Thermal Cameras Guide
Connect With Me
 

Note: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.Learn More.

infrared camera for electrical inspections

Best Thermal Imaging Camera for Electrical Inspection: Reviews & Buying Guide

Shopping for a thermal imaging camera to detect electrical faults?

We have compiled a list of some of the best thermal imaging cameras for an electrical inspection. 

A thermal imaging camera is a handheld device that uses infrared radiation emitted by an object to create its thermal image. This special image shows the temperature of the object. They capture the infrared radiations and convert them into electrical signals to develop an image. 

Initially developed for the military, these cameras are commonly used today. From firefighters to electricians, everyone uses a thermal imaging camera for their respective applications. This article reviews the best thermal cameras for an electrical inspection.

These are all high-quality models that show accurate images. By using them, you can detect minor electrical issues that can later on lead to bigger problems. However, this is not their only use; you can also use these for other useful applications


What’s in This Buying Guide

Ever found yourself suspecting an electrical issue around your home or workplace? Such issues are not only dangerous to you but also cause excessive expenditures in damage repairs. Using a thermal imaging camera can help you get rid of this suspicion.

They not only detect but also pinpoint the location where the issue is arising. They can detect overload in wires and fuses, loose connections in breaker boxes, and track engines, turbines, and other heat-related equipment that function around the clock. 

When any electrical device starts developing more heat, either it is not properly assembled or the cooling is not functioning properly, You can’t detect these temperature changes with the naked eye. This is where a thermal imaging camera comes in.

It can detect both small temperature changes and high-temperature leaks. Both of these issues, if ignored, will cost huge financial losses. That’s why, in this guide, we have rounded up the best thermal imaging cameras for an electrical inspection. Each of these models is the best in its own category. Have a look. 


How Does Thermal Imaging Detect Electrical Flaws?

Thermal imaging technology recognizes and captures different intensities of infrared light to detect temperature. The hotter an object is; the more infrared light it produces. All electronic equipment emits some heat. Whenever there is an electrical fault; the device will emit excessive amounts of heat.

A thermal imaging camera is made to detect heat so when you point it at the equipment in question, it will scan the device and identify unexpected hot spots to show electrical flaws.


Best Thermal Imaging Cameras for Electrical Inspection

infrared camera for electrical inspections
  • Best Overall: FLIR E6 Compact Thermal Imaging Camera

  • Resolution:
    160x120

  • Sensitivity Range:
    -4˚F to 482˚F

  • Sensitivity:
    60mK

  • Dimensions:
    3.7 x 5.5 x 9.6 inches

  • Weight:
    1.3 pounds

  • Power Source:
    1 Lithium ion rechargeable battery

  • Refresh Rate:
    9Hz

infrared camera for electrical inspections
  • Runner-up: FLIR E54 Advanced Thermal Imaging Camera

  • Resolution:
    320 x 240

  • Sensitivity Range:
    -4°F to +1200°FF

  • Sensitivity:
    40mK

  • Dimensions:
    11 x 4.6 x 4.4 inches

  • Weight:
    2.2 pounds

  • Power Source:
    1 Lithium Ion Rechargeable Battery

  • Refresh Rate:
    30 Hz

thermal imaging electrical inspections
  • Best Thermal Imaging Camera Kit: FLIR DM284-FLEX-KIT Professional Imaging Multimeter Kit

  • Resolution:
    160 × 120

  • Sensitivity Range:
    14 to 302°F

  • Sensitivity:
    150mK

  • Dimensions:
    14 x 19 x 8 inches

  • Weight:
    1.5 pounds

  • Power Source:
    4 AAA batteries

  • Refresh Rate:
    9 Hz

infrared camera for electrical inspections
  • Best for DIYers: FLIR One Gen III

  • Resolution:
    80 × 60 pixels

  • Sensitivity Range:
    -4°F to 248°F

  • Sensitivity:
    150mK

  • Dimensions:
    2.64 x 0.55 x 1.34 inches

  • Weight:
    1.22 ounces

  • Power Source:
    1 Lithium Polymer Battery

  • Refresh Rate:
    8.7 Hz

electrical thermal imaging
  • Best Pocket-sized Thermal Imaging Camera: Huepar 80 x 60 Infrared Resolution Thermal Imaging Camera

  • Resolution:
    80 × 60 pixels

  • Sensitivity Range:
    14°F - 752°F

  • Sensitivity:
    150mK

  • Dimensions:
    5.12 x 4.84 x 3.43 inches

  • Weight:
    15 ounces

  • Power Source:
    3.7V/1300mAh rechargeable lithium battery

  • Refresh Rate:
    9 Hz


This simple point-and-shoot camera is a must-have in any DIYers toolbox. It is easy to use and delivers accurate results. Moreover, coming from a reliable brand, you can completely trust it for the safety of your house and your electronics. 

infrared camera for electrical inspections

Pros

  • Handle and trigger make for easy one-handed operation
  • Can scan large areas at one time
  • It comes with a built-in optical camera
  • The rugged device is designed to last
  • Produces outstanding image quality

Cons

  • Its resolution is lower than some other models
  • At 9 Hz, the refresh rate is somewhat low

Our Review

FLIR is a known and respectable name in the thermal camera market. Their E6 is a popular choice among professionals like electricians and home inspectors. It is a ruggedly designed model with a handle and trigger. The shape makes it easy to wield and operate because it feels natural in your hand. 

They have designed it to have a 45º x 34º field of view. This means it can scan and capture larger areas at any given time. Like some other models, there is no need to point it at different parts of an electrical object; E6 can easily scan the whole equipment in one go. 

We really like it for its built-in optical camera. With this feature, it can capture optical and thermal images simultaneously, with the angle and perspectives remaining the same. So with E6, you don’t need to mess with a separate optical camera as it will do the job for you itself.

Furthermore, with its MSX imaging, it blends the high-contrast lines of optical images onto the IR image to make it pop. For someone who is new to IR images, it has enormous value. 

Issues and Limitations

We noted that although this thermal camera is a great choice, its resolution is definitely not the end-all-be-all. Some other models on our list have higher resolution than E6. Additionally, its low refresh rate makes the image flicker slightly. 

Bottom Line

FLIR E6 is a solid option for both professionals and DIYers. It features a rugged design and ergonomic shape, which makes it easy to use. The outstanding features combine together to deliver a clear and easy-to-interpret image. The device itself comes at an affordable price, so you can purchase it without any hesitation. 


Our runner-up is also a FLIR and this time, its comes with an improved contrast. FLIR promises better performance but comes at a higher price. Still, for the features it offers, the price tag is certainly justified. 

Pros

  • Good image contrast and highlights potential issues
  • Displays the max/min temperature within an area
  • Features a built-in mic for voice annotation
  • Equipped with a larger 4-inch touchscreen display
  • It comes with Wi-Fi for live streaming

Cons

  • It cannot accept an interchangeable lens
  • Available for a hefty price tag

Our Review 

FLIR combined all their advanced features and latest technologies in the E54. The redesigned body is packed with numerous features that make troubleshooting both electrical and mechanical systems a breeze. You can also use it for pest and building inspections as well as detecting moisture issues. It will give you accurate results thanks to its industry-leading sensitivity and resolution. 

It features a larger and brighter LCD display. Users report that it is around 33% brighter than other FLIR models. Holding and operating it is also very easy.

It features a handle and trigger design that is very natural to hold and use with one hand. The simple and easy-to-navigate menu settings also make its operation a user-friendly experience. 

One standout feature of this device is its resolution. With 240 x 180 infrared resolution, it produces superior-quality images that are crisp and clear. It also makes use of the FLIR patented MSX system which uses the built-in optical camera to superimpose real-time patterns and edges on the live thermal image.

The 0.03°C temperature sensitivity makes it identify the slightest temperature changes, so the thermal image it produces is extremely clear and detailed. 

FLIR made sure its E54 is the best thermal imaging camera in its field by incorporating some advanced features in its design. For example, it has a manual focus that makes capturing thermal images quick and easy.

Rather than autofocus or free focus, users use the manual focus ring to focus on any part of the image, even if it is at a great distance. 

Issues and Limitations 

Though E54 is a feature-rich model, it cannot accept interchangeable lenses. You have to work with the built-in lens. But don’t worry; its high-quality 5MP lens is better than many others.

A major turnoff for most potential buyers is its high price tag. Although it is not the most expensive unit on the market; it is still quite up there. 

Bottom Line 

FLIR E54 is one of the best thermal imaging cameras for an electrical inspection. It is a feature-rich model that delivers excellent performance in a wide variety of circumstances.

The images it produces are high-quality and extremely detailed. The user-friendly interface and an easy-to-navigate menu all make it a solid choice for you. 


Amidst all the standalone and point-and-shoot devices, not including a multi-meter kit didn't feel right. Presenting the FLIR DM284-FLEX-KIT Professional Imaging Multi-meter Kit for all your diagnostic and thermal imaging needs. With all the amazing features, this all-in-one device truly is the best in its category. 

thermal imaging electrical inspections

Pros

  • It comes as a complete kit for convenience
  • It can measure 18 different functions
  • Features a fixed focus infrared sensor 
  • Included laser pointer adds more convenience
  • Boasts a 3m durable drop test

Cons

  • The image keeps flickering because of the low refresh rate
  • Battery life is very short

Our Review 

FLIR DM284-FLEX-KIT Professional Imaging Multi-meter is your all-in-one solution to faster diagnosis and troubleshooting of electrical problems. With its Infrared Guided Measurement (IGM), it guides you with visuals to the precise location of the electrical problem. Thanks to this technology, it pinpoints hotspots faster and more efficiently. 

The best thing about this thermal imaging kit is that it enables you to scan electrical objects without coming in contact. You can view their thermogram on the device and learn about problem spots.

With IGM, you can find the issue, while the thermal imaging will confirm it for you. Combined, both these technologies help you diagnose and troubleshoot a variety of electrical problems in field electronics, light industrial, HVAC work, commercial electric, and field service. 

It features an impressive 160 x 120 resolution thermal sensor that functions well to detect electrical faults and leakage. It is a top-of-the-line product that will speed up your work with its all-inclusive design.

It is capable of performing 18 measurements with its high-quality thermocouple input and testing probes. To sum up, it is the best device you can find in its category at this price point. 

Issues and Limitations 

The FLIR DM284 operates on 4 AAA batteries but it goes through them really quickly. With this device, you need to keep a stock of batteries as they die fast. We also noted that the battery cover is fitted with a screw.

This is a small inconvenience since it needs replacement very often, so taking the screw out and putting it back in feels like a nuisance. Also, it has a low refresh rate so the image flickers slightly. 

Bottom Line

If you want a complete kit to address all your thermal imaging needs, look into getting the FLIR DM284-FLEX-KIT Professional Imaging Multi-meter Kit.

It is a complete solution to all your electrical diagnosis and troubleshooting needs. With its durable build, 160 x 120 resolution thermal sensor, and 18-function measurement, you will be hard-pressed to find such a feature-rich device. 


Best for DIYers: FLIR One Gen III

For the smart generation, FLIR came up with a smart thermal imaging camera that syncs with smart devices. Whether you own an iOS or an Android device, this small gadget can connect with it in no time. So, you can use this smart combination to cater to all your thermal imaging needs. 

infrared camera for electrical inspections

Pros

  • Accurately detects invisible problems around the house
  • High sensitivity enables it to detect minimal temperature differences
  • Functions as a versatile smartphone attachment
  • Features many powerful metering and adjustment options
  • The durable device comes with a protective casing

Cons

  • Less metering options than FLIR professional models

  • Battery life is short at 45 minutes only 

Our Review 

As mentioned earlier, FLIR is a renowned manufacturer of thermal imaging products. It has been producing such accessories for electricians, plumbers, contractors, ghost hunters, and other hobbyists. The third-generation FLIR One is the updated and more flexible model of the original device. 

What makes it a high ranker on our list is its ability to take thermal images with a smartphone. You can hook it up with your IOS or USB C-compatible Android device and it’s good to go. The flat, rectangular device connects to the charging port of your device. This means it sits below the phone and is nearly equal to or slightly narrower than the phone itself. 

Its IR camera has a resolution of 80 x 60. This means that it is slightly better than the camera of your smartphone. Another outstanding feature is its manual focus, which is something you don’t usually find. You can use this feature to focus on any part of the image, even if it is at a distance.

The MSX technology enables it to superimpose the optical image on the real-time thermal image, which makes it easy to understand. With its excellent thermal imaging, it can detect electrical problems in no time. 

Issues and Limitations 

Although it is a handy and highly useful device, the FLIR One’s battery life is surprisingly short. Even after it is completely charged, it does not last longer than 45 minutes before needing a recharge. Furthermore, being a compact version of its professional counterparts, it does not contain as many features and metering options as other FLIR thermal imaging cameras.

Bottom Line

This is an ideal product for anyone who likes thermal imaging. It does not cost much but delivers accurate and fast results. You can pick it up for yourself and give it as a gift. Rest assured that it will impress with its functionality and performance.


Best Pocket-sized Thermal Imaging Camera: Huepar 80 x 60 Infrared Resolution Thermal Imaging Camera

Tired of the traditional point-and-shoot thermal imaging cameras? Here is a unit that you can operate like an ordinary camera to capture accurate thermograms. The best part? It fits inside any pocket without any difficulty. 

electrical thermal imaging

Pros

  • Half the size of an ordinary mobile phone
  • It offers three color palettes to choose from
  • Features a convenient, fast heat tracking function
  • It comes with a protective storage case
  • It has a mounting thread to suit a standard tripod

Cons

  • Displays inaccurate readings sometimes
  • Buttons give off a flimsy feel

Our Review 

This pocket-sized thermal imager offers great value in terms of price and usability. It features a slim and compact design that fits inside any pocket. It turns on quickly and is fairly simple to use; just turn it on and start scanning. With its professional temperature range and infrared resolution, it is an ideal choice for both professional and home users. 

It features three color palettes and a fast thermal and temperature tracking mode. The fast track mode allows you to identify high-temperature locations. It will show the different temperature readings on the screen to let you know how hot various things are. 

The Rainbow mode is ideal for conditions with high thermal contrast since it can display the contrast between low and high temperatures. Similarly, you can use the white heat mode to determine the temperature differences between objects. Meanwhile, the Iron Red mode is designed for observing the gradual change of temperature. It displays a palette of uniform colors. 

Issues and Limitations 

While we really love this cute little packet of features, it did let us down in some regards. For one, sometimes it messes the results and shows temperatures that are off by 10 to 15°F. We also noted that when it operates continuously, the center seems brighter than the periphery. 

Bottom Line 

If you are looking to purchase an affordable unit to quench your thirst for thermal imaging, get the Huepar 80 x 60 Infrared Resolution Thermal Imaging Camera. It is a sleek and stylish unit that slips inside your pocket. Use it for detecting electrical faults, home inspection, or broken insulation; the device will deliver accurate results with high-quality imagery. 


Buying Guide: How to Select the Best Thermal Camera for Electrical Inspection

Thermal imagers have a convenient solution for everyday electrical maintenance. The units you will come across these days are easy to use, rugged, ergonomic, and more affordable than they were just a few years ago. That’s why choosing a single unit has become a complicated task. Here are some features to look out for:

Temperature Range

The temperature range means the distance at which a thermal imager can detect heat. Since you are picking up a thermal image camera for electrical inspection, you will need a unit with a wide temperature range.

This is because electrical components and wires are usually inside numerous layers, so you need a unit that can detect faults even through all these layers. 

Thermal Sensitivity

Thermal sensitivity is the ability to detect fluctuations in temperature. For electrical inspections, you should get a thermal camera with high-temperature sensitivity. This means it should detect the slightest change in temperature. While a slight change may seem negligible to you, it can accumulate and snowball into a bigger issue. 

thermal imaging electrical inspections

Resolution

The higher the sensor resolution, the better the thermogram will be. So, if you are a professional looking to buy a thermal image camera for work, choose a unit with a high sensor resolution.

But if you are an enthusiastic DIYer who wants to carry out an electrical inspection without shelling out too much money, you should purchase the best sensor resolution thermal imaging camera that falls within your range. 

Safety and Certifications

An accurate thermal imaging camera ensures safety. That’s why a US Government Agency NIST inspects and certifies thermal imaging cameras for maximum safety. It is a great idea to purchase a NIST-certified model because they are accurate and safe to use.


How to Troubleshoot Electrical Issues Using Thermal Cameras

Chasing breaker problems and load performance issues is fairly easy with a thermal imaging camera. All you need to do is check for abnormal hotspots. After you have repaired the issues, take another scan and see if the hotspots you saw earlier have disappeared. If not, your repair was not effective. 

Not all electrical issues arise because of loose connections. For a correct diagnosis, it’s best to have a qualified electrician take a look or check your handiwork. Here is how to troubleshoot electrical issues using a thermal imaging camera:

Three-phase imbalance 

Use your thermal image camera to capture an image of electrical panels and high connection points. Wherever you notice high temperatures, examine the circuit and its associated branches and loads. Now compare all the phases side by side for temperature differences.

If there are cooler-than-normal circuits, it indicates a failed component. And if you notice any hot conductors, they may be undersized or overloaded. Use electrical or power quality measurements to diagnose the issue – unbalanced load, bad connection, overload, or harmonics. 

Connections and wiring

Use your gadget to find the connections with higher temperatures than other similar connections under similar loads. They can be caused by either a corroded connection or a loose or an overly tight connection. Connection issues usually show up as hottest at the spot of resistance, cooling down as the distance from the hotspot decreases. 

On the other hand, a cool component is also worrying because the current is shunting away because of high resistance. You can also detect damaged insulation or broken and undersized wires. 

Fuses

Here, again, both a cool and hot fuse is a source of the problem. When the thermal image shows a hot fuse, it has either reached or is about to reach its capacity. Meanwhile, a cooler-than-normal fuse has already blown. 

Motor control centers

For motor control centers, you have to open up each compartment and compare each individual component's relative temperatures. These include contactors, relays, bus bars, controllers, fuses, breakers, feeders, transformers, starters, and disconnects.

Using the same principle, check the load at the time of each scan. This way, you can properly evaluate your measurements against normal operating conditions. Use all the readings to create a detailed inspection report to present to your client. 

Transformers

While inspecting transformers, use your thermal imaging camera to check high and low-voltage bushing connections, cooling tunes, pumps, cooling fans, and sometimes the surface of the transformer as well.

Look for any unusual hot or cold spots for phase imbalances and connections with your thermal imaging camera. Remember that the cooling tubes should be warm. If any of the tubes are cool; it indicates a problem. 

electrical thermal imaging

Pros and Cons of Using the Thermal Cameras for Electrical Inspections

Infrared thermal imaging cameras are useful devices -- not just for electrical inspection, but they are pretty useful while inspecting a new home as well. They show how much heat an object emits. Understanding the thermal temperatures of different objects around your home helps you confirm that everything is working properly.

When used for electrical inspections, they can pinpoint hidden issues such as electrical hazards and insulation problems. However, they have their fair share of problems.

Pros 

Simple and very easy to use

The best thing about thermal imaging cameras is their simple and convenient functionality. You don’t need to move and set up multiple pieces of equipment to be able to use it. Most thermal camera models come as handheld units that you simply point to a suspicious area and capture its thermal image. This image clearly shows where and what is causing the problem. 

Help conserve energy 

Thermal cameras are not restricted to detecting faulty connections or components. You can also use one of these to detect the problems of energy efficiency. If your home isn’t properly sealed, your HVAC equipment will have to work overtime. Using a thermal camera allows you to detect problems with insulation and cracks or gaps causing energy loss. 

Uncover loose connections

Loose connections are the most common problem with electrical objects. Since a loose connection fails to complete a circuit, electric current does not flow through it. You can easily pick up this problem with a thermal camera. A loose connection will show up as a bright red spot indicating where the circuit is interrupted. 

Tell us when it is time to change a fuse

A fuse is an electrical safety device that provides overcurrent protection for a circuit. It contains a metallic wire or strip that melts when too much current passes through it thus interrupting the circuit.

Inspecting a fuse with a thermal camera tells you its condition. A too hot fuse is at the verge of its capacity while a cool fuse has already blown itself.

Cons

Images are difficult to interpret

Unlike a regular picture, a thermal image does not show a clear image. Instead, it is a blurry mess of different temperature intensities that is hard to interpret. There is a significant learning curve before you start to understand it completely. 

Readings can be affected by different reflections and emissions

Another drawback of thermal imaging is that their results can be influenced by the emissions and reflections of other objects around the room. Since every object emits thermal energy, it can have an impact on the temperature measurements of your device. 


FAQs

What’s different about the infrared camera when put in contrast to the infrared technology?

Infrared technology is used in night vision cameras. They use short wavelength infrared waves to illuminate an area of interest. Some of this light reflects back to the device which is used to generate an image.

Thermal cameras, on the other hand, use mid or long-wavelength infrared waves. They spread out and only report the differences in temperature of different objects. 

Is thermal inspection the best way to diagnose flaws?

Using thermal energy allows you to analyze, recommend, and diagnose electrical flaws with precision. By simply pointing it, you can determine if any connection is loose, or the circuit breaker is overloading, etc. And once you have addressed the issue, you can conduct another inspection to check if the repair was successful or not. 

Can thermal imaging be used for electrical inspection without a professional?

Yes, you can use a thermal imaging camera for electrical inspection without hiring a professional. In fact, a multitude of units manufactured these days are designed for user-friendliness, so you can easily maneuver one of these.

But be cautious; don’t meddle with electrical connections if you don’t know what you are doing. Taking thermal images is one thing, but fiddling with electronic items in the absence of a professional can lead to disastrous consequences. 

Are there any thermal imaging standards that need to be followed?

Yes, there are some electrical thermal imaging standards for safe testing conduct. While scanning electrical systems, components, and equipment, everything should be under normal operating conditions.

You should view it directly with the covers off where possible. Give more attention to connections or any other electrical points of contact. Furthermore, it is important to have at least an idea of the basic principle on which different electrical equipment operates. 


Final Verdict: The Best Thermal Camera for Electrical Inspection

After going over the different thermal imaging cameras available on the market, we can conclude that FLIR E6 Compact Thermal Imaging Camera is the best thermal imaging camera.

Following that is the Huepar 80 x 60 Infrared Resolution Thermal Imaging Camera for its user-friendliness. 

Meanwhile, the FLIR One Gen III is a must-have if you are a DIYer. 

About the Author Rob Carson

I work in commercial construction, in Dallas, TX.

follow me on: