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Preventing Electrical Fires Using Infrared Technology

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On average, approximately one third of all property losses are electrically related. Fully
one fourth of those losses are caused by faulty electrical connections. In such cases, loose,
dirty, damaged, corroded or oxidized connections and contacts inevitably lead to increased
electrical resistance - generating heat and infrared energy as a result. Such problems, given
sufficient time, inevitably result in fire or explosion.
Identifying electrical threats before they reach combustion or component failure
temperatures is becoming increasingly more difficult due to the complexity of todays
building operation systems and control equipment. In addition, the sheer number of
contactors, breakers, fuses, and other electrical service hardware make it virtually
impossible to physically inspect, shut down, and tighten every electrical connection on any
regular basis.
With occupant safety, energy conservation, minimal downtime and the protection of
capitol equipment all being synonymous with proper maintenance, more and more building
operators are turning away from occasional physical electrical checks in favor of the latest
preventative maintenance technologies.

Infrared Thermography (IR) operates by measuring the infrared energy of any objects
surface and producing a detailed visual image showing its temperature profile. Since IR
operates without physical contact, it offers building operators a safe, on-line, and costeffective means to evaluate the electrical operation of any property. While many borderline
problem areas typically remain undetected during an off-line physical inspection, they can
be easily pinpointed using IR.
Infrared Thermography is ideally suited for detecting faults in electrical panels, breakers,

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Preventing Electrical Fires Using Infrared Technology

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switchgear, splices, insulators, starters, contactors, wiring, distribution systems, disconnects,


and transformers, etc. With a lesser degree of reliability, IR can locate water leakage in
roofs, steam trap malfunctions, ineffective HVAC air distribution patterns, motor and
bearing defects, building energy loss, pipe blockages and underground pipe leakage providing a visual representation of the heat generated or lost in almost any physical
application.

The below series of photographs help show the potential of infrared technology, and why
it is considered one of the most valuable nondestructive tools available. The control or
standard photograph on the left helps to identify the source of the problem; the infrared
image the problem.
In many cases, the highest temperature value and most defined point within an infrared
photograph will identify the actual source of the problem - such as a single bolt, electrical
component, or contact surface.

Knife Switch - Knife switch contacts present a constant maintenance


problem to most older properties. Annual IR inspections of such
properties typically find multiple contact problems which can only be
repaired by shutting down the equipment, disassembly and cleaning of
the contacts, reassembly, and re-tensioning. Upgrading with new
disconnect equipment is recommended as the obvious long term solution.

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Preventing Electrical Fires Using Infrared Technology

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Transmission Lines - This 460 volt tower between buildings showed a


problem at an old splice. Temperatures were measured at near 300
degrees F., and had charred the nearby wire to bare metal. A
combination of weathering, old age, and a less than acceptable wire splice
ultimately produced this electrical problem.

Knife Switch - Knife switches and most types of sliding electrical


contact always present the potential for hot spot problems. Add to
them the moisture present in an outdoor environment and serious
faults can result. In this example, the A phase of this disconnect
switch was found exceeding 350 degrees F.

For most infrared inspections, a client's primary interest is to identify the hot spot
locations presenting the most serious and immediate threat. However, other electrical and
mechanical problems may exist which may also present a potential threat to reliable building
and plant operations.
A typical IR inspection may identify panel doors damaged, mismatched or over rated
fuses in place, indicator lights out, inoperative safety mechanisms, as well as various other
forms of potential electrical or mechanical threats and liabilities. Unlabeled panels, while not

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in themselves an operating problem, would likely slow an emergency response to one.


Emergency automatic transfer switch (ATS) equipment, tested only in normal mode,
would not guarantee proper operation during emergency power. Similarly, testing
switchgear and starter panels under little or no load, such as often exists for momentary or
standby equipment, would not likely show a problem. Identifying such equipment for special
attention during future inspections, therefore, will greatly benefit any building or plant
operation.
Review our disclaimer on any technical information contained within this article.
Copyright

CorrView is the first "pipe fuse" for HVAC systems. Produces a brilliant color change
indicating that a predetermined amount of pipe wall thickness has been lost due to internal
corrosion.
CorrView is a new product designed in response to corrosion problems
recognized in over 22 years of chemical water treatment and ultrasonic pipe
testing experience.
This simple, self-contained, low cost, and maintenance free corrosion
testing device provides every property owner / plant operator an easy and
effective means to realistically measure corrosion activity. Ideally suited for
monitoring condenser water and other HVAC or process piping.
We hope the above Technical Bulletin has been interesting and helpful.
Please feel free to contact CorrView International, LLC at any time to discuss
any particular corrosion, piping, or rust problem or concern.

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Operates Under Actual System Conditions


Installed Directly Into The Piping System
More Accurate Than Corrosion Coupons
Extends Monitoring Coverage
Provides Added Safety

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Preventing Electrical Fires Using Infrared Technology

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Measures All Forms Of Corrosion Effect


Low Cost, Easy Installation Extends Use
Provides Independant Testing

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