Choosing a Thermal Imager That Fits Your Needs

Thermal imagers can provide many benefits on the job site, allowing plumbers to work more safely and efficiently

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Thermal imagers are a prime example of how technology is making job sites around the world safer and more efficient.

Ideal for locating electrical issues, hidden moisture, overheating motors, insulation voids and thermal bridges, thermal imagers provide a non-contact method of assessing what can’t always be seen. The tools gather data remotely — keeping the user out of danger while also detecting potentially costly problems for building owners. An added bonus? Because thermal imagers take measurements without disturbing the mechanical systems of a building, they can be extremely beneficial in commercial settings where operations can’t always be stopped or interrupted.

Understanding the unique features, benefits and applications of thermal imagers can help you invest in the right equipment to get the results you need:

Look for Robust, Yet Basic Features

At the most basic level, thermal imagers all measure the heat energy that objects radiate. Yet how they measure this heat can be quite different. Imagers often vary in their capabilities in three key areas: resolution, sensitivity and temperature range. Resolution influences how close you need to be to an object to accurately measure it. Sensitivity measures how small differences in thermal radiation can be detected in an image. Temperature ranges typically fall between minus 30 to plus 650 degrees C. Like most tools, it’s smart to invest in the best you can get. The better the resolution, sensitivity and temperature range, the more useful the equipment will be long-term.

Insist on Productivity

No matter what the capabilities, always look for an imager that’s intuitive to operate. The best thermal imagers are easy enough for a novice to use, while still providing enough capabilities for an experienced thermographer to capture accurate measurements for more complex jobs. It’s also a good idea to consider the importance of additional built-in features that will make life on the job site more productive. Settings that automatically adjust color palettes and real-time displays of hot/cold spots are important features to look for. The ability to capture traditional photos along with your thermal images can also enhance your productivity down the road, providing context for a situation after you leave the job site. 

Consider the Jobs You’ll Do

Do you need an imager to identify if a boiler system has hot water running through it? Or one that can precisely measure electrical substation switchgear temperatures at a safe distance? Let your particular application uses guide your search. The boiler system application will likely need a lower resolution imager that adequately identifies the temperature difference, such as the RIDGID RT-3. The electrical substation application will require an imager like the RIDGID RT-9x, one that has the highest resolution yet allows measurements to be taken from a greater distance. Other common thermal imaging applications include water leak detection, roofing moisture issues, home inspection of heat loss/intrusion and motor/bearing analysis. These applications may be a fit for mid-range imagers, such as the RIDGID RT-5x and RT-7x, which add features like Wi-Fi connectivity for image sharing and analysis, a digital imager for capturing a traditional photo of the target, and increased thermal sensitivity to detect smaller differences in temperature. 

Diagnose With Confidence

A thermal imager is a great tool to have on hand for enhancing job site safety, preventing costly system downtime and helping to keep buildings running at their highest performance. When you properly assess your needs, and study the options available, finding the right imager will be easy. It’ll also be one of the best investments you can make. 

About the Author

Brad Yuronich is the director of data enabled solutions at RIDGID and a certified thermographer. RIDGID is a global manufacturer of more than 300 dependable and innovative tools, including a line of thermal imagers, trusted by professional trades in over 140 countries. Learn more at


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