Infrared camera recommendations for general contractor use

Hi, I believe I have searched and found little recent discussion on recommendations for IR cameras.  Hopefully the topic is inbounds.  Anyway, some background: I work for a general contractor in the SW Minneapolis metro area.  This contractor builds a couple of new infill homes per year, and does a lot of remodeling.  Nothing out of the ordinary, well designed aesthetically and a bit above code in the insulation and air sealing area, but not passive houses by any means.  I'm a mechanical engineer that has spent some time in the EE field (doing non-BPI certified pre and post testing in conjunction with EE work) after a corporate career in HVAC/R product design.  Anyway, I'd like to be able to do pretesting and take some IR photos of the before and after on remodeling work we do as we've done some pretty nice overlays on story and 1/2's and other homes.  So, we'd like to buy a camera that we (mostly me) can use to diagnose home performance and other issues.  From what I've read and observed we need to go above phone based models, but not sure how far/high $$$. 

Anything stand out for us to look at?  I've used several FLIR's in the past when they cost 8K, have seen some recommendations for the E6 but open to input.  Won't be used everyday, but probably every month anyway.  Want to be able to have the feature to pull the trigger and get a pinpoint temperature.  Yes, I know I need to get some training as well.

I appreciate your thoughts and if you can direct me to other forums as well, thank you.

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The real question is what are you going to do with the camera.  Does it need to take pictures that you will used in documents? I use a Flir F7. It was about $4000.  The new ones are the E4, E5 and E6 look good. The E6 looks like a big improvement for a few hundred bucks.  Honestly to get something this functional for $1200 bucks is great.  If you are using this in a report and Powerpoint slides, I would spring for the E8 at $3000.  I would measure things in paychecks. I wouldn't spend more than a paycheck or 2 on the camera. There is renting and leasing and used.  Flir like to control their product. Their service people are good. They have options with possibility for upgrades.  Not to be a sales pitch. 

Mick, thanks for your input and questions.  Where I used to work as part of a report we'd include a visible light photo next to the IR shot, so yes pictures in documents or at least to be displayed in an organized manner on a screen would be useful.  So how much resolution is required for that would be helpful.  I've also heard that BPI requires or may require a minimum resolution.  I haven't looked into that myself but I can.  If you have input on that pls share.  Appreciate your advice and recommendations on Flir.

You might be able to get a distributor to demo their cameras for you, so you can see what level you want to buy at. I went with 320x240 resolution and would want to do that again, but if you can be happy with less it will cost a lot less.

David, good idea on the distributor, I know one of our local shops doesn't stock product so will pursue some others.  Appreciate your recommendation for 320x240 (i.e. E8) where the E6 is only 160x120.  Also looking for easy download for storage purposes, etc.   

If you are a casual user, and have been trained on operation of IR technology, I would not walk past the Seek line of products.  I know most go to Flir and Fluke, which I've used in past work, but for my personal use, for the dollar, this product has a lot to offer.  The portability and case packaging allows it to stay in my brief case, and is always available.  It has 206 by 156 resolution, and their new product is 320 by 240.  For 1/10 the price.  And the app is pretty good, merging high res camera picture with the IR picture.   And does video.  And the temperature range up to 600F allows use with some process work, like thermal forming or oven analysis.  

As I'm sure most know, the key to IR is being trained and understanding the technology behind the product, avoiding the pitfalls of pretty pictures that show false data.  Usually a weeks class and a lot of use before becoming proficient.  But the low cost tools, for the money, are something I recommend for every maintenance department I visit.  Even panel scans or roof leak searches, or finding plumbing in the walls, things that are qualitative rather than quantitative, can use these lower cost tools.

And for hunters, in some states, helps you know what you will see at sunrise:)

PS.  I have not affiliation, just a humble engineer.

Contact (Snell Infrared) in Montpelier, Vermont. They are the world renowned leaders in infrared thermography training and application. They have some white papers on their website that could help you choose. Even better would be to spend the money and take one of their Level I courses, where you can try out several different cameras. They are an unbiased source of information on various cameras and brands.

I have a degree in Physics, but I took their Level I course and never regretted it. Infrared analysis is not just point and shoot. Images are very much dependent on environmental parameters and are subject to interpretation.


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