Build IR Blog

All You Need To Know About Thermal Imaging

Richard Ewins

February 2, 2024

All You Need To Know About Thermal Imaging:

Thermographics was first founded in the 1800’s when an astronomer, named Sir William Herchel, wanted to study the sun, whilst minimising the glare and risk of serious eye damage, through his telescope.

Through many trial and errors, he managed to view the sun without eye damage or glare but also discovered much more and this is where thermal imaging originated from.

Fast forward to 1947, whereby many more experiments had been conducted, and the first thermal imaging camera was invented. Unsurprisingly, this camera only took still images which took over an hour to develop.

From 1947 to the modern day, these cameras have gained greater utility and the technology used for them has become much more sophisticated…but where are they used now and what actually does thermal imaging do?

What Is Thermal Imaging?

In simple terms, thermal imaging is the technique of using heat emitted by an object to create an image or locate the outlines of an object, person or building.

However, a more detailed explanation is that a thermal imaging camera will use non-invasive technology to distinguish heat emissions from a variety of different objects, from people and animals to properties and electrical devices.

One of the most useful things about thermal imaging technology is that the process and spectrum readings are completely invisible to the human eye, so without this technology, a lot of things such as leaks, poor insulation, heat syphoning and much more can be missed.

Omission to act on these problems could cause material and financial damages in both the long and short term. But what is the process of thermal imaging?

Unlike a normal camera, which captures light reflected off an object and is visible to the naked eye, a thermal imaging camera produces a much different image to the one you are seeing in front of the naked human eye. This camera will pick up differing levels of infrared radiations which are being emitted from the object in question.

From the perspective of a person on the outside looking in on the image which has been captured on the thermal imaging camera, they will simply see an object in a variety of odd colours, however, each colour shows something very important.

Whilst there are many different colour palettes out there for thermal imaging, the main ones are Rainbow HC and Iron.

Rainbow HC

For Rainbow HC, this uses a much higher contrast of colours on the image which allows you to see the object in even higher detail and shows any subtle difference in heat. 

Any areas which display blues, purples, and greens indicate that this area is much cooler and areas which are shades of red, yellow, or white show heat and areas which are the hottest.


​​The Ironbow colour palette uses the entire colour palette, from black all the way to white. Any part which is black through to blue are the cooler parts of the image and areas which are magenta, orange, yellow, or bright white are hotter areas.

This palette is great for showing a clear contrast of different heat levels within the image. Any body heat within this image will display as yellow to bright white.

Whilst you may be wondering what the difference between the Rainbow HC palette is and Ironbow but it is down to the location you are dealing with and the nature of the image.

For Ironbow, this is a perfect choice for roofing, insulation concerns, and outdoor electrical equipment whilst the Rainbow HC is great for dealing in low-contrast environments and picking up subtle temperature differences.

Overall, a thermal image is going to help pinpoint where an area has the most heat and where it is the coolest. For example, if you are taking an image of a property from the outside and the entire image is in the cool colours of blues and purples apart from one area which is red, this will display that you are losing heat in this area and will require attention.

Now we understand what a thermal imaging camera is and what they can show, it’s time we look at who uses them and their uses in everyday life.

Who Needs Thermal Imaging and Why?

There are many people who use thermal imaging cameras, perhaps more than you may realise but let’s look at how the Police Force use them first.

About Thermal Imaging

Police Force

Many crimes happen during darkness and often the criminal will try to get away, making it increasingly difficult for the Police to find them. 

But with thermal imaging cameras attached to the helicopters, it makes it merely impossible for the criminal to hide and this is because these cameras can work in the dark, through fog, and rain. 

If they try to hide in hedges, sheds, or in long grass, the camera will detect the heat source coming from their body and find them. Whilst they can hide, they cannot hide the natural heat being emitted by the body. It is uncommon for criminals to know about thermal imaging technology, so many are eventually caught.

Medical Reasons

As thermal imaging cameras are brilliant for detecting heat spots on an object, they have been known to be particularly successful within the medical field for a number of different reasons.

This includes screening for infectious diseases without exposing them to radiation. As well as being used for temperature gages, they can also pick up poor circulation, injury, inflammation, and can aid in detecting breast cancer.

Building Inspections

Here at Build IR, we have gained extensive experience in carrying out thermal imaging for building inspections to both commercial clients and homeowners.

With our state-of-the-art thermal cameras, we can safely and quickly identify any heat being lost throughout your building or areas where the insulation is less sufficient. Due to an area which is losing heat consistently, this will be making your energy far less efficient as well as increasing the risk of dampness and mould forming.

Over the 20+ years in operation, we have successfully carried out over 500 BREEAM Thermographic Surveys. This means that not only have we developed a wealth of experience and all relevant qualifications, but also, we are able to spot even the slightest anomaly on your property!

Industrial Inspections

The last thing anybody wants to deal with is an electrical fault causing a fire or an appliance overheating. But how do we know that something isn’t quite right within the appliances or wires until it is too late?

Carrying out industrial thermal inspections with our cameras, we can detect components which are beginning to overheat, faulty wires, and insufficient or failing insulation. By learning about Thermal Imaging in industrial inspections, operators and management staff begin to integrate the technology as part of routine inspections, or to find any issues with the machines.

Choosing to use Build IR to carry out your industrial building compliance inspections allows you to highlight areas which could be at risk of overheating and prevent the risk of a fire.

Thermal Imaging A Roof

Whilst we are able to survey a property on ground level with our cameras and highlight any issues within the property or external walls, how can we survey the roof?

However, at Build IR, we are CAA Approved, meaning that we can use our thermal imaging drones to complete your inspection. This has allowed us to complete the survey with 100% guarantee that the entire external property has been assessed.

Having the ability to use a drone-mounted thermal camera to carry out inspections has provided us with a vast variety of benefits, such as:

  • We have reduced the risk of falls from a height
  • We have eliminated the dilemma of inaccessible areas
  • We have increased the speed of capturing and relaying data, especially on larger projects
  • We have substantially reduced the costs by using our drones

Prior to being able to use a drone to survey your roof, the entire process was far harder, longer, and much more expensive!

To begin with, an entire scaffolding structure would need to be installed in order for surveyors to appropriately inspect the building. Whilst they are inspecting the building, they would be exposed to unnecessary risks with falling from heights being one of the highest fatality metrics in the UK workplace – in 2022/2023, 40 people died in the workplace as a result of falling from a height.

About Thermal Imaging Roof

Whilst some buildings have simple structures and the entire roof is accessible, there are often buildings which are too unsafe to access. However, with our drones, we can review the entire building, even inaccessible areas.

With areas which are often deemed difficult or inaccessible, this can often delay the already long inspection if you are completing it on foot. 

From walking around the entire building and collecting data at every point, to taking the data away, studying it, and then putting it in a report, this can take days or sometime over one week. Our drones cut this timescale dramatically and can feed live information to site owners for analysis.

Finally, choosing to use Build IR will reduce your costs substantially. There will be no need to install scaffolding or take members of the team out of work for the day. Our drones will complete the entire inspection whilst causing minimum disruptions to your working day!

Why Choose Build IR

With over 20 years’ experience in construction and thermography, we have developed a strong building compliance service to offer to all of our clients both new and old.

We pride ourselves on offering great customer experiences, a professional service backed up by a wealth of knowledge, all at a competitive price.

At Build IR, we want to offer all of our customers the best service we can and assure them that our team is only made up of the best surveyors who are all trained and certified, whatever your needs may be we will have you covered!

Want to know more about Thermal Imaging? Don’t hesitate to contact us!



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