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IRISS083 Which window ...

If you want to conduct a live thermal inspection of electrical equipment the most effective and certainly safest way is via an infrared window. It’s a data-collection point that is IR transmissible that allows meaningful data to be obtained without the thermographer encountering the dangers of arc flash.

Not only do infrared windows ensure a best practice approach to preventive maintenance and condition monitoring, however. They also allow electrical systems, previously considered to be too much of a safety hazard, to be brought into routine maintenance.  For many companies, this is invaluable as these systems are often critical to the process or operation.

A very common question is: Can any brand of thermal imaging camera be used with any type of window? Naturally the infrared camera manufacturers will recommend their own brand of window. But, when armed with the necessary information, companies can make their own decision on the best combination for their business.

Quick guide
Step 1: determine the type of camera to be used. Infrared detectors broadly fall into the wavelength of 1 – 12 microns. Shortwave covers 1 – 3 microns, medium wave 3 – 5 microns and longwave 8 – 12 microns. Longwave, uncooled cameras are the standard choice for maintenance and condition monitoring applications.

Step 2: determine the type of material of the window being considered. The most common used for industrial thermography are calcium and barium fluoride, sapphire and IR transmissible polymer. Next consider the transmission range of those materials. Respectively they are .13 to 10 microns, .17 to 5.5 microns and 3 to about 12.5 microns.

So when you correlate the data from both steps you can see the longwave cameras can’t be used with a sapphire window as the transmission ranges don’t tie up. This means you are left with a choice between fluoride or polymer based infrared window systems. Both have the correct credentials on paper but which is the most suitable for industrial maintenance applications?

Calcium and barium fluoride are crystals which by their very nature, are fragile. There are certainly applications that are well served by this type of window, particularly in the lab, but they are not the best choice for harsh industrial or uncontrolled environments where mechanical stresses such as vibration are common.

These stresses degrade the crystalline structure increasing refraction and decreasing transmission. And as the window becomes weaker it is much more prone to fracture. Even an electrician slamming a panel door closed can cause it to shatter. As a result, the average life expectancy of this type of window, irrespective of whether it is producing valuable data or not, is less than 10 years.

Another factor to consider is whether the intended environment for the window is damp or humid. Calcium and barium fluoride are hygroscopic, even when coated.  This means an infrared window made from this material will absorb moisture and, over time, this too will compromise transmission rates and render readings inaccurate.

That leaves polymer based infrared window systems. For the industrial environment, this type of window has many advantages. It is shatter and impact proof, will not degrade in the presence of moisture, UV or vibration and windows made from this material carry an unlimited lifetime warranty. It can also be any size or shape to suit the application.


IRISS is the manufacturer of the world’s first and only industrial-grade infrared windows. Their design is based on the 17 years of field experience that the company’s founder, Martin Robinson, gained as a Level III thermographer. And it is this end-user perspective that makes IRISS unique in the industry.

IRISS designs and manufacturers IR (Infrared) windows and safety solutions for electrical assets and provides training for electrical engineers.

IRISS provides its customers with unsurpassed quality at every touch point and focusses on continuously improving infrared (IR) window technology, building reliable products, exceeding customer expectations, whilst remaining a science-based R&D company and protecting their polymer IR windows through the IRISS Unconditional Lifetime Warranty.

IRISS industrial-grade IR windows facilitate safer, more efficient inspections of energized electrical equipment when compared to traditional crystal windows. IRISS award-winning, IR window designs feature a durable transparent polymer lens that allows visual, UV, and short/mid/longwave IR spectrum inspections. And…is available in custom shapes, sizes, and colours to fit the needs of any application.

As solution providers, the team at IRISS brings a multitude of experience from world-class maintenance programs together to meet the individual needs of commercial, industrial, marine, power generation and government maintenance programs.

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