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How does thermal imaging work?

Electrical, Fire & Security, Information, Mechanical

Thermal imaging is a visual technology that allows us to see the heat radiated from an object.

A thermal camera assigns each temperature a shade of colour and converts the thermal radiation emitted from an object/objects that it sees into a visual picture.

Thermal cameras detect the difference in temperature by spotting and capturing the variations in infrared light being emitted. While this light is invisible to a humans naked eye, the thermal imaging camera technology can see it and converts it into visual data.

thermal imaging can be used for security, fire detection and infection control

The captured footage from a thermal camera converts the infrared radiation using a measuring technique called microbolometers. Infrared radiation with wavelengths between 7.5–14 μm strikes the thermal camera detector material causing it to heat and therefore change its electrical resistance. This electrical resistance change is measured and processed into temperatures. Using the pixel ratio of the camera, each pixel is assigned a microbolometer. And all of these different coloured pixels helps to generate a visual representation of the ‘overall’ thermal image.

Thermal Cameras have come along way since they were first invented and while its inventor and origins are up for debate, the version of thermal imaging that we use today was originally developed in 1929.  Its application for military use since then has helped to develop the technology and now we can use thermal imaging for all sorts of useful applications.

So what do we use thermal imaging for?

fire & security thermal camera

Fire & Security Systems

Security cameras equipped with thermal imaging technology are used to detect intruders. This technology is far more effective that traditional cameras operating at night because, while intruders may be able to use the cover of darkness to try and break into a location (around 80% or reported crime in the UK happens at night), thermal imaging CCTV cameras can spot them even in complete darkness; even when using various objects as cover such as shrubbery. Thermal CCTV cameras also have the advantage of not seeing the rain which can hinder traditional CCTV camera systems. This is ideal in the UK considering the almost constant rain that we experience.

Standard Thermal Imaging CCTV cameras can detect temperature ranges between -20oC and 150oC though more specialised variations can detect far higher temperature ranges.

electrical contractor thermal imaging

Electrical Systems

Electrical equipment generates a lot of heat when in use. While there is generally a recommended operational range of heat build up that can be tolerated, thermal cameras can monitor electrical equipment temperature build up, ensuring that it is in a safe window. If an electrical power line (for example) begins to overheat beyond safety guidelines, the increased heat detected by the thermal imaging camera can be programmed to activate an alarm and report to a manned monitoring station; it can even be programmed to shut down electrical systems automatically. This fire warning system can provide a vital fire deterrent in many manufacturing businesses as well as IT and Technology facilities and can save vital operational assets and electrical equipment from significant fire damage.

Our Electrical Contractors can also use thermal imaging cameras as part of Periodic Inspection & Testing for clients where requested to spot stress points in electrical wiring and control boards.

infection controls services

Infection Control Systems

The global coronavirus pandemic has seen an increased use of thermal imaging in a new role. One of the early signs of possible covid-19 infection is a rise in temperature. Thermal imaging can detect elevated body temperature and, integrated with access control systems, prevent infected individuals from entering a premises. This can provide a vital solution in reducing the potential spread of infection and disease in a workplace or high foot traffic event.

plumbing services

Plumbing & Heating Systems

Thermal cameras can be used to identify leaks in plumbing systems, check for heat loss in HVAC equipment and inspect heating systems to ensure an even spread of heat on the likes of a radiator. Thermal cameras can also be used for heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.


About Us

With senior-level hands-on management from initial planning to final handover, and with the opportunity to tap into a wide range of varied services and associated consultants with a skills base and command of technologies which are second to none. Working with HF Group is more than just another service contractor.

HF’s family culture means much more than dates and numbers. It’s quite literally, the core of the business. We consider all of our employees as part of the family and invaluable assets to our ongoing success. So we continually invest in training and development, allowing the entire team to share in a thriving and mutually supportive working environment.

From Fire & Security Services to monitoring key electrical equipment, thermal imaging offers huge safety and security advantages for businesses in multiple sectors. To find out more about thermal imaging and how it could benefit your business, contact us today.

With offices in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester, Belfast and Aberdeen, we can provide our full range of services nationwide.

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