Thermal Camera Advice Needed

Hello everyone, I am almost ready to register for the Infrared Certified class here once I get some free time available. I am a Mechanical Engineer for my regular job, and I am hoping to start a side infrared energy auditing busisness on the side for when I have free time during the afternoons and weekends. Here is my Question (I’m sorry it is so long winded):

I purchased a used but like new Wahl HSI3000 Thermal camera. It has a 160 x 120 Sensor and a 150mK resolution. I bought it off eBaY (buy it now) for a steal at $600 (sells for around $3k retail) . The resolution for this camera is decent, but the thermal sensitivity is not quite ideal for all situations. I have the software for this for report generation and image manipulation.

A couple weeks later I bought a Scott Eagle Imager 6 off Ebay for about $600 (I’ve heard it retails for about $18k). This camera was not designed with thermal energy audits in mind, as it is a rugged unit designed for Firefighters to see through smoke and find fire hotspots, victoms, etc. The Sensor on this camera is vastly superior at 320 x 240 and with a superior 80mK or better sensitivity. The drawback with this unit is it doesnt provide numerical temperature information, it doesnt allow the ability to nativly capture pictures (I do have a workaround for this as it has a video out and I have it connected to a pocket DVR and can take stills and Video). It also only has the “White-hot” color pallet. Its also much more heavy and Bulky than the Wahl (weighs probably 10 lbs or so).
Having said all this and using both extensivly, I find using the Eagle Imager much much better for for locating and viewing thermal problem areas. There is no comparison when it comes to the image quality of this.

1.) Im wondering if you guys use the exact temperature numerical data output by the normal thermal imaging inspection cameras?

2.) Should I keep both units and use both if necessary to gather temperature data during an audit?

3.) If the Scott camera is adequate, should I sell the other camera and simpily use a simple IR temperature meter if Im interested in checking out temperatures of hot and cold spots with it.

4.) Do you think giving a DVD movie of the entire Audit (output to the DVR from the Scott Camera) in addition to my generated report would be helpful to give to the customer? possibly an incentive to gain more jobs over a competetor, also seems it would help to orient where the problem areas are in a home as well as better capture areas of interest that may be minor problems that may be missed or skipped with an audit with a traditional camera.

I am interested in what you guys will have to say about these matters as I am a novice. Thank you for any feedback you may be able to provide me with.

You wasted your money on inferior equipment that you are trying to use for specialized inspections. My best advice to you is relist it on ebay and try to get some of your money back to buy a camera that is intended to do the work you want to do.

Half as s equipment = Pis s poor results

You were duped twice for inferior and inadequate equipment for which you plan to use in building inspections and energy related surveys. Don’t be duped a third time for inferior and inadequate training. Go lay out some coin for a quality level I course then make your business purchase decisions afterward for proper equipment. Building applications are THE MOST complicated of all thermal imaging applications. To approach this business with the mindset of “cheap” or “good enough” is a plan for failure.
Exact temperature measurements (quantitative imaging) is reserved until you gain level II training. I would refrain from providing any temperature measurements until such time. Understanding the difference between qualitative and quantitative measurements is paramount. Understanding that accurate temperature measurement is dependent upon your complete understanding of the imager you use. All temperatures are apparent and relative until you fully understand the science and technology.

Videos are a nice way of setting yourself apart from the competition. Look for an imager that provides this. There are several.

You’re halfway there. All you have to do is take the class and you are a certified thermographer.

**“I am a Mechanical Engineer for my regular job, and I am hoping to start a side infrared energy auditing busisness on the side for when I have free time during the afternoons and weekends.”

Hopefully your decision isn’t based off the thought of jumping on the green-energy money wave that so many are mis-led by. Energy is definitely the future but there is no easy way to jump onto the wave.

So many folks buy all the fancy equipment, get BPI/RESNET certified, and then think opportunities of all sorts are going to open. Their phone doesn’t ring for 6 months and then they sell their stuff on ebay for half price.

****The whole idea of becoming an energy auditor to do 2-3 leisurely audits a week for $700-$1000 of additional income sounds good but it’s a fairy tale. It’s a full-time job and a huge investment to ever get to the point of doing 2-3 audits/week.

****There is a huge green-energy money-wave among us, but in my opinion, it’s a full time job trying to be a competitor in it. If your not giving it 100% than your just gonna get squashed by those companies who are.

I also feel like we’re a couple years off from energy auditors being “In-Demand”

I don’t see it being worth your while to get all the proper equipment, all the training, do all the marketing, and get all the experience, just to be available to provide an energy audit here an there or on an occasional weekend.

I try my best to refrain from posting anything negative or discouraging to others on this board so please don’t take my comments the wrong way. I think your 100% doing the right thing by asking what your asking. I just believe you’ll probably find many have had your same idea which only resulted in wasted time and money.

It’s just not an easy side job to take up for additional income. All this info is however MY PERSONAL OPINION so just because I see it a certain way doesn’t make it so. I’m sure there’s many others who can give you some great advice if your set on doing it. You can’t knock someone for trying so good luck if you do give it a shot.

I’ve never heard of an “infrared energy audit”. Is that where you identify missing insulation and call it an “energy audit”? I thought that was just IR promotional hyperbole. Do people really do that?

I wanted to get a thermal camera just for the fun of experimenting with it. I wasn’t necessarily going into it at first thinking I would try to get infrared certified, heck, I didn’t even know such a thing existed when I was first considering buying a thermal camera. As an engineer I like to tinker around with technology, so a thermal camera was naturally a big draw.

Secondly, I didn’t want to take the risk and jump right in and spend 5k on a new camera

I don’t know why you would think that a $18k camera is half *** equipment. It provides images on par with if not better In some cases than images posted on here from imagers of the same sensor resolution (320 x 240). I don’t think I was being “duped” into the equipment as I could easily resell both the cameras for double to triple what I bought them for. I just happened to catch the auctions at the right time from inexperienced sellers selling equipment from estate sales with no knowledge of what they were selling. I don’t think I’d call it a waste. I guess everyone is entitled to their own opinions though, just didn’t think I would get hit with such negativity.

Thanks for your feedback Brandon, I appreciate the honesty. I agree on your assessment, which is why I just bought some cameras I could afford to play around with and resell if necessary.

Take an IR class and that will help fill in the blanks and help you understand what your getting into.

Thanks John, I intended to register soon!

Just because a camera is expensive or has high pixel resolution doesn’t necessarily mean the imager is adequate or suited at all for building inspections.
If $5000 investment into your business is a large financial risk, then you really need to take a level I course so that you fully understand the technology and equipment available. A 2 day cert course won’t do that. Not trying to be snide in any way. Just telling you what it is from experience. Do what you will with it… :wink:


There is a little more to it than that. I do agree that the person/company entering their business really needs to do their due diligence before making any kind of decision. However, it really depends on the local setup more than anything else. Some locations are super profitable while others are basically non existent.

In addition, HVAC-R companies are basically going to be forced to do duct leakage to the outdoors come Jan 2012. This testing procedure is already in place in some areas. On top of that, IR is one of the worst solutions for finding leaks in ducts.


Wahl HSI3000 Thermal camera???

Looks like something you would club baby seals with…:smiley:

Don’t they make hair cutting clippers?? Trying to branch out perhaps.

What do you base that statement on, works pretty well for me

Jeff: showing up a little late but would like to respond to your initial post. I have been at Flir all week and just now catching up.

Concerning your question #1: I do not believe that anyone here uses the “exact temperature numerical data output” ever! Technically the only temperature data acceptable in thermal imaging is the Kelvin scale. Celsius is acceptable because the gradient is the same, but Fahrenheit is not a recognized temperature measurement. Furthermore, the temperature reading that you get in your camera is also not acceptable because it has not been “corrected” for many factors present. The temperature your camera puts out is only a reference temperature and must be corrected. And by the way, you can not compare “apparent temperatures” or use a comparison Delta-T with them.

Much of building diagnostics is conducted through quantitative scans. Image patterns generally indicate the issues involved. The scans are indirect measurements, so high sensitivity and resolution (and I rank them in that order) cameras are more desirable for the job. If I were to select between a higher sensitivity camera versus accuracy of temperature measurement in a building audit, I would go with the higher sensitivity.

Being a mechanical engineer, I recommend that you waste your money on a course that covers principles and theory of quantitative analysis so that you better understand the camera, imaging process and what you can actually expect out of your particular camera for that application. FOV, IFOV,MFOV, SSR, Spectral Distribution, Stephan-Boltzmann constant, Kirchhoff’s Law of thermal radiation,Fourier’s conduction equation, the Arrhenius equation, Newton’s law of cooling, Planck’s Law, Wien’s displacement law, may be of more interest to you than others. You’ll definitely not receive anything about the numbers in the NACHI “certified” course.

You are not a home inspector, that is what the NACHI course is geared to wards. Your interest to do energy audits would also be better served through a BPI or LEED course. If you are doing building evaluations (versus audits) there is a wealth of education on this site that can take you down that road. I recommend you join NACHI to cost-effectively acquire the vast amount of available education concerning residential buildings.
It is imperative that you know more about what you are scanning than what you are scanning with. NACHI can help you out here.

Concerning your question #3: I think you should keep both cameras in the event you intend to do more than building evaluations (i.e. electrical, which is a direct measurement and requires to know the correct temperature to determine “how hot is too hot”.
If you plan to use the heat transfer equation to determine the R- value of a building component, an accurate camera capable of taking corrected temperature measurements will be necessary.

A “simple IR temperature meter” takes apparent temperature readings and in most cases cannot be corrected for emissivity, temperature reflect, atmospheric attenuation etc.
Taking a Delta-T with an uncorrected IR reading will send you off in left field as far as accuracy is concerned and is not acceptable and does not meet any of the thermal imaging standards (Though most people here do that).

Concerning your question #4: a movie takes time to view and may or may not be used by your client. If you cannot convert from digital to IR, and back again during the movie your client will have a difficult time with thermal interpretation in many cases. I do take IR movies for my use and historical reference only. I do not use them in the reporting process unless it is an on-site “show and tell” where I can be there to interpret and answer the questions. Otherwise, your phone will ring off the hook if someone actually views the movie. Taking a movie and then taking screen shots along the way to put in your written report is a procedure that works well for many.

I do not expect that your client will pick your services over someone else’s simply because you provide a movie. Movie editing for presentation can be time-consuming and may not be worth the effort. Having the capability to take video or time lapse (incremental scans) is necessary in some applications, but not likely with building inspections. These applications record temperature transition which doesn’t occur in building applications because they are mostly indirect readings and due to the mass of the structure, temperature change is extremely slow with a great lag time.

This is simply my “opinion” of the subject matter.

Line of sight issues.

I should have stated it as “pinpointing a leak in a duct”.

IR has its place in energy auditing, but there are much better and faster solutions for finding leaks in ducts.


Thank you for the information David, very insightful information!!

Mr. Jason are you using the same email id. Need to have a chat with you.

Need to have a chat with you. Are you using the same email?

yep same email.