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As important as they are for storing quantities of foodstuffs, commercial walk-in freezers use a lot of energy.  So, it is imperative that this consumption is kept to a minimum by ensuring the temperature inside the freezer is not compromised by any breach in the freezer’s insulation.

Thermal imaging is proving the ideal technology for this purpose and the process is much the same as seeking out faults in building fabric.  The only difference is the direction of heat.  When inspecting a building a thermographer will generally look for heat leaking from the inside of the structure to the outside.  But with refrigeration units, the main requirement is to detect heat leaking inwards.

In many cases the problem lies with faulty construction so even the operating costs of new freezers can be unnecessarily high.  Frequently joints between the insulation panels are not protected adequately, creating heat bridges.  In older units insulation faults are common due to wear but in both cases thermal imaging can see the problem in an instant.  However, the quality of the infrared camera is key to the success of this application.

The Dutch consultancy, Thermografisch en Adviesbureau, is frequently commissioned to conduct thermal inspection of commercial freezers and its spokesman explains: “Thermal sensitivity, accuracy and resolution are crucial to the accurate detection of thermal bridges. You need to be able to interpret what you see in a thermal image and if you are using a thermal imaging camera that is below 640 x 480 pixels then you are missing information that you need to draw the right conclusions.”

The most sophisticated FLIR thermal imaging camera the consultancy uses for its work combines high resolution with 30mK thermal sensitivity and an accuracy of ±2°C.  And another important feature for freezer inspection the company cites is calibration range.

“Our FLIR camera is calibrated to a minimum temperature of -40°C and this is very important to ensure accuracy temperature measurement.  Most freezers are kept at a temperature between -20°C and -30°C. However, some freezers cool their contents down to -50°C or even -60°C and the FLIR camera is still capable of visualising insulation leaks.”

“High quality thermal imaging cameras and good training come at a price but they are definitely worth the money,” the spokesman concludes. “We have several FLIR cameras that are used for a wide variety of applications from building, industrial maintenance and HVAC system inspection to detecting water ingress in aircraft composite materials.  Our cameras are constantly on the move from site to site.”

FLIR Systems specialises in technologies that enhance perception and awareness.  The company brings innovative sensing solutions into daily life through its thermal imaging and visible light imaging technology and systems for measurement, diagnosis, location and advanced threat detection.  Its products improve the way people interact with the world around them, enhance productivity, increase energy efficiency and make the workplace safer.

FLIR Systems has six operating segments – surveillance, instruments, OEM and emerging markets, maritime, security and finally, detection. Of these six, ‘instruments’ is of greatest interest to trade and industry and the second largest segment in the company’s portfolio. This division provides devices that image, measure and assess thermal energy, gases and other environmental elements for industrial, commercial and scientific applications.

These products are manufactured across five production sites, three in the USA and two in Europe; Sweden and Estonia.

A model to suit every application and budget
The options that FLIR Systems provides for measuring temperature and studying thermal performance have never been greater.  Not only does the company offer a huge range of models to suit all thermal application needs but the technology is also affordable and very easy to use.  Thermal cameras now come in various shapes, sizes and degrees of sophistication and FLIR continues to invest heavily in the development of new and complementary technologies to differentiate itself from competitors.

An important milestone in the development of thermal imaging has been the introduction of the FLIR Lepton® core, a micro longwave detector, the size of a mobile SIM.  This has allowed thermal imaging to be repackaged to meet the needs of an even wider audience and, in combination with another new technology called Infrared Guided Measurement – IGM™ – has led to the development of a range of test and measurement meters with imaging capability.

Another important growth area for FLIR thermal imaging is in continuous monitoring to assure quality and safety.  Through its introduction of discrete fixed mounted thermal cameras which are fully compliant industry standard plug-and-play protocols, FLIR Systems has provided industry with infrared machine vision which is instantly ready for quick and easy network installation.

Protecting assets and people from fire is an area for which thermal imaging is least known but, thanks to FLIR Systems’ development, it is now one of the most cost-effective methods available.  Its application flexibility and rapid return on investment present an attractive proposition for any site or safety manager.

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