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Building Manager Green Tip

December 2010

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Increase efficiency using thermographic imaging


Thermographic imaging is used to identify and document the presence, or lack of, heat radiating from surfaces. A thermographic imaging camera is able to detect infrared light (a form of surface heat) and apply it to a nominal scale where regions of red and yellow indicate warmer temperatures, while deep blue and purple denote cooler areas. Read more...

Potential applications


  1. Testing for Steam Leakage Past Faulty Steam Traps: If the temperature of the condensate line from the steam trap is near boiling or higher, it is possible that the trap is not keeping steam in the radiator for as long as it should, leading to inadequate heating in the space and significant wasted energy.
  2. Building Envelope Survey: Taking thermographic images of a building’s envelope will highlight areas where heat is escaping. Windows, soffits, and window wells are examples of places to begin a survey.
  3.


A few considerations should be taken into account when using thermographic imaging equipment. In some images, the camera may be sensing the heat from reflected surfaces rather than the object of interest. This could cause the thermographer to incorrectly identify problem areas. Read more...

Harvard success story

Several thermographic imaging studies have been performed at Harvard University. For example, through thermographic imaging of Massachusetts Hall, the audit team discovered substantial heat loss from the basement of the building. Upon further investigation, the audit team found a mechanical exhaust fan operating when the building was unoccupied on a cold winter day. The fan was controlled by a thermostat located in the mechanical space, but its setpoint was too low. This resulted in the fan operating more often than necessary.

Green Building Services provides consulting services to ensure that the design, construction and operation of Harvard's built environment has minimal environmental and human health impacts, maximizes occupant comfort and generates an awareness of sustainable design and building operations. To learn more about our work and services, visit http://green.harvard.edu/gbs.