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We Can Help Cool Things Down!

For the past two weeks, I’ve talked about climate change and how we as thermographers can have a real role in slowing down the deadly effects we’ve begun to see. Our role can not only help to educate people—but also to directly slow our use of the world’s precious resources. So much of what thermographers do is help the world use less or take what we do use and use it more efficiently. Nowhere is that more obvious than our work with buildings and in industry.

Thermographer clearly shows this to be an inefficient building! The envelope is not effectively insulated meaning the air-conditioner runs harder and longer than it could otherwise. Imagine how many of the 110 million existing homes in the United States look like this!

It’s Getting Hot in Here

This past week was hot and that is no secret. Records were broken throughout much of the United States and more promise to break in the weeks to come. That, in turn, has pushed the peak use of electrical energy higher than ever in many places. So when we help a homeowner insulate and air seal more effectively, that means they can keep their AC unit at a higher set point or turn it off sooner. Just as it is easy to push the peak higher and higher by building inefficient housing—and don’t forget that somewhere around 40% of the energy used in the US is used in buildings—it is also quite straightforward to build things correctly and keep the peak from growing, or with persistence, actually reduce it.

When thermographers find hot spots, like the bushing connections on this oil-filled circuit breaker, the benefits are immense. If they can be repaired before failure, not only is a unnecessary heater—the hot connection—turned off but one less piece of equipment needs to be built, again a reduced carbon footprint.

Leading by Example
Not to brag, but Vermont has managed to do just that—reduce peak usage—for several years in a row by implementing efficiency measures. The measure of our success is the fact that we were given more funds, in lieu of building a new power plant, to further expand our “negawatt” utility. While the role thermographers actually played was not huge, our efforts have been important. In the future, as we need to get better and better results, our work will be even more crucial. Essentially, no building can ever be made fully efficient without a thermographer being involved in several points along the way. Period!

Industrial Thermorgraphers Need Apply

The same holds true for industrial thermographers. Again, the savings are related to both increased efficiencies and less waste. When you burn up a motor because it had been poorly maintained, there is a cost to all of us because a new motor must be manufactured. The reduced carbon footprint of a motor saved is not insignificant. When we find and repair “hot spots” in any electrical system, especially at the distribution or transmission level, we literally are turning off electric heaters, granted are often not huge loads but they are typically a “24/7” load that adds significantly to both power use as well as peak use.


One of the problems with climate change, of course, is simply being able to understand what it is all about. As said last week, it is complex. Throw into the mix lots of data, some politics and our basic human emotions and you have a real mess! By the way, if you want a bit more data, check out the 2010 Buildings Energy Data Book. It is a fascinating look at how we use energy, even if sometimes “figures lie and liars figure!” While we may not be able to save the world by ourselves, we have important roles to play as part of the team that can make a difference. I hope these postings help you do that job more effectively. Let me know what support you need and thank you for doing what you can.

Thinking Thermally,
John Snell—The Snell Group, a
Fluke Thermal Imaging Blog content partner

1 comment to We Can Help Cool Things Down!

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