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Energy auditing - the new science of building

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Newly constructed commercial  buildings being described as ‘green’ or buildings being measured for their degree of energy consumption will increasingly affect their future value, according to thermal imaging experts, FLIR Systems.  

Rising energy prices, higher heating, ventilation and air conditioning costs are a fact of life and a building’s ability to minimise energy consumption will be highly valued and sought after in the real estate marketplace.  

Roger Christiansz, Managing Director FLIR Systems Australia : “ Rising energy costs, coupled with climate change and concern for the environment, are driving energy audits in both new and existing structures as professional thermographers and building inspectors  alike - armed with infrared cameras -  can now point the camera to ‘see’ and measure hot-spots where a building is ‘leaking’ energy dollars.  

A reputable energy audit will always start with a thermographic inspection to detect heat losses near roofs, windows and key physical building elements.  

Energy auditing is a trend now being seen in the domestic housing market as energy prices continue to escalate.  

The market for low-energy house building is growing around the world and in Australia. As an integral part of the building process Infrared cameras are used in energy audits to check the building structure during and after the construction phase.  

In Australia, as in many other temperate and tropical climates, says FLIR’s Sean Towner,  how well insulated and constructed a dwelling is affects massively its ability to retain air conditioned cool air in summer as well as retaining heat in winter.  

“ Minimising leakage from the building  is where a FLIR IR camera is an extremely valuable tool for pinpointing exactly where and how it is happening,” he said.  

The main principle of low-energy houses is to avoid heat loss and to optimize all sources of heat production. Passive houses go a step further: they are extremely well insulated, do not have heat bridges, use heat exchangers, sun radiation and other sources to save the heat of the air-outflow by transmitting its energy to the fresh air inflow.  

They follow among others, some comfort (ISO 7730) and air quality (DIN 1946) standards. These houses need up to 90% less heating energy than a conventional residential building. The passive house is likely to become an EU building standard as of 2012.  

Checking the construction process

Passive houses have to be planned and constructed with care. “The building process has to be monitored very closely” says Markus Meyer, owner of AIROPTIMA, a European building consulting company specialized in HVAC issues for residential buildings and in particular eco houses. “An infrared camera is a perfect instrument to detect temperature differences in a non-contact and non-destructive way”.  

These temperature differences are prime indicators of building construction faults, warm bridges or air leaks. Meyer inspects passive houses after building stages are finished and after full completion of the house: ”a strong moment for infrared technology, as I require the presence of all craftsmen during this inspection”.  

B-series camera
Meyer uses a FLIR B360 infrared camera which has specific measurement features for building applications. He often uses the camera’s humidity and insulation alarm functions as well as its Picturein- Picture functionality.  

His reports for building owners, architects or energy consultants are made with the ThermaCAM Reporter software and contain advice on which appliances to use in order to optimize the house’s heating and ventilation.

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