Using IR scans to see trouble

Part 3 of 3: A simple visual inspection of the equipment may not always reveal if something is going wrong on the inside. That is where infrared scanning (IR) comes in.
By David Manney July 27, 2016

The principal purpose of a preventative maintenance program is to head off any problems before they become unmanageable or lead to a catastrophic failure of equipment. Courtesy: L&S ElectricThe principal purpose of a preventative maintenance program is to head off any problems before they become unmanageable or lead to a catastrophic failure of equipment. In many cases, this would require hands-on inspections, but doing so may not always be possible. Also, a simple visual inspection of the equipment may not always reveal if something is going wrong on the inside. That is where infrared scanning (IR) comes in.

As a part of a thorough electrical preventative maintenance program, IR inspections take the lead. They provide multiple benefits, including being able to detect problems long before they become an issue that would cause a catastrophic failure of the equipment. Besides, they help to uncover potential problems and can be used to provide a complete, comprehensive report of the conditions of the equipment at the facility.

One of the primary benefits of IR scanning is that it allows the user to detect hotspots on the equipment before problems occur. It allows those hotspots to be seen immediately so that the locations can be recorded. It is also possible to take a video or photograph of the item that has a difficulty so that further recommendations can be made as to how to correct the problem.

IR scans start with a list

Using IR technology for preventative maintenance begins with a list of all mechanical and electrical equipment that is to be inspected. Some types of equipment may only need to be checked on an annual basis, but others may benefit from being inspected more frequently. At that point, the scanning process can begin, and, since there may be hundreds or perhaps even thousands of items being scanned, keeping a thorough record of the progress is important.

One of the most significant advantages seen through IR scanning is that it is not necessary to take the equipment off-line during the time it is being checked. The scanning takes place while the equipment is operating and energized, so it does not result in downtime at your facility.

What type of equipment benefits from infrared scanning?

Many different pieces of equipment could be checked with an IR scanner. Here are some standard pieces that are checked regularly.

Panel boards: IR scanning can quickly detect a problem with Harmonic heating or loose connections.

Motor control centers: Early detection of issues in motors, both new and old, is possible. This would include the motor starters, including variable frequency drives.

If excessive heat is seen in any motor or electrical system, it typically means that trouble is on the horizon. Many issues could result in high heat, including ground faults, failing components, and short-circuits.

IR testing allows the tester to see when these problems occur, even if it isn’t visible to the naked eye. At that point, an analysis can be done as to where the problem lies and what can be done to correct it.

—  David Manney is a marketing administrator at L&S Electric. This article originally appeared on L&S Electric Watts New Blog. L&S Electric Inc. is a CFE Media content partner.