Often, there’s no warning before electrical and mechanical systems face issues. Having said that, you’ll often notice that before an equipment failure occurs, there’s a prolonged period when it emits excessive heat. If this heat rise is detected on time, the faults in the equipment may be repaired before it fails thereby avoiding downtime. Infrared thermography, therefore, helps in preventive maintenance by locating spots that are abnormally hot or cold.
Infrared cameras are used while carrying out thermal imaging inspections on electrical components. These cameras are pointed at the component to locate any area giving off too much heat. The excessive heat is an indication of loose connections that may result in overloaded circuits or unbalanced loads triggering fires.
Before we discuss the benefits of including thermal imaging as an integral part of preventive maintenance of electrical equipment, let’s look into the electrical equipment that’s critical to most facilities. They include:
- The main switchgear or the main distribution panel
- The main protective device
- The branch protective devices
- The circuit breakers of the generator
- The busways
- The Motor Control Centers (MCCs)
- The transformers (external thermal patterns)
- Downstream panel boards along with the devices for protection
- The transfer switches
- Some of the equipment disconnect switches
- The control panels
- The UPS systems
- The conductor connections within these types of equipment
All this equipment is essential in providing power and all of these are included for thermal imaging and their images are taken to locate hot spots. The equipment covers need to be removed before taking the images. This helps understand the anomalies in temperature.
The recorded temperatures are compared against the industry standards and guidelines to see how well the equipment is performing and whether any anomalies exist. This helps locate faults on time so that equipment failures that cause unscheduled outages can be identified.
Having looked into what the critical pieces of equipment are, let’s get into the details of the benefits of thermal inspection of electrical components.
Timely Detection of Electrical Faults and Defects
Regular monitoring of thermal patterns and temperatures of electrical components during preventive maintenance checks helps you detect any possible faults early. It helps in better planning of the preventive maintenance schedule. Integrating thermal imaging into these schedules helps you significantly reduce the risks of breakdowns. The business saves time by avoiding unscheduled stoppages to work, and of course, a lot of money by avoiding costly repairs.
Help Lower Insurance Premiums
Regular checks using thermal imaging are very important in preventing serious mishaps. That’s why some businesses are required to carry out thermography tests to deliver what their insurance companies seek. As timely detection of faults helps prevent costly repairs or complete replacement of components, the insurance premium the business needs to pay is reduced significantly.
No Impact on Business Downtime
What’s best about thermal imaging is that it’s non-destructive and non-intrusive. It implies that there’s no need to cut off the power supply during the tests and the components can continue running as they normally do. Therefore, the business suffers no downtime when preventive maintenance checks are being carried out.
The Risk of Fires is Greatly Reduced
Thermal imaging reveals excessively heated components which could be an indication of a loose connection. If these components are located early, the circuits can be prevented from getting overloaded or unbalanced. These are also effective in preventing cables from melting or arcing. The danger of them giving off sparks is prevented as well. Therefore, the risks of fire can be reduced greatly.
A Handy Backup for Periodic Fixed Wire Testing
Certain electrical issues go undetected during fixed wire testing and inspection. Electrical thermography helps spot them. Periodic fixed wire testing can only ensure the proper working of earth protection, fuses, and circuit breakers during short circuit and fault load conditions. Poor connections bring other risks that can’t be dealt with by fixed wire testing. Hence, thermal imaging must be carried out to make sure that no poor connections have been left behind during fixed wire testing.
Intrusive Maintenance Can Be Planned Around Normal Business Operations
With electrical thermography, only the equipment requiring remedial work can be identified and how severe the defect is can be gauged. Therefore, maintenance programs can be planned well while operational commitments are met. This helps maximize plant and machinery availability.
Extend Equipment Life and Identify Areas of Energy Savings
Thermographic inspections help facilities gauge the condition of the equipment—their operational effectiveness. It helps identify areas where energy savings can be made. Also, timely repairs help extend an equipment’s lifecycle.
Cost of Breakdowns is Reduced
The cost of electrical failures can be huge running into thousands of dollars that need to be spent on repairs, injury claims, production loss, etc. It depends on the equipment type and where it’s located. Thermography helps identify defects before the equipment fails. Therefore, it helps prevent equipment failure thereby reducing breakdown costs.
Unexpected downtime caused by faulty equipment may cause major losses to any business. Therefore, regular checks of all equipment must be carried out judiciously. To make such regular maintenance checks more effective and efficient, thermal imaging should be integrated into preventive maintenance. Thermal imaging provides data that’s more accurate helping highlight exactly where the faults lie.
A major advantage of thermal imaging is that it is non-invasive and non-destructive. That makes it possible for businesses to carry out testing without having to disrupt the normal functioning of the equipment. Regular thermal imaging inspections help locate faults that can be repaired on time preventing major faults causing downtime and huge losses.
Thermal imaging also helps make facilities much safer as they help locate and rectify faults before they get serious. When faults in electrical components are attended to on time, the possibilities of fires breaking out are reduced greatly. Timely detection of electrical faults also helps avoid expensive repairs at a later stage. Therefore, they are very effective in cutting costs. The benefits of thermal imaging are immense and hence, it must be made a part of all preventive maintenance programs.