Calculate the cost of faults

Discovering faults before they cause damage can save an estimated $55 million.


This thermographic image shows a poor connection on a disconnect. Courtesy: FlirAccording to CNA Insurance data, electrical faults occur more frequently than people realize. From March 2005 through June 2010, the company’s thermographers conducted 6,445 IR surveys, averaging about 100 surveys per month. Using 22 FLIR P65 model IR cameras, these thermographers found 47,077 faults (or deficiencies) for an average of 7.3 faults per report. 

CNA estimates an electrical repair cost savings of $500 for minor or intermediate faults and $3000 for serious or critical faults. The company identifies four fault categories based on temperature differentials above the norm:

  • Minor faults: 1° – 9°F
  • Intermediate faults: 10° – 34°F;
  • Serious faults: 35° – 74°F;
  • Critical faults: 75°F or greater.

Using FLIR’s Indirect Power Calculations from Surface Temperatures estimates, the per-kW-hr cost for such faults were:

  • $1.50/day for critical faults;
  • $0.75/day for serious faults;
  • $0.40/day for intermediate faults
  • $0.15/day for minor faults.

Discovering these faults before they cause damage is said to pay for the cost of the survey (estimated at $2,000), based on the $0.15 per kW-hr cost over 250 working days in a year.  That equates to $12,890,000 total value. CAN reported its clients saved an estimated $55 million, or about $4 saved for every $1 value of IR survey. These savings include both reduced electrical repair costs and energy savings. 

Also, electrical fire losses are avoided by correcting faults discovered during IR surveys. Insurance loss statistics (from 1992-2001, as published in 2002) showed that “average” electrical fire losses were about $200,000 for circuit breakers; $500,000 for switchgear; and $1 million for motor control center (MCC) rooms.

The Bottom Line:

  • Even with improvements in thermography technology, a skilled professional is still required to provide expert analyses of readings.
  • A layered approach in some smaller plants could allow in-house technicians to perform basic readings and thermographers to provide a detailed analysis.
  • Develop a basic checklist for your thermographic program.

Key Words:

Here are some of the articles at, KEYWORD: INFRARED CAMERAS  that further discuss this topic:

Use infrared imaging for energy auditing

  • Increasingly, facility owners recognize that energy auditing is not a one-time procedure. It needs to be a continuing routine to assure that manufacturing processes and buildings are operating at optimum efficiency. Processes change, equipment ages, and buildings are modified and can also change in their efficiency through time. For this reason, organizations today frequently organize internal energy audit teams. For these auditors, digital infrared imaging has become an important tool. 

IR cameras: The new tool for emission leak detection

  •  IR cameras allow users to visually discern gases in their host atmosphere. With an IR imager, one can “see” where the gas is originating, as well as where the gas cloud is traveling. From first detection to eventual gas containment and even remediation, the benefits of applying this technique are vast.

Proper operator training crucial in infrared condition monitoring

  • Building Science Thermography is the use of infrared cameras as a non-invasive means to inspect, diagnose and monitor building conditions. Through thermal imaging, structural anomalies may be revealed and addressed more easily than by conventional inspection methods, saving time and costs and providing a safer building environment.

Gary L. Orlove, P.E. is the Global Curriculum Manager at the Infrared Training Center and Chairman of the InfraMation Thermography Conference. He can be reached at

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