the thermal gradients of all three phases side-by-side.

Why thermal imaging electrical panels is useful

Capturing the thermal imaging of electrical panels and other high-load connection points such as drives, disconnects, and controls is the best way to be prepared when something goes wrong. If you do discover higher temperatures, follow that circuit and examine associated branches and loads.

Electrical unbalance can be caused by several different sources: a power delivery problem, low voltage on one leg, or an insulation resistance breakdown inside the motor windings. Even a small voltage unbalance can cause connections to deteriorate, reducing the amount of voltage supplied, which motors and other loads will draw excessive current, delivering lower torque, and fail sooner. A severe unbalance can blow a fuse, reducing operations down to a single phase. Meanwhile, the unbalanced current will return on the neutral, causing the utility to fine the facility for peak power usage. When thermal imaging electrical panels is part of your regular preventative maintenance plan, you’ll be prepared when something goes wrong.

Components to inspect with a thermal camera for electrical inspections

Examine the panels and other connections with the covers off. Ideally, you should check electrical devices when they are fully warmed up and at steady state conditions with at least 40% of the typical load. This allows measurements to be properly evaluated and compared to normal operating conditions.

The cause of many electrical problems is abnormal heating associated with high resistance or excessive current flow. Infrared thermography allows us to see the thermal signatures of impending damage before the damage occurs. It’s normal for electricity flowing through a circuit to be partly converted into heat. However, if there is an unusually high resistance in the circuit or abnormally high current flow then excessive heat can be generated which is wasteful and potentially dangerous.

Loose connections, under-sized conductors, and excessive current flow can all result in abnormally high heat levels in a circuit. Components can literally become hot enough to melt. Using a thermal camera for electrical maintenance can identify these problems before they cause damage and do so from a safe distance.

What to look for during electrical panel thermal imaging

Using thermal camera for electrical maintenance enables the user to see the heat signatures associated with high electrical resistance long before the circuit becomes hot enough to cause an outage or damage. The three basic thermal patterns associated with electrical failure are high resistance caused by poor surface contact, an overloaded circuit, or a multi-phase imbalance problem.

Thermal cameras for electrical inspection will only give you the surface temperature. They cannot see through electrical cabinets or solid metal bus trays. Whenever possible open enclosures so the camera has a clear view of the electrical circuits and components. If the outside surface of an enclosure is abnormally high then you can be sure that the temperature is even higher inside the enclosure. 

What is the best thermal imaging camera for electrical inspections?

The best thermal imaging camera for electrical inspections are typically handheld units with a 3.5-inch screen or larger that can record still photos and video for recordkeeping. Thermal sensor resolutions in the range of 320x240 provide excellent image resolution - these are not the same as a regular digital camera that we are used to with resolutions of many millions of pixels. Electrical thermal imaging cameras can see lots of temperature data with 50,000 points of thermal measurement or more. The best electrical thermal cameras also have several color palettes to provide the best contrast against a range of thermal landscapes.

Shop Teslong infrared cameras today!

Teslong sells a range of thermal imaging cameras including hand-held models for electrical panel thermal imaging as well as a bench-top model that is designed to troubleshoot printed circuit boards (PCBs), which are not 3-phase industrial circuits, however, they can benefit from electrical thermal imaging just as well.


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