What’s the Hottest New iPhone Tech – FLIR ONE Review

two power bricks glowing warm in thermal image

Warm power adapters are a sign of vampire loads

Over the weekend I got to play with one of the coolest new tools for an energy geek – a FLIR ONE Thermal Imaging Camera add-on for the iPhone 5/5S. You can literally measure and see how cool or hot you or anything around you is. A friend at church just got one and she knew how much Alicia and I would enjoy testing it.

This is not the first thermal imaging camera I’ve used before, but it is the most convenient. For those that do not know what a thermal imaging camera is, it is a camera that can see heat (infrared). They are really useful for quickly identifying air leakage in homes and other buildings. They work best when the outside and inside temperatures are very different so that you can see the change in temperature. Even though that wasn’t the case when I got to experiment with the FLIR ONE, I did find some interesting things to explore.

The basic setup was pretty good. You snap a special mounting case onto your iPhone 5 or 5S (I wonder how long until they have a version for the new iPhone 6) and then clip that into the thermal camera. You need to install the Free FLIR ONE app from the Apple App Store to use the camera, but that only took me a few minutes. With the camera attached, the phone feels very similar to when I have an external battery pack case attached to my iPhone.

thermal image of the outside of a refrigerator

Check out the hot spot under the fridge and the cold spots near the ice dispenser
Dont’ forget to clean the coils to save energy

The FLIR ONE has a separate on/off/tune switch that you use to turn it on. When it is in the off position, lens covers go over the two special cameras on the FLIR ONE to protect them in your pocket or pocket book.

Once I figured out how to get past the introductory instruction pages, using the FLIR ONE was a snap. You can switch modes depending on what you are looking for with the camera. I like the Iron mode as it is nice and colorful. You can even choose a different mode after the fact if you want to see how the image looks in a different mode. The FLIR app stores the captured image files and data itself, as well as provides the option to save a copy to your photo library on the phone.

In addition to finding air leaks in homes, Thermal imaging is great for identifying energy vampires around the house.  You can see in the picture the power adapters for computers and phones that are hot even though they are not in use.  The picture of our refrigerator shows the heat coming off of the coils below and the cold spots where the ice maker and water dispenser comes through the door.  Have you ever cleaned the coils under your fridge?  It is a great way to save energy and extend the life of this expensive appliance.  

Another feature with the FLIR app that I really like is the ability to pull down the image to see a visible light photo of the thermal image, which is really helpful in explaining to folks what the pretty pictures actually mean.

thermal image showing an LED vs Incandescent bulb

See how much cooler the LED is for the same brightness

I still haven’t figured out how to get the images out of the FLIR system into a mode I can use off the phone except for taking screen shots. I hope they come out with a small app that could enable me to analyze the raw images, complete with the extra data, on my laptop.

At $350, the FLIR ONE is an expensive toy, I mean tool, but you could afford a new iPhone to attach it to when compared with a standalone thermal imaging camera. The cheapest standalone Thermal Imaging FLIR camera I’ve seen is just under $1,000 and it has a puny screen and is a pain to save images.

Since the internet is made for pictures of cats, I figured I couldn’t end this post without a thermal picture of our two cats and their glowing eyes.

Thermal image of two cats on a bed

Two cats as seen by the FLIR ONE

Happy Greening!

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Identifying Ragweed

Are you allergic to ragweed?  Jon is.  According to Wikipedia, Ragweed is a very common allergen.  Just ask around and you’re sure to find people who know they are allergic to it.  But do you know how to recognize it?  It’s a very common weed and I realized recently that I’ve seen it’s growing all over my neighborhood. 

A few weeks ago, I came home from a 10 day summer vacation to find 3 beautiful bushes growing in my front yard.  I’ve been trying to get some pretty flowers and bushes to grow in our tiny, mostly shaded front yard, so I was thrilled.  I was also pretty surprised, because that spot had been absolutely bare when we left for vacation.  I’m not kidding.  See the pictures for both how bare it was, and why I was thrilled to have a pretty bush there! (I’m trying to replace the fake looking mulch with a more natural front yard.)  

2014-08-23 19.24.22

Bare spot in our front yard

2014-08-05 14.06.16

Beautiful, mysterious bush in our front yard

I was excited by this beautiful new addition to our yard. Yet, I was skeptical. What kind of bush grows from nothing to the size of my 4 year-old blueberry bush in just 10 days? I had a bad feeling about this.

I knew my co-worker had recently been to a class about identifying wetland plants and that he had bought some books on identifying plants. I took some photos in and asked him.  He happily did some research and came back with “Alicia, I’m afraid I have bad news. I think your beautiful new bush is ragweed.” I was devastated! So devastated that I did my own research, even googling “Looks like ragweed” to try to find something else it could be. 

I was convinced. It was ragweed. Ragweed has ragged leaves (see the pictures), green flower-like stamens that come out of the leaves and stems that are tan and red with tiny little hairs on them.  I have seen it growing mixed in with grass and looking like plants and bushes. If you decide to pull it out by hand, I strongly recommend wearing gloves.  I found out the hard way that I have a contact allergy to it as well as I had itchy spots on my arms for about five days after pulling the ragweed bushes from our yard. I don’t react to poison ivy, so this was especially surprising.

Closeup of ragweed stem

Closeup of ragweed stem – notice red color and tiny hairs

Common North American Ragweed

Common North American Ragweed

Ragweed with green staminate flower spikes

Ragweed with green staminate flower spikes

Ragweed with  more mature  green staminate flower spikes

Ragweed with more mature green staminate flower spikes

Please share this information with others. My hope is that the more people that can identify ragweed, the more we can eradicate it with simple hand pulling and save a lot allergy suffering.

Happy Greening!



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