Three Things to Consider Before Buying a Thermal-imaging Camera

Spotting cold-air leaks and hotspots is simple and easy with the right tool.

Thermal camera in office pointed at computer.
Thermal imaging cameras are handy for countless tasks because temperature variations display as different colors.Image by withplex from Pixabay

An infrared camera might not be the kind of tool everyone needs around the house, but for specialized purposes they are irreplaceable. Heat-sensing technology is excellent for spotting poor insulation in a home, assessing areas of water damage, testing thermal loads in power tools and appliances, and myriad other uses. On the professional side, they are essential equipment for firefighters who must identify hot spots in walls and cavities, or for utility workers assessing circuitry from a distance. If you need a tool to determine the heat signature of virtually any substance or surface, here’s what to look for in an infrared camera.

220 x 160 IR Resolution Infrared Thermal Imager, Handheld 35200 Pixels Thermal Imaging Camera,Infrared Thermometer with 3.2" Color Display Screen
This model has a 220x160 resolution.Hti-Xintai

For the most complete analysis of a problem, an infrared meter should also have a visible-light camera. This feature allows you to compare images side by side, or in some cases with visible details laid over the heat gradient or displayed as a picture-in-picture view. Integrated visible-light cameras make it much easier to understand what you are looking at.

FLIR C5 Pocket Thermal Camera with Wi-Fi
You can connect this device to your router for easy data transfers.FLIR

High-quality infrared cameras offer image storage either to the cloud or on a dedicated memory card. This is especially important for infrared meters that feature visible light cameras, which can produce images that soak up a lot of storage space. A storage medium allows not only a record of temperature readings taken over time but also a convenient means to compile and share the data.

FLIR ONE Pro - iOS - Professional Grade Thermal Camera for Smartphones - with VividIR and MSX Image Enhancement Technology
This model displays temperature variances between 14 and 302 degrees F.FLIR

Device compatibility is another consideration. An infrared camera should pair with a laptop or mobile hardware either through a USB, Bluetooth, or WiFi connection to document and review findings off-site. Some sensors will even work specifically with a mobile device to display readings directly to a smartphone, smartwatch, or tablet in real-time.