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.
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.
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.
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