How thermal imaging is improving building energy management practices

How thermal imaging is improving building energy management practices

June 29, 2021 . 4min read

Curbing energy use in buildings represents a mission-critical challenge in the real estate sector, and nowhere is the pressure felt more strongly than in the commercial property market. Buildings have the dubious honor of generating some of the highest energy bills. In France, the building sector alone accounts for 44% of the country's energy use. Buildings are also guilty of having a significant effect on the environment. Every year, the construction industry produces over 123 million tons of CO2 (source: 2019, France actually enacted legislation with the aim of incentivizing tertiary building owners to calculate the amount of energy used by their buildings and consequently rein in their consumption by adopting energy efficiency principles. The pressure is now on building owners to scale down their energy spend or at least keep their consumption firmly in check. They need to take a more responsible approach to how their buildings are managed and used. Fortunately, infrared technology offers a wealth of innovative and effective solutions.

Read on to find out how thermal imaging is improving building energy management practices.


Surveillance outside buildings

Several different factors contribute to a building's energy use, whether the thermal performance of its enclosure or the number of people inside.

When it comes to the enclosure, new builds are now designed to reflect the latest energy regulations, which embrace the concept of sustainable consumption and energy spend. However, the building's enclosure is still a hotbed of potential flaws and vulnerabilities that can affect its energy performance if they are not consistently monitored, analyzed and repaired. This is exactly the type of application where thermal imaging has cemented its status as a game-changer. Infrared technology is a powerful and non-invasive solution that can be used to check a building's energy use in real time.

  • Thermal leak detection

Pinpointing energy losses or thermal bridges in the building's actual structure is a prerequisite for containing and reducing its energy spend. Structural defects can prove to be a money sinkhole by wasting energy and allowing consumption to spiral out of control. Thermal imaging allows owners to identify any weaknesses, which can then be repaired before they drag down the building's performance.

Thermal leaks can also be spotted in supply pipes and district heating networks. Infrared technology allows maintenance crews to detect structural faults without any need for invasive procedures, while providing a clearer idea of the installation's overall condition so that they can swiftly take the necessary corrective action.

  • Roof inspections

Infrared sensors can also detect damp areas in a building's roof, as well as in its internal and external walls and insulation. Thermal imaging enables users to visually locate damp spots through a stream of video images, meaning that there is no need for any drilling or demolition to find the faults.

Energy can also be lost through mold and poorly insulated areas, but they can easily be identified with infrared sensors.

In today's world, infrared sensors can be attached to aircraft and drones to survey and inspect entire cities. Building energy use is clearly a major economic challenge, and thermal imaging is the ideal ally for tackling the issue.

To learn more about another sector of activity in which thermal imaging makes a strong contribution, download our free white paper on thermal imaging for the food and beverage industry.




Enhanced management of the building's interior spaces

Occupants also play a key role in the building's energy consumption. The number of occupants and the way that they use the building and its spaces can be scrutinized and improved to give maximum focus to sustainability in the building's energy management practices. Infrared technology is a highly useful and effective solution for achieving this aim.

  • Occupancy statistics for using each space to maximum effect

Nowadays, owners can harness the infrared technology to analyze occupants' movement habits and identify the busiest areas. They can then use the findings to fine-tune the building's energy management system. For example, heating can be switched off in unused areas, or the space can be rearranged. Another application involves automatically turning on lights in rooms when people are present and switching off lights when rooms are empty. This system prevents wasting money through unnecessary electricity use.

  • People counting

Identifying people (anonymously) with the aim of counting them and subsequently examining footfall within the building and analyzing how they use the different spaces represents one of thermal imaging's key assets for improving building energy management practices.

  • Analyzing data in real time to reduce energy bills

The data generated by counting the number of people and tracking their movements can be used to tweak heating and air-conditioning systems in real time, thereby reflecting the building's actual needs, eliminating waste and maximizing comfort for users. There is no point in heating a room if all the occupants have already left.


Equipment maintenance

Equipment maintenance and building energy management go hand-in-hand, since they both act as a driving force for reducing energy expenditure and protecting the environment. The way in which a building and its equipment are maintained and used is reflected in its energy bills. That is why it is vitally important to take a closer look at how thermal imaging can bring even greater efficiency to preventive maintenance processes.

Infrared technology can sense potential technical issues before they escalate into dangerous situations.

  • Identifying electrical problems

Thermal imaging can spot abnormally high temperatures and the beginnings of a short circuit in an electrical installation.  The technology also makes it easier to detect hardware showing signs of overheating.

Finally, it can help prevent the risk of a fire breaking out.

  • Fault prediction

Preventive maintenance can accurately pinpoint faults that could potentially strike in-service machinery and save the company considerable money by preventing production from grinding to a standstill. Thermal imaging can identify problems in the early stages, so that they can be analyzed and corrected before they deteriorate further and lead to expensive repairs. In other words, it can save time and money.


Thermal imaging represents a reliable and practical solution for observing, analyzing and improving energy use in buildings by streaming feedback in real time and preventing the need for invasive procedures.

Compact thermal imaging sensors can be embedded into cameras to guarantee high-precision vision even in poor visibility conditions, such as smoke-enshrouded rooms. This ability applies to every level within the infrared range and not just LWIR. But in dark and even pitch-black conditions, infrared sensors from the LWIR range are needed.

Finally, although thermal imaging systems are capable of accurately identifying and recognizing people, they respect the right to anonymity and privacy, which is a deal-breaker in today's society.

To learn more about another sector of activity in which thermal imaging makes a strong contribution, download our free white paper on thermal imaging for the food and beverage industry.



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