Request a Quote

Color Palette Choices

Recently, I had a Level I student ask me a question I’d never heard before.   He asked why there were so many palette choices on his infrared camera.  Often I’m asked which palette works best, or which my personal preference is.  I’d never had anyone ask me why there are so many  choices.  He went on to say that he had trouble picking which one to use.  That’s actually kind of a nice problem to have!

By and large, which palette you apply to your images, either while inspecting or when generating a report, is a matter of personal choice.  Your inspection program might dictate such things, but often they don’t, so the thermographer is given free rein to pick as they like.  As sweet a deal as this is, there are some points to consider when exercising this freedom.

  • Most importantly, what might your customer want?  The “WOW” factor of a multicolor palette goes a long way with some folks, while others like to keep it simple.
  •  Another point, how intuitive are the colors you choose?  Your report loses impact when the end user has to try and decipher which color or shade corresponds with which range of apparent temperatures.
  • Are you delivering the data accurately? Beyond impressing your customer with brilliant images, your chief goal is to deliver useful data.  Sometimes the color palette matters in that regard.
Image 3

Infrared Camera Color Palette Choices

Image 4

Infrared Camera Color Palette Choices

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Infrared Camera Color Palette Choices

Infrared Camera Color Palette Choices

Infrared Camera Color Palette Choices

Infrared Camera Color Palette Choices

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whichever you choose, make sure you explain to your customer which colors denote which ranges of temperature to reduce confusion.  Freedom of choice is a wonderful thing in the thermal world, just makes sure you use it wisely.

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

Thermal Imaging joins the CNX™ Wireless System

Did you know that Fluke infrared cameras can now wirelessly connect to 5 other Fluke test and measurement tools and take multiple measurements simultaneously?

The Fluke Thermal Imaging CNX™ Wireless System includes the following infrared cameras: Ti100, Ti105, Ti110, Ti125, TiR105, TiR110 and TiR125.

Allow us to send you a free Fluke Thermal Imaging CNX™ Wireless System poster and you’ll see how easy it is to:

• Connect multiple instruments wirelessly
• Measure incoming current
• Troubleshoot systems
• Determine current unbalance
• Measure current load

Get your poster here

I Don't Know

Let’s face the facts: we are seen as experts. Customers expect answers from us, usually immediate answers. How tempting it can be to make them happy! Armed with our expensive, high-tech tools, it is all too easy to forget we can’t always come up with those answers.

The temperature difference on this failing surge protection device was less than 3F. Was it a problem? I did not know at the time. Additional research suggested it was not only a problem but one that was probably in imminent danger of failure. The surge protection device, once removed from service, validated that fact. A seal had failed, corrosion was advanced and failure was probably not long off.

The three most important words in our vocabularies should always be “I don’t know.” If that brings to mind “failure,” it should not! Once we get over the stigma of saying it out loud, the phrase can actually become a valuable tool to work with a customer. Some customers will, of course, be disappointed to not have an immediate answer; honestly, these are often the kinds of customers you don’t want to have anyway! Most will appreciate your honest professionalism and caution.

Of course saying “I don’t know…” also opens up room to also say “…but I’ll do my best to find out!” That kind of attitude not only buys some time for further study but also usually endears the relationship with the customer.

Further testing—under different conditions or with additional equipment—may be necessary to discover answers. That may mean you need to renegotiate your agreement or contract. You may need to do further research. One word of warning: if you promise to do something (“I’ll get back to you with that information…”), make sure you do. Breaking promises is a simple way to lose a customer! Some unknowns, while they may be of interest to us as a professional, may not that important in the larger scheme of things. I find customers appreciate my focusing discussions on the big picture and helping keep things in context.

In the end there may be things you don’t know and never will. Can my ego handle that? Somewhere along the way I realized that if, in fact, I never used the phrase “I don’t know,” I was probably not really an expert who was continually challenging myself. Every time I encounter limits to my own knowledge and experience, I now see them as opportunities to grow and expand and do a better job for the next customer.

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

Dive into Questions and Grow into Knowledge

I’ve been working on a project this past week with a couple of young people. I’m impressed with two things. First, they have more energy than I have. Second, I have more experience than they have. While energy is great, relying on experience often means I know how to do things “smarter,” using less energy. I know I sound like an old guy now (and I am) but it also causes me to remember how much I’ve learned from so many other people over the years. For that I am grateful!

Last week we talked about how important mastery of the basics is. If you haven’t mastered operation of your imager or the basics of heat transfer, get out a calendar and commit yourself to a plan to do so.

I also recommend keeping a list of questions you encounter. Jot them down in a notebook or on your computer. Questions like, “Why do the reflections of the ducks appear warmer than the ducks themselves?” (See below for a discussion.) Or one of my all-time favorites, “Can we see an infrared rainbow?” (Short answer: yes, but not with the technology you and I can afford!) There will be, of course, hundreds of seemingly more relevant questions to be listed and answered.

Some of the best questions are “dumb” questions, those asked in innocence or ignorance! Don’t be embarrassed by dumb questions—unless those are all you ever ask!—but embrace and learn from them. There are also many useful questions to which there are no ready answers; these cause us to stretch and seek and, I find, often lead us to new and important places.

Students in our training courses often remind us how important hands-on discovery is in the learning process. They don’t want to hear us lecture, they want to explore and discuss with others. Learning doesn’t get any better than hashing things out with each other!

I often find setting up a simple experiment with a friend can help us understand an unknown issue or answer a question. Together we can provide a valuable “check and balance” for each other and test our knowledge in several ways. At that point we can also validate it against what others have learned. If it still passes the test, only then can we cautiously accept it as a working hypothesis.

If you are going to grow in this profession, you’ll need to become an expert. Don’t duck away from what you don’t know. Dive into it and learn! And by all means explore and learn with your professional colleagues—they too will have a long list of great, dumb questions.


Why do the reflections of the ducks appear warmer than the ducks themselves?

• Radiance from just water = emission from water + reflection from clear (cold) sky
• Radiance from duck reflection = emission from water + reflection from clear (cold) sky + reflection from side of duck.
• Radiance from topside of duck = emission from (wet) duck + reflection from cold sky.
• Radiance from side of duck = emission from duck + reflection from water
• Duck reflection = reflection of emitting/reflecting duck + reflection of sky + emission of water

So…if the topside of the duck is cooler than the water, then the reflection should appear warmer than both the water and the topside of the duck.

Adding the duck’s reflection to the water’s emission/reflection makes it appear slightly warmer than all else.

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

I’ve been working on a project this past week with a couple of young people. I’m impressed with two things. First, they have more energy than I have. Second, I have more experience than they have. While energy is great, relying on experience often means I know how to do things “smarter,” using less energy. I know I sound like an old guy now (and I am) but it also causes me to remember how much I’ve learned from so many other people over the years. For that I am grateful!

Last week we talked about how important mastery of the basics is. If you haven’t mastered operation of your imager or the basics of heat transfer, get out a calendar and commit yourself to a plan to do so.

Description: :::::Images:Ducks.jpg

I also recommend keeping a list of questions you encounter. Jot them down in a notebook or on your computer. Questions like, “Why do the reflections of the ducks appear warmer than the ducks themselves?” (See below for a discussion.) Or one of my all-time favorites, “Can we see an infrared rainbow?” (Short answer: yes, but not with the technology you and I can afford!) There will be, of course, hundreds of seemingly more relevant questions to be listed and answered.

Some of the best questions are “dumb” questions, those asked in innocence or ignorance! Don’t be embarrassed by dumb questions—unless those are all you ever ask!—but embrace and learn from them. There are also many useful questions to which there are no ready answers; these cause us to stretch and seek and, I find, often lead us to new and important places.

Students in our training courses often remind us how important hands-on discovery is in the learning process. They don’t want to hear us lecture, they want to explore and discuss with others. Learning doesn’t get any better than hashing things out with each other!

I often find setting up a simple experiment with a friend can help us understand an unknown issue or answer a question. Together we can provide a valuable “check and balance” for each other and test our knowledge in several ways. At that point we can also validate it against what others have learned. If it still passes the test, only then can we cautiously accept it as a working hypothesis.

If you are going to grow in this profession, you’ll need to become an expert. Don’t duck away from what you don’t know. Dive into it and learn! And by all means explore and learn with your professional colleagues—they too will have a long list of great, dumb questions.

Thinking Thermally,

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

Back to the Basics

thermal image

Some problems don’t necessarily “shout” at you. The increase in temperature of this surge protection device in a substation is only a few degrees warmer than normal. Seeing the signature required adjusting the imager skillfully. Understanding the device could fail at any moment required additional background knowledge and clear communication with the customer.

Nothing is so important in this business as knowing the basics. That’s why I’ve often come back to such topics as adjusting level and span or emissivity or heat transfer. You can have a great imager, good training and a picture-perfect report, but if you don’t have the basics down pat, you’ll never succeed in making a difference for your customer—and making that difference is the only way to pay the bills!

thermal image of ducks

Thermographers can learn a great deal, and test their skills, by simply looking at the world around them and questioning what they see. For example, why do the reflections of the ducks in the water appear warmer than the ducks themselves? While we may not care about ducks, the thought process will help make us better themographers. More on this next week!

In the 30+ years I’ve been in this business I’ve seen many people try to cut corners to get going faster. In the end they always make mistakes, sometimes serious ones, and have to go back to get the basics right.

If you don’t fully understand every last feature of your imaging system, take some time over the next few days or weeks to do that. Even if you don’t routinely use a certain feature, learn how it works so you have it in your “tool kit” when you do need it.

Make sure your images are perfect– perfect focus, perfect perspective, and perfect level/span adjustments. Why would you settle for anything less?

Determine how you will incorporate radiometric temperature measurements into your work flow. There is no right way, but take the time to state it clearly so your customers understand what you are doing and why. Then follow your procedure.

Are you still feeling a bit fuzzy about some part of heat transfer and radiometric theory? Dive back into your training manual and/or take a webinar or class so you are 100% clear about it. I still find each time I go back to the basics I learn something new and reinforce what I already know.

Supporting Your Work, Part II

Reports are an essential part of our work. The professional standards I mentioned last week give good guidance on what that report should look like, at a minimum. Manufacturers like Fluke have done a superb job of developing report writing software that not only makes life simple but also produces great looking reports.

Thermographer Report

A thermographer can find few tasks as important, or rewarding, as reviewing the report with the customers. It is the best way to ensure corrective action is taken in an effective way and to determine the best measure of success.

The report, a great a product as it may be, is usually not our end product. It is just one of the steps along the way to having our work actually make a difference. The steps to success are not magic. They include (1) establishing good communications with the customer, (2) conducting a thorough and professional inspection with the most appropriate imaging equipment, (3) documenting our work and, finally and most importantly, (4) following up with the customer.

While our role in having work actually accomplished may be limited, I’ve often found going over the report with the customer provides a great opportunity to “close” with them and secure a promise of action on their part. On a practical level, customers often have questions, either technical questions or questions about the interpretation of our findings. Without answers, the whole process can get stalled and end up in a pile on their desk.

Fluke hot connectors

Finding a problem like these hot connectors on a dry transformer means the customer can avoid a very costly failure—if they actually are motivated to fix the problem beforehand. The thermographer’s role should include a follow-up after the inspection and the report to ensure successful completion of the work.

I remember a great thermographer at an auto plant who printed all of his reports with a highlighter-yellow border on them. When he walked around the plant, he could quickly spot his reports and immediately follow-up with his customers. His intention was not just to create a fancy report but to have that report motivate the customer to do the work to correct the problem. His simple system allowed him to get much better results than many others in his company.

I had a great example of the value of a follow-up with an insulation contractor. For whatever reason he could not make sense of the images in my report. He kept drilling in the wrong places and not finding what I said would (or would not!) be there. By the time I stopped by the job site, he was so frustrated and so sure I was wrong, he’d “blown me off.” When I showed him how to read the images—both understanding the color palette and being able to locate the problem areas—all was well and the job was completed successfully. I also made a friend and ally of him for future work.

The last contact we have with the customer should not be just sending out the report (or the invoice). We are successful only when our work makes a difference. Why? The savings in the long run, quite literally, pay our salaries! If the work is not done, we’ll end up out of a job. The best way to measure our performance is to see how often our work motivates the customer to get the job done. So pick up the phone or stop by their office and see how things are going. In the end, if you are doing your job well, they may also, as I discovered, give you more work or even a referral. Not bad for a day’s work!

Thinking Thermally,

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

Supporting Your Work

Last week I talked about the value of following professional standards. Not only do they lay out the best “recipe” for success but standards are also widely accepted as “collateral” in most industries where we work. By following standards, your work will immediately gain credibility.

Section 14 of ASTM C-1153, Standard Practice for Location of Wet Insulation in Roofing Systems Using Infrared Imaging, clearly states what data needs to be collected and included in the report if the work is to comply with this important professional document.

A key component of all standards is documentation. Not only do the images need to be documented, but the data about the conditions before and during the work. In order to make your life simple and your work effective, I urge you to make data collection as systematic as possible. There are few things worse than scrambled or missing data but some of us had to learn that fact the hard way! Please learn from my mistakes.

Nearly all standards have a list of data that should be recorded for the entire job. Such things as air temperature, wind speed and direction, building type, time of day/night, etc. are all captured for the entire inspection. Of course, if there is any change during the inspection, that should be noted. The check list you work from for your inspection should key directly to the standard you are following.

With regard to the inspection itself, more data needs to be collected for each and every image. Many new thermal images make this documentation very easy by providing both a simultaneous visual image and either text or voice annotation. While the visual image may not always be perfect(due to poor lighting, lack of detail, etc) it is typically good enough to provide basic identification information later should any questions arise. Gone are the days of matching up separate visual and thermal images! Still, when faced with abnormally bright or dark scenes, take the time to make sure the visual image is adequate.

Fluke’s new IR-PhotoNotes system provides another brilliant means of documentation by linking associated images. You can, for example, take a visual image of the identification numbers on the front of an electrical enclosure and associate it with the thermal image of what is inside. I predict you’ll find this feature very useful!

I find the voice annotation feature to be very useful. I like to script what I’m going to say so that I know I’ve gotten all the details in the proper order when I listen to them while writing the report. For example, in a building I’ll clearly state (1) floor level, (2) direction of view, (3) exterior or interior wall, and (4) a quick description of what I’m seeing. If I’m in a motor control center (MCC), I might state (1) equipment identification numbers, (2) type of device, (3) phase and line/load side on which the problem is found, (4) load across the phases and again, (5) a quick description of what I’m seeing.

One bushing on an oil-filled circuit breaker can look just like another one after a long day’s work. Good documentation is critical to success. You don’t want to point the repair crews to the wrong bushing or have them miss this one that may well be ready to cause an outage.

Text annotation, whether in the imager or in the report template, should be keyed to the voice annotation so that you can listen to your voice and quickly fill in the related text. That, in turn, should show up directly in the merged report. What a time savings that all can be!

Take the time to streamline the data you record. Get what you need and do it in a systematic fashion. The investment will pay handsome returns when it comes time to write your report,do your analysis, and again when you sit down with the customer to explain your work.

Thinking Thermally,

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

Follow the "Recipe!"

Last week I talked about how to move yourself and your imager into the best position to get good thermal data. Another big part of being successful is understanding and following professional thermography standards. Like a good time-tested recipe, these help us get high quality, consistent results.

As I’ve said before, I’ve made plenty of mistakes in the nearly 30 years I’ve been in this business. In fact the knowledge many of us gained in making mistakes is the foundation for professional standards. Following standards helps us avoid common mistakes and follow procedures that will result in success.

Inspection of buildings, especially large ones, needs to be done following professional standards.

Thermography standards have been developed under the auspices of two primary organizations, ASTM and ISO. Additionally, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has two standards that relate to the technology. Other organizations have also developed standards related to thermography and more are being developed every year.

All professional standards are written and kept current by volunteers in committees. All are also copyrighted and can be purchased for a reasonable fee. Revenue from selling standards is a primary source of support for the activities of the organizations, so I would ask that you purchase standards rather than use illegal copies.

Currently excellent standards exist for all the main applications of thermography. This is what is available:

• ASTM E 1934, Standard guide for examining electrical and mechanical equipment with infrared thermography

ASTM C-1060 Standard practice for Thermographic Inspection of insulation Installations in Envelope Cavities of Frame Buildings

ASTM E1186 Air Leakage Site Detection in Building Envelopes and Air Barrier Systems

• ASTM C 1153 Standard Practice for the Location of Wet Insulation in Roofing Systems Using Infrared Imaging

ASTM E2582 Infrared Flash Thermography of Composite Panels and Repair Patches Used in Aerospace Applications

• ISO 6781 Thermal insulation, qualitative detection of thermal irregularities in building envelopes, Infrared Method

ISO 18434-2.1 Condition monitoring and diagnostics of machines—Thermography —Part 1:General procedures

• ISO 18436-7 Condition monitoring and diagnostics of machines — Requirements for qualification and assessment of personnel —Part 7:Thermography

• NFPA 70-B, Recommended practice for electrical equipment maintenance

• NFPA 70-E, Standard for Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces

Where would building professionals be, for example, without standards relating to the use of the blower door? The same need for standard methodologies apply to using a blower door and a thermal imager.

In addition to these there are also standards for certification as well as a number of standards related to the imagers and infrared radiometers we use.

To be honest, a number of these standards need to be updated and there are more areas of application where work needs to be done! All of the professional committees responsible for these standards are driven by volunteers like you and me. The work is not hard but, in our ever busier and busier world, many feel they have less and less time for such things. We all will pay for this neglect!

I urge you to obtain and use professional standards. That will benefit us all. I also ask that you consider volunteering on the committees that write and maintain standards. If you’d like more details, just go their respective websites and initiate contact with them.

Thinking Thermally,

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

Move Your Feet

After years of working with new thermographers in our training classes, I’ve learned a lot about how people learn. First, we never get it right the first time! Don’t worry about making mistakes, in fact, it is important to make them. But it is also equally important to learn from them. In class we let people “stumble” once or twice but we help them find where the learning “trip hazards” are and protect them from major failures.

A very common mistake new thermographers make is to stand in one position. Not surprising! They get so fascinated with their new “toy” that they forget to even move. Moving, but doing so safely, is crucial to getting good results.

It is important to move to a position that you capture some point of reference in the image. In this case we can see all three phases and quickly see it is the center phase that has a heating problem.

Whether we are searching for an anomaly or trying to get a detailed image of one we’ve already found, it is important to be in the right place. When searching, plan to move a lot. Get in a spot with a good vantage point and scan over large areas using appropriate level and span settings, usually set manually (Learn more about setting level and span manually here). Avoid walking and looking at your screen at the same time. To do otherwise is just asking for an accident. Move, stop and image.

If you are detailing something you’ve already found, whether a hot electrical connection or an area of missing insulation, get as close as you can safely to show exactly the area you want to document. Typically for an electrical connection, this means showing at least two of the three phases, and preferably all three at once. For insulation or air leakage, show the problem and an easily recognized object, like a door or window, to help locate where you are looking. In all cases, move closer. Every pixel in our image is important and the closer we are the more value they have.

While either image can work, the one on the right is better because it is taken at right angles to the wall and, as a result, is in better focus.

I’ve also watched new thermographers struggle with focus. Often this is because they are simply in the wrong place. In a building, for instance, they often try imaging a long wall from one spot with the result being part of the wall is out of focus. Remember modern imaging systems have a very shallow depth of field. It is far better to move and stay parallel to the wall and take several images, all of which you can easily keep in focus. The same thing happens when looking at an overhead buss duct. Focus, image, move and repeat.

Remember that like visible light, infrared radiation travels in a straight line. We need to get in a position that we can see the “target” with our eyes before we have any chance of seeing its thermal image. Once you get the basics of camera operation down pat, you can more easily think about where you need to be to get those great images. But when you move, do it safely. Watch for trip hazards and moving vehicles and don’t move and view the image at the same time.

Next week I’d like to return to the topic of industry standards. We don’t need to re-invent our profession. We just need to be smart enough to follow the “recipes” others have developed for us.

Thinking Thermally,

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

1-Time Auto Adjust

Last week we discussed how to adjust level and span manually. Sometimes this can lead to a lot of “button pushing!” It is not a big deal – just one of life’s little aggravations. Thankfully, many models of Fluke imagers have a very helpful solution: 1-TIME AUTO ADJUST.

Both images were taken using AUTO adjust. In both cases the overall image quality is excellent but there is not a great detail in the hot/cold water itself. Why? The temperature of the counter on which the cups rest determines one end of the SPAN setting.

How does 1-TIME AUTO ADJUST work?

When the imager is in the MANUAL mode, you can press the F3 button and instantly get a 1-TIME AUTO ADJUST. This feature works just like AUTO but with one very important difference: it only works when you press the F3 button. The image is then adjusted based on whatever is in the field of view at that moment. The warmest temperature defines the upper limit of the SPAN and the lowest temperature defines the lower limit.

Using the same cups, I simply moved close enough to the water to exclude the counter from the field of view and pressed F3 (1-TIME AUTO ADJUST). Immediately the SPAN is decreased and the LEVEL set appropriately for each cup to give amazing detail in the water (and ice).

When does 1-TIME AUTO ADJUST work best?

As I indicated last week, I often find it most useful to be in the MANUAL adjust mode. But it is also great to have the option of quickly re-adjusting the SPAN. When?

• If I need to quickly adjust to the right SPAN and LEVEL to look at wall insulation, I will walk right up to the wall and press F3. The image immediate adjusts a very tight SPAN at a LEVEL appropriate to the wall temperatures.

• When I don’t understand how to best adjust an image for a particular situation, for example an energized dry transformer, I can press F3 and quickly get a different view; it may not be perfect but it will help me understand what further manual adjustments I need to make to get a perfect image.

• When I’m conducting a functionality check of my imager by viewing the face of a person, I can move close to their face, press F3 and quickly end up with an image adjusted with a narrow SPAN for a LEVEL appropriate to facial temperatures, just as I did with the wall.

Inside a home the sun on the window shade is hot enough to force the SPAN setting to be increased so much that the spot of missing insulation is not easily seen. The solution? I moved close to the wall, excluding the window, and pressed F3 (1-TIME AUTO ADJUST), allowing me to see the insulation issue. The overall image is “noisy” due to the narrow SPAN and the window is now saturated but the detail I want for my analysis is much more clear.

What are the limitations of 1-TIME AUTO ADJUST?

Just as is the case with using AUTO, if you have extraneous hot or cold areas in the image, 1-TIME AUTO ADJUST will take them into account as it adjusts, resulting in a poor quality image.

How can I use 1-TIME AUTO ADJUST successfully?

Ensure that objects with extraneous hot and cold temperatures are not in the image when you press F3. As an example, rather than pressing F3 while viewing a wall with a cold window and warm radiator, point the imager at the floor or move closer to the wall so you are viewing only the wall. When you then press F3, you’ll get an adjustment that is much closer to what you want.

Of course you can always make a fine adjustment by going into MANUAL or, after downloading the image in Smartview. If you have it, try 1-TIME AUTO ADJUST and learn what it can and cannot do. You’ll quickly learn when to use it to great advantage.

Next week we’ll move on to the basic, but very important topic of what is your point of view. This will not be a political discussion, but one of how to gain the best thermal image!

Thinking Thermally,

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