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A hot topic

VT02 survey results

June 2013

Who knew that a visual infrared thermometer would hit such a hot button with our readers? Well, we had our suspicions, and the large number of responses to our January survey question confirmed them.

More than 50 readers responded to the survey question in the January Fluke News Plus that asked “What would you do with a visual infrared thermometer?” It referred to the Fluke VT02 Visual IR Thermometer, which combines the convenience of a spot thermometer and the visual advantage of a thermal imager.

What was particularly interesting, beyond the number of responses, was the range of industries that those responses came from. We had quite a few entries from building and construction, automotive manufacturing, and transportation. But we had at least a few responses from each of 17 other industries, ranging from communications and education, to government, pharmaceuticals, mining, and utilities. We heard from electrical contractors, in-house electricians, HVAC technicians, and maintenance managers, among others.

So how would they use a visual infrared thermometer?

Let us count the ways. Or to save time let’s just say lots and lots of ways.

Covering all the temperature basics

There were of course the standard maintenance and troubleshooting applications: scanning motor starter relay contacts and overloads, pumps, bearings and windings, belts and drive shafts, electrical wiring, and performance verifications. But the responses went far beyond those basics.

An industrial maintenance manager described how he would use the VT02 to get thermal pictures of the end product of molten iron to adjust the PLC program to keep constant charging times product flow. He added that “We could detect blockages in gas, water, and air flows in piping cores of steel-making systems.”

HVAC managers and technicians said they would use the VT02 for all kinds of applications, including:

  • Checking the building envelope and piping insulation
  • Assessing steam trap conditions
  • Checking for plugged heating coils
  • Analyzing air diffuser patterns
  • Checking the operation of chillers, boilers, water coils, valves, and other controls

An electrician for a healthcare organization in Canada, who already has the VT02, says that he uses it to check for weak fuse holders, which create heat that breaks down insulation and fuse capacity. “This technology saved me countless hours of troubleshooting faulty ballasts. If the circuit breaker is tripped due to a bad ballast in a string of 20 possible ballasts on a 347 V system, you can scan the ceiling as soon as possible and the bad ballast will stand out like a sore thumb,” he says.

Troubleshooting electronics

An audio system design, repair, and maintenance technician noted that he would use the VT02 to check for abnormal temperature conditions with semiconductor devices or other power devices on circuit boards, or heat sink assemblies in power supplies or power amplifiers. “This would be a time savings when diagnosing malfunctions, since a sweep of the entire system could be done quickly to narrow down trouble spots,” he explained.

A wireless telecommunications maintenance technician explained that “Though there aren't many moving parts in a communications installation, there are still numerous sources of damaging heat generation. Heat buildup can make or break a wireless telecommunications system.” He acknowledged that the VT02 would be a great tool for checking the temperature balance of high power RF amplifier output components, and measuring the temperature rise of RF output filtering devices and their associated loads to determine the efficiency of the antenna systems. He also sees great potential for the VT02 in monitoring temperature differences between multiple cells in large battery banks. “Temperature can alert you to a battery that is defective or gradually going bad. Terminal temperatures can also indicate loose battery hardware. At the relatively low voltages on which our equipment operates, even the loss of a few hundred millivolts can cause a transmitter to go off the air.”

Talking temperature in transportation

Transportation-related respondents offered all kinds of potential applications. For example, a shop foreman in a new car dealership said that he would use the VT02 to:

  • Measure glass temperatures to test the defrost system
  • Compare the exhaust manifold temperature at each cylinder
  • Compare temperatures of various components to computer readings to verify sensors
  • Measure tire temperatures

A transportation maintenance technician wished he had had the VT02 Visual IR Thermometer last year when a megger test showed a bad 4/O feed wire to a motor. “If I had this tool, I might have been able to find the bad spot and repair the wire rather than replace the entire cable,” he recalls.