How do thermal cameras work

At Heat Seeking Thermal Imaging, we use thermal cameras in a number of applications. From electrical and mechanical surveys to utility substations, thermal cameras help in the discovery of building problems not always visible to the naked eye. We’re often asked, how do thermal cameras work? And what applications should they be used in? This month we’ll explore how thermal cameras work and the applications they should be used in.

How do Thermal Cameras Work?

Thermal or infrared cameras detect the heat given off by an object or person. A thermal camera detects infrared energy, or heat, and converts it into an electrical signal. This signal is then processed by the camera to produce a thermal image on a video monitor. The camera then performs temperature calculations.

Thermal imaging cameras have a lens, just like the visible light cameras we’re all used to. In thermal cameras, the lens focuses waves from the infrared energy present in all objects onto an infrared sensor. Thousands of sensors convert the energy into electrical signals, which create a video image.

These cameras see heat as it radiates off objects. Thermal cameras don’t see through objects, as all objects have their own thermal profile. Thermal cameras see the differences in heat radiating off buildings and objects, which allows a thermographer to identify and evaluate the severity of heat-related problems.

What Applications Can Thermal Cameras Be Used For

  • Electrical thermal imaging inspections
  • Water intrusion and leaks in floor heating
  • Inspections of mechanical equipment
  • Inspections of building envelopes
  • Commercial building inspections
  • Utility substation inspections

Thermal imaging cameras are used in a variety of industries including oil and gas, manufacturing, healthcare, government facilities, large commercial facilities, mining, industrial plants, utilities, agriculture and in residential settings. Thermal cameras can be used to detect problems before they become failure issues. Thermal cameras provide a non-invasive way to analyze a wide range of facility processes and equipment.

Contact Heat Seeking Thermal Imaging for more information about how thermal cameras work and how they can be used to help you detect problems before they cause major problems at your home or business.


  1. Faylinn on 01/28/2016 at 8:02 AM

    For my photography class, I have been assigned to work with a thermal infrared camera for a project. All I have to do is take 20 unique pictures, but I have no idea what type of pictures I should be captured that would be appropriate for its thermal infrared capabilities. However, I am really glad that I was able to come across this post, because now I know that this type of camera is best used in mechanical situations. If I were to go to an oil company to shoot some photos, what should I be looking for that would be good to take photos of?

    • Stuart on 01/28/2016 at 12:49 PM

      Thank you for your response to our post. Without being a trained and certified Thermographer you may run in to some challenges and or some items that are difficult to understand what you are seeing. Review the manufactures spec. and try to set up the parameters for the operation of the camera to the best of your abilities. This would affect the ability for accurate temperature measurements but you may be able to obtain a satisfactory result for a photography class. Basically once it is running you will have to find out where you are allowed to access as most Oil & Gas facilities are very strict regarding access due to safety and liability issues. You will have to just look around the area at such things a running equipment and items with temperature variances and items should present them self’s to you. There is not really a pin point answer to this question. THanks