Leaks are a common problem in underground pipes and often invisible to the naked eye. Since these pipes are underneath the ground, the leaks may have been present for a while before they are identified.
If these leaks are not detected in time, they give rise to grave problems. You will need to incur expensive bills when it comes to repairing them if neglected. Commercial establishments face bigger problems as a utility leak can disrupt business operations causing huge losses. The sooner you identify these pipe leaks, the better it is for you.
Conventional processes like excavation of underground pipes are time-consuming and incur a lot of hassles. Residential and commercial premises might need to shut down the main supply for the leak to be detected.
This is where thermal imaging steps in to be handy. Irrespective of whether these pipes carry hot or cold fluids or gas, infrared thermography plays a crucial role in helping you to detect these leaks instantly. Even if they are buried deep inside the ground, the thermal imaging scanner can see them to give you accurate reports.
An overview of the thermal imaging process for inspections
Thermal imaging is known as infrared thermography. It is used for the identification of changes in electromagnetic spectrums present in an infrared range. The naked eye can only see light that is visible but thermal imaging can read wavelengths that you cannot see. It has advantages when it comes to the detection of utility leaks because anything hotter than absolute zero releases infrared radiation.
The same is true for liquids as well. Under the ideal circumstances, thermal imaging is used for the detection of leaks in underground utilities. This generally includes underground pipes. They are often overlooked. When using thermal imaging for pipe leaks, the camera does not see the moisture but it can identify the minute differences in the temperatures that arise due to the leaks.
How can you locate a utility leak with the help of thermal imaging?
When any underground pipe develops a leak, its fluid comes out into its surrounding. The fluid might be hot or cold so there are changes in the temperature of the surrounding areas where the pipe is located. With the help of thermal imaging, this change in temperature can be accurately detected.
When the leak comes out from a buried pipe, it looks unusual. There is the presence of thermal anomalies and the shape of the pipe changes. The following are the key factors that determine how the leak in the pipe appears-
- The pipe’s temperature
- The way the pipe is made
- How deep is the pipe buried inside the ground?
- The quality of fluid lost
- The amount it covers on the ground
- The moisture content and the nature of the soil
Factors to consider during an inspection-
When you are conducting inspections of utility pipes with thermal imaging, do them in the night. There should be no light or wind, if possible. This will make it easy for you to identify the change in the temperatures in the ground. If the sun is too bright, it interferes with the inspection and the technology behind infrared imaging. It is referred to as solar reflection or solar loading. If the pipes are inside a premise, you can perform inspections in the day. You need to take every step to mitigate interference from other heat and light sources in the best way possible. This also includes the sunlight that comes inside the premise through a window.
Get easy access and accurate results
You can perform inspections with infrared imaging via vehicles, aircraft, and on foot. The imager of the device has to be maneuvered over the pathway of the pipes. They are usually spread out in straight lines with a clear definition. Their networks are easy to spot on an infrared imaging device. If you notice a bulge in the pipe, this generally means a leak sign. The shape of the pipe becomes abnormal. On the thermal imaging scanner, this leak might appear in a different color if you compare it with the remaining part of the pipe. This is since the fluid inside is either cooled down or heated up while passing through it. When this fluid leaves the pipe completely, there are sudden temperature changes that cause the liquid inside to change its color.
Benefits of thermal imaging to detect leaks
Once this leak has been detected, it is subsequently marked. Further investigation needs to be conducted on this pipe. When you use thermal imaging to locate leaks, you-
- Can detect the utility leak faster
- Save huge costs
- Get an easy process to detect leaks in underground pipes
- No need for extensive excavations
- Mitigate complex procedures that are inconvenient for crews to carry out, for instance, you do not need to switch off the main water pipe for the inspection
Thermal imaging allows the crew to dig that spot where the leak has been detected. They conveniently can perform repairs. They do not leave big footprints or inconvenience others when these repairs are carried out. Companies save time and money. The repairs can be done instantly without disrupting any major service.
Drone technology can also be combined with thermal imaging
If you want to improve the accuracy of thermal imaging, you can team it up with drone technology. The drone can be equipped with the scanner for better access. This boosts the visibility and you get a complete overview of any site with underground pipes. This process can be effectively used for the effective detection of gas leaks and water leaks.
Thermal imaging for the detection of water and gas leaks can be used for both residential and commercial premises. It can prevent major problems and save huge costs. You should rely on credible and experienced companies that specialize in thermal imaging for utility leaks to get accurate reports. They will help you plan for the next action step and mitigate inconvenience, wastage of time and disruption in workflows, if any.