A picture is worth a thousand words

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Learn more about identifying energy waste and improving energy performance by attending one of Gundersen Health System’s Envision® Sustainability Series seminars.

This photo was taken with a thermal imaging camera that utilizes infrared technology (thermography) to measure the temperatures of subjects in the photo. The colors enhance the viewer’s ability to distinguish cool and warm areas of the surfaces in the image. The warmest areas are white or yellow and the coolest are deep blue or purple. As you can see from the scale, the range of temperatures in this photo is between 52 and 73 degrees Fahrenheit. This particular photo is of four windows in a sky bridge connecting two large clinics on Gundersen’s La Crosse, WI, medical campus. The purple “bulls-eye” in one of the windows identifies a gas leak between the panes in the window. Without the gas between the panes, the window has a significant loss in insulating properties, thus it is wasting energy and should be replaced. This is not noticeable with the naked eye and requires a technology such as thermography to identify the problem. The leaky window is just one of many energy saving examples that Gundersen’s staff has identified in its facilities since purchasing a thermal imaging camera.

A thermal imaging camera can be a very useful tool in evaluating opportunities to improve energy performance of your buildings. They can be used to audit the outside envelope of a building to see if it is “tight” or if it is leaking energy. You can use these instruments to identify insulation problems on pipes and in walls, steam trap failures, computer problems, and lighting fixture issues. Thermal imaging can also be used to inspect electronic components such as breaker panels, relays, etc., to proactively identify failures which will save energy, reduce maintenance problems, and improve fire safety. A picture is truly “worth a thousand words” and images can be digitally saved and copied into reports with many of the latest models. These cameras are very expensive but have become somewhat more affordable in recent years. Several manufacturers make thermal imaging cameras that suit the purpose for energy audits. Jointly utilizing a thermal imaging camera to save money in facilities maintenance, safety, and energy management departments may ease justification of the upfront expense. By making wasteful energy use visible, the thermal imaging camera is definitely a great tool to identify otherwise “hidden” problems.

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