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How much energy is my building really losing?

Posted by Richard Strange on Oct 1, 2010 11:33:00 AM

Governments want businesses and consumers to find ways to save energy. But there is still much ignorance about how to assess where it is being lost from buildings. The answer is a thermal imaging survey.

Recent reports claim that different Governments around the world may introduce taxes for households and commercial enterprises whose buildings are not sufficiently insulated. Whether or not these reports are true, the fact is that buildings are a major contributor of greenhouse gases. Some estimates have buildings responsible for as much as 40% of all emissions.

There are clear social and economic arguments for reducing energy consumption and ensuring buildings are adequately insulated. But how do you discover which parts of your buildings need most attention? Energy leaking from buildings is in the infrared part of the spectrum and cannot be seen with the naked eye. To track it, you need a thermal imaging camera. These can measure and calculate the difference in temperature between surfaces to as little as 0.05°C. If there is a ‘leakage’ of energy from a building - such as heat loss from a house or office, or cold air from an industrial refrigeration plant - the thermal imaging survey spots it.

Most energy loss in buildings comes from the roof, doors and windows. Walls are also key areas, explained Sat Sandhu, product marketing manager at Irisys, a leading thermal image camera manufacturer.

“No end of companies offer to install double glazing, cavity wall and loft insulation to both private homes and commercial buildings. But even reputable installers often miss areas of leakage,” he said. “Poor installation can mean new windows leak more energy through spaces around the frame than they save by having them installed in the first place.”

For private homeowners, the answer is to call in a professional thermographer: someone trained to use a thermal camera, interpret the images, and offer appropriate advice. Larger organisations with dedicated facility and building managers can do the same, or can buy their own thermal imaging camera and train their people to use it.

Just released, the Irisys IRI4015 building thermal imager is the most feature packed and easy to use thermal image camera for its price. “Whether you want to buy a device or find a local expert to provide you with a thermal image survey, the Irisys network of distributors and partners can help,” said Sat Sandhu.