thermal camera for plumbing for commercial use

Thermal Cameras for Plumbing Inspections: A Guide for Plumbers

Thermal imaging cameras have become an indispensable tool for many plumbers and plumbing contractors. A high-quality thermal camera allows plumbers to quickly scan pipes, valves, radiators, and other plumbing components for temperature anomalies that may indicate leaks, clogs, or other underlying issues.

What is a Small Drain Camera?

A thermal imaging camera contains a heat sensor that is able to detect subtle temperature differences and convert them into a visual image. The camera displays hotter areas in lighter colors and colder areas in darker colors. This allows plumbers to literally “see” heat patterns and temperature variances that are not visible to the naked eye.
Thermal cameras do not require direct contact with the object being scanned. As long as there is line-of-sight, the thermal camera can read surface temperatures from a distance. This allows plumbers to scan hard-to-reach pipes or areas covered with insulation.
Key Benefits of Using a Thermal Camera
Thermal cameras offer a number of important benefits for plumbing applications:
  • Detect leaks early - Temperature differences caused by escaping water or steam make leaks obvious with a thermal camera. Finding leaks early helps minimize water damage and repairs.
  • Find clogs/buildup - Blockages and obstructions impact water flow and cause temperature variances that are easy to spot with thermal imaging. Identifying buildup early is important for maintenance.
  • Check valves/fittings - Thermal scanning locates temperature differences caused by failing valves or improper fittings. Problems can be fixed before they cause significant issues.
  • Evaluate insulation - Insulation gaps or compression allows heat loss/gain and moisture intrusion. A thermal camera displays these problems plainly.
  • Scan large areas quickly - Thermal cameras cover large areas rapidly versus point measurements. Quickly scan floors, walls, ceilings, etc to find hidden plumbing issues.
This video shows how a thernal camera makes finding a sewage leak in an otherwise dry home easy.
"A drain pipe camera allows identifying and addressing minor drain issues before they become major expensive problems."

What to Look for in a Plumber's Thermal Camera

Plumbers should look for thermal cameras designed specifically for building inspection and maintenance applications. Key features include:
  • Temperature range - Look for a wide temperature range like -4°F to 1202°F to accommodate all plumbing inspection needs.
  • Thermal sensitivity - Maximum sensitivity of at least 0.045°C ensures the camera can detect the smallest temperature variances associated with plumbing faults.
  • Image quality - Crisp, detailed thermal images make it easier to identify and diagnose plumbing issues accurately.
  • Ergonomics - Compact, lightweight cameras under 3 lbs are ideal for carrying around job sites all day. Pistol grip designs improve handling.
  • Durability - Rugged, waterproof cameras withstand the toughest plumbing environments.
  • Intuitive controls/operation - Simple controls with LCD touchscreens streamline changing settings on the fly.

Top Thermal Cameras for Professional Plumbers

We recommend considering the following excellent thermal imaging cameras optimized for plumbing applications:
  1. FLIR C5 - Compact pistol-grip camera with large onboard display. Temperature range of -4°F to 482°F covers plumbing needs.
  2. Seek Thermal Compact Pro - Affordable handheld camera great for basic leak and pipe scans. Wide temperature range of -40°C to 330°C.
  3. Fluke TiS10 - Ergonomic design with focus-free lens. Crisp thermal images on a bright 3.5” color display. Very sensitive <0.05°C.
  4. Fluke Ti400 - High-performance pistol-grip thermal camera with on-screen visual and IR blending. Laser pointer and LED light included.

Get the Most from Your Thermal Camera

Follow these tips to maximize the value from your thermal imaging camera:
  • Perform regular scans to establish baseline temperatures and detect changes over time.
  • Adjust emissivity settings based on the reflective properties of each surface material scanned.
  • Take both IR and visual images of anomalies - combining them in software makes analysis easier.
  • Learn how different plumbing faults appear thermally to improve diagnosis from scans.
  • Maintain your thermal camera through factory recalibration to ensure optimal performance.
For professional plumbers, a high-quality thermal imaging camera pays for itself quickly through early leak detection, preventive maintenance, faster inspections, and more accurate diagnoses of plumbing issues. Thermal cameras have become essential tools that every plumber should utilize on the job. Carefully select a thermal camera designed for building diagnostics with the right features, temperature range, sensitivity, and durability. With routine use, a thermal camera can improve your plumbing business and bottom line.