Chasing leaks is a big part of what most plumbing contractors do for a living – and it’s not an easy job. A growing number of plumbers are finding that a thermal imaging camera is an excellent tool for any leak detection strategy. Because water always chooses the path of least resistance, thermal imaging helps trace the water’s path back to the original leak point, no matter if the thermal imaging camera detects cold or hot anomalies.
Best Uses for Plumbers
These cameras are excellent at locating blockages in drains and pipes, especially when alternating between hot and cold water lines. The camera can spot damaged materials as well as the actual flow of water, making it a reliable means of detection.
• Because thermal imaging equipment allows you to measure and detect the changes in surface temperature, you can more easily pinpoint leaks beneath concrete slabs, behind walls and tile surfaces and in ceilings.
• Mapping the route(s) of leaking water also enables you to prove that water is escaping from more than one source. For example, pipe corrosion often results in multiple leaks.
• Thermal imaging allows you to track the extent of damage to the affected area, as the leak rarely starts at or near the point of visible damage.
• One of the best benefits of using a thermal imaging camera is being able to locate and repair leaks before there’s any physical evidence of water damage.
This non-invasive method is an excellent way to detect leaks quickly and accurately in large or small homes and commercial buildings because it doesn’t require you to have direct physical access to the areas being examined.
Choosing a Camera
As with most modern technologies, each brand, style and model of thermal imaging cameras offers its own features and capabilities. And like any other useful tool, the best models don’t come cheap. Here are a few of the more reasonably priced models. All the following cameras include photograph storage capabilities so you can document your findings.
Fluke VT02 Visual IR Thermometer
Despite a price tag below $500, this camera is durable, easy to use and versatile. It can scan temps between 14 and 482 degrees within a 2-point degree of precision in either direction. The video screen can be adjusted from full visual to full thermal imaging and the detection range can be fine-tuned based on the reflectivity and density of the object being scanned. The screen is small, but offers enough resolution to clearly detect hot or cold spots.
DeWalt DCT416S1 Imager
This power tool giant has expanded into thermal imagery due to the growing demand for these tools. This hand-held model offers thermal imaging and thermometer capabilities for less than $1000. It does as good a job at detecting moisture leaks as models costing three times the price. It features a standard camera lens and a wide-array thermometer which blend readings into a visual representation of the image and thermal readings. Because it reads temperatures between 14 and 480 degrees, it’s useful for locating both cold and hot water leaks.
As the pioneer in thermal imaging devices, FLIR produces a huge range of well-built, technically-innovative products. This model is one of the least expensive cameras they offer, but it’s a great choice for plumbing contractors. The approximately 3-inch LCD screen provides clear, high-resolution images and its temperature sensitivity is accurate to within a fraction of one degree either way. It features auto focus and includes a microSD card that holds up to 5,000 still images. Priced at about $1400, it’s a premium tool designed for productivity.
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