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The heat is on to save money

When it comes to high voltage electrical inspection, a high-end thermal imaging camera is
undoubtedly the best choice.

A bad connection on a transmission line shows up as a clear hot spot in an infrared image

Put simply, a more powerful camera allows an image to be seen in far greater detail over distance. And this is vital for the safe thermal inspection of high voltage lines and substations. For this reason, the Electricity Supply Board (ESB), Ireland’s premier electricity utility, uses FLIR P-Series cameras that were supplied by FLIR Systems’ Irish distributor, Butler Technologies. The cameras have the highest resolution detector in the predictive maintenance market, thermal sensitivity of up to 30mk and come with a range of built-in features for efficient thermal imaging and advanced analysis.

All four of ESB’s FLIR P-Series models have interchangeable optics, so in addition to the standard 24° or 45° lens supplied, each camera was also ordered with a 7° lens.

This provides almost 3.5x magnification by comparison with the 24° lens and is therefore ideal for inspecting overhead power lines.

There are of course many other applications involved in maintaining the efficient running of a substation that lend themselves perfectly to thermal inspection.

Some of these do not present any arcing risk and can therefore be conducted safely within a shorter range.

It was for this purpose that ESB sought a camera model that would provide the same level of image detail as the FLIR P-Series at a closer distance from the target.

“I conducted a trial on site with one of ESB’s senior engineers whereby we compared the temperature measured by his FLIR P660 camera with that captured by a top-of-the-range FLIR i-Series camera which I operated over a much shorter distance,” explained David Doyle from Butler Technology. “The results were the same. So this camera was also approved for use, allowing more ESB engineers to take advantage of thermal imaging without the company needing to rely solely on its FLIR P-Series cameras. It was a highly cost effective solution.”

With the introduction of the new FLIR E-Series, ESB has since been able to obtain even better camera performance for its wider engineering community. The original FLIR i-Series cameras have now been replaced with the FLIR E50 and E60 models. Both have an integral 3.1 megapixels visible light camera, thermal fusion for merging visual and infrared images for easier analysis, and scalable picture-in-picture that allows the user to clearly identify areas of interest. Furthermore, a laser pointer is provided as standard, as is Wifi for the wireless transmission of images to a smart phone or similar mobile device. These models are also MeterLink enabled which means they can receive measurement data from a similarly equipped clamp meter.

Another significant benefit of this upgrade for ESB is the ability of the FLIR E50 and E60 to accept different optics. Whilst the 7° lens is only suitable for use with the FLIR P-Series, the E-Series can be fitted with the 45° wide angle lens or a telescopic 15° lens, considerably broadening application potential.

Making thermal imaging available to more ESB engineers was certainly the driving force behind the company’s second wave of thermal imaging camera investment but it has now been able to extend this privilege to its entire workforce.

The FLIR i-Series cameras supplied by Butler Technologies are also the lynchpin in a new award winning initiative introduced by ESB’s Sustainability Team. Through this scheme, ESB staff can borrow a FLIR thermal imaging camera to learn how efficiently their homes use heat.

A phenomenal level of interest has been shown, with over 320 staff registering within the first two weeks of operation, necessitating the purchase of another FLIR E-Series camera to meet demand.

The success of the scheme has been acknowledged by Green Workplaces established to provide a resource for like-minded companies to share ideas on safeguarding the environment and promote best practice. The organisation runs its annual competition to recognise excellence in endorsing environment efficiency and this year it judged the ESB scheme a worthy winner.

Founder and Chief Executive of Green Workplaces, Siobhan Hamilton said: “The ESB scheme provides employees with a tool that assists them in their personal space. One of the best ways for organisations to engage employees in workplace sustainability initiatives is to show them how they can make cost savings at home. This is a scheme that could be adapted to work in other organisations and community groups.”

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