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Thermal Imaging Cameras assisting in low cost housing applications

Supplier: FLIR Systems Australia
17 June, 2013

The building sector offers the largest single potential for improving energy efficiency

Infrared thermography is the easiest and quickest method to detect energy waste, moisture and electrical issues in buildings. An infrared camera shows exactly where the problems are and helps focus the inspectors' attention allowing him or her to properly diagnose areas with energy loss.

Worldwide over 1.1 billion people are living in inadequate housing conditions. The United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UNCHS) estimates that 21 million new housing units are required each year to accommodate the growth in households.

One organisation that is dedicated to solving this issue is Habitat for Humanity; their goal is to build simple, decent and affordable homes across the globe. ArcelorMittal set out to help Habitat for Humanity achieve that goal by developing a steel based housing solution for families in need.

The houses needed to be simple, safe, decent, and above all: well insulated. That is where FLIR thermal imaging plays an important role. Research and development professionals at ArcelorMittal Liège Research used FLIR thermal imaging cameras to optimize the design of this housing solution.

Three months of development resulted in a prototype called 'Good House'. The house uses a light steel frame structure, a pre-painted steel roof tile system, a steel rainwater extraction system, and a steel cladding made of pre-painted roll-formed parts.

The houses are designed to be environmentally friendly as the steel frame results in a more durable structure that will last longer than other similarly priced models, they can also be easily deconstructed and once disassembled, almost all of the materials can be recycled indefinitely.

Energy-efficient for environmental and economic reasons thorough thermographic inspection

ArcelorMittal also wanted the model to be energy-efficient for environmental and economic reasons, but also to provide comfort. The prototype therefore had to be inspected thoroughly. "Here at the Research Center in Liège we use thermal imaging cameras for building insulation tests, but also for shear tests in laboratory conditions," stated Francis Lamberg, thermography expert at ArcelorMittal Liège Research

Lamberg uses his FLIR thermal imaging camera regularly. “It really is a great tool for energy audits. It is light, compact and easy to use and it provides exactly the thermal data you need for this type of inspection."

FLIR offers industry leading image quality and special features

  • FLIR's i3, i5, i7 are the smallest, lightest and most affordable thermal imaging camera on the market. They are incredibly easy to use. It really is a matter of "point-shoot-detect" to obtain high-quality thermal images that will immediately give you the thermal information you need.
  • FLIR's E30bx, E40bx, E50bx and E60bx cameras were developed for building and HVAC inspections and set a new standard in excellence and value. Packed with features such as Bluetooth and a touchscreen, you can connect to smartphones or tablets via Wi-Fi, for processing and sharing results as well as for remote control.
  • FLIR's T400bx-Series and T600bx-Series have the features of the E-Series and then some.  The camera series is designed for the expert requiring high performance and the latest technology available and feature ergonomics and flexibility with very high to extremely high image quality. The series also includes GPS, a compass, Instant Report, Multi Spectral Dynamic Imaging (MSX)*and Image Sketch*.

Insulation flaws

The thermal data collected proved that the prototype had some initial insulation design flaws both in the window frames and in the indoor partition walls.

"We found several thermal bridges during the inspection. A thermal bridge is an area with less insulation. Heat follows the path of the least resistance. Often heat will 'short circuit' through an element that has much higher conductivity than the surrounding material. This is called a thermal bridge."

Luckily both of the insulation problems were easily solved. "A new version was made with these changes implemented, and repeated thermal imaging inspections proved that the new prototype showed no thermal bridges."

Lamberg is very happy with the support from FLIR throughout. "Training, camera quality, after sales support, FLIR delivers the whole package." The thermal imaging camera Lamberg currently uses still functions perfectly, but in the unlikely event that something happens with it, or if Lamberg needs an additional thermal imaging camera, his choice in camera supplier is clear: "It will be a FLIR."