Can an electrician do thermal imaging?

When it comes to electrical safety, building managers and business owners often ask Can an electrician do thermal imaging?

This can be to save money on hiring a specialist electrical safety inspector, or simply to save time.

You’ll be pleased to know that the answer is yes.

Due to changes in technology access to thermal imaging technology has become easier than ever before, and the results are impressive.

In this article, we’ll discuss how thermal imaging works and how it can be a game changer for your electrical maintenance. To provide balance, we’ll also talk about why and when you should hire a specialist electrical engineer to undertake your electrical testing.

So, let’s dive into the world of thermal imaging and explore how it can keep your electrical systems running smoothly and safely.

What is Thermal Imaging?

To get started, let’s examine exactly what thermal imaging is.

Thermal imaging, or infrared imaging as it is sometimes known, involves using a specialist thermal imaging camera to detect heat signatures emitted by electrical components, cabling and other parts of electrical systems.

Thermal imaging is a non-invasive technique, so the electrical systems don’t need to be powered down for this electrical inspection to take place. Understandably in busy commercial premises, factories and production lines, this technique has major benefits as it allows NAPIT-approved electrical inspectors and electricians to get a visual representation of temperature differences in electrical systems without having to disrupt production.

Regular thermal imaging inspections help prevent expensive failures, allow predictive maintenance and identify faults long before they reach a critical point.

Benefits of Thermal Imaging in Planned Maintenance

  1. Early Detection of Issues: Regular thermal imaging can detect hot spots caused by loose connections, overloaded circuits, or faulty components in distribution boards and switchgear. These hot spots, invisible to the naked eye, are early indicators of potential failures.
  2. Preventative Maintenance: By identifying problems early, thermal imaging allows for preventative maintenance. This approach not only saves time and resources but also prevents unexpected downtime and prolongs the life of electrical equipment.
  3. Safety: Thermal imaging is conducted with the equipment under normal loads and conditions. This non-invasive approach enhances safety for maintenance personnel by reducing the need to interact directly with potentially hazardous electrical components.
  4. Cost-Effectiveness: By preventing major breakdowns, thermal imaging saves businesses from hefty repair bills and loss of productivity due to downtime. Regular thermal imaging checks are a small investment compared to the costs associated with major electrical failures.

Thermal Imaging for Fault Finding in Electrical Control Gear and Machinery Controls

  1. Pinpointing Faults: In complex electrical control gear and machinery controls, pinpointing the exact location of a fault can be challenging. Thermal imaging provides a clear visual representation of the heat distribution, making it easier to identify anomalies.
  2. Comprehensive Diagnostics: Thermal cameras can scan large areas of equipment quickly, providing a comprehensive overview of the condition of various components. This capability is invaluable in complex systems where manual inspection would be time-consuming and less effective.
  3. Minimising Interruptions: Since thermal imaging can be conducted while machinery is operational, it minimises interruptions to production processes. This aspect is particularly beneficial in continuous production environments where downtime is not an option.

What does thermal imaging of electrical services look like?

Can an electrician do Thermal Imaging?

While most electricians can perform the task of a thermal imaging survey, there are a few important things to consider.

Carrying out thermal imaging requires access to live parts, something known as ‘live working’. Whilst the Electricity at Work Regulations generally prohibit live working, thermal imaging is one example of where live working cannot be avoided. These regulations do however put several additional requirements on electrical contractors or electrical inspectors.

  • Does the electrical contractor have experience working in a live environment?
  • Does the electrician have a suitable workforce to allow them to remove panels of live equipment safely?
  • Do the electricians have suitable flame-retardant overalls, flash guards and insulated gloves for working on live busbars and switchgear?
  • Do the electrical team have suitable PPE, signage, rubber matting and other protective equipment to allow them to work safely and protect others in the workforce?
  • Has your electrician prepared detailed risk assessments and method statements for live working?
  • Are they suitably insured?

There are risks associated with removing and replacing the panel covers of live electrical equipment. This should always be carried out by a competent, qualified and experienced electrical engineer to comply with the requirements of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989.

Finally, the result of thermal imaging is a collection of data that needs experience and specialised knowledge to interpret correctly.

Using an experienced and professional inspector with specialist knowledge of thermal imaging ensures an accurate assessment of the thermal imaging data. They will understand the nuances of heat patterns, have experience of repeated similarities of components between manufacturers and can make detailed recommendations.

Case Studies and Success Stories

Consider the case of a manufacturing plant that incorporated regular thermal imaging into its maintenance schedule.

They were able to identify a critical fault in their switchgear, which could have led to a major production halt. Early detection and rectification saved them substantial costs and production time. Downtime can be planned, materials can be ordered in advance and disruption can be kept to a minimum.

Another example is a commercial building where thermal imaging revealed overheating in several circuit breakers. Timely intervention prevented what could have been a serious fire hazard, ensuring the safety of the occupants and the building’s infrastructure.

So, can an electrician do thermal imaging?

In conclusion, can an electrician do thermal imaging? Yes. However, thermal imaging is a powerful tool in the hands of a skilled electrician.

Its ability to detect issues before they become major problems is invaluable in maintaining electrical distribution boards, switchgear, and machinery controls.

Simply by introducing thermal imaging into regular electrical safety inspections and routine maintenance schedules, businesses can benefit from improved safety and reduce the risks of component failures.

Remember, the most important part of thermal imaging isn’t the technology, but the individuals conducting the survey and interpreting the results.

For more information on how thermal imaging can become part of your electrical maintenance routine, contact ESI: Electrical Safety Inspections.