A thermal camera may seem relatively puny going against the destructive prowess of a record-shattering heat wave that’s hounding the entire planet. It’s true. It seems like a total mismatch. How will a handy device rein in the devastation that has erased the lives of thousands in the world — to date? But truth be told: There’s more to the infrared camera than meets the eye.
Without a doubt, America is scorching hot. And it’s not just patches of the great nation that are suffering the sweltering heat; CNN details that over 85% of the American populace has been bracing for temperatures well over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Worse, over 100 million people have been under a string of heat alerts lately from New England to part of the American West. Yay!
If that news is making you think twice about going out, you may feel even more depressed hearing what’s happening in continental Europe. In Portugal and Spain, over 1,000 heat-related deaths have been reported on one Sunday alone. Plus, in the United Kingdom, the heat was so intense that the runway in an airport melted. Imagine that. At the same time, people are running for their lives as thousands of wildfires are erupting all over France.
It’s easy to conclude that the situation is dire. It’s certainly not normal. The extreme heat thought to be an offshoot of global warming is causing another disruption in our daily lives unlike any other — causing us even more strain from the long COVID-19.
As bad as it may seem, this is where a little help from a thermal camera should bid you well. An infrared imaging camera may be the last thing on your mind to fight the crazy heat. But using it wisely could be your ace to protect you and everyone you hold dear. Read on to know how.
Global Heat Wave: Cooking the World Slowly but Surely
They say tax and death are two things that one can’t escape in this world. While there’s certainly a lot of truth in that, anybody can tell you the heat of the sun is one harsh reality one has to deal with. Everyone does. The vital question is if you’re dealing with it the right way.
One problem with heat is your body could grow accustomed to its growth not realizing it’s all leading you to doom. That mentality right there is called the “boiling frog” syndrome.
- Simply put, the syndrome means that if you put a frog in boiling water, it will leap in an instant. But if you put it in tepid water and slowly boil it, the frog remains until it’s all boiled.
The analogy sounds scary but looking at the number of people dying of the rising global heat wave could point us in the right direction. The problem is we might not know that a problem has arisen until it’s too late.
A Killer on the Loose
If we’re to collect the data on those adversely affected by the rising heat worldwide, we can easily conclude it’s a nightmare of gargantuan proportions. Indeed, the heat has quickly occupied national consciousness as the deadliest “weather killer” despite the 1936 heat wave marked as much hotter. But a quick look at the casualties in America and in Europe today should make our jaws drop.
Estimated Number of Deaths
Approximately half of these deaths were due to heat-intensified heart disease.
United States of America
This is according to government data from death certificates.
Between 76,000 to 128,000 have died in heat waves
Quite frankly, heat is Europe’s biggest natural disaster.
Approximately 2.6 million deaths in Asia every year
It is estimated abnormal cold and hot temperatures due to climate change are killing people in less wealthy nations in Asia.
Nearly 30,000 deaths in South Africa from 1997 to 2013
South African city dwellers are most affected and are dubbed “frogs in a boiling pot.”
About 473 heat-related deaths from 2000 to 2018.
Heatwaves are Australia’s “most destructive” natural disaster when it comes to the number of deaths.
Table 1: Estimated Number of Deaths due to the Global Heat Wave
While poorer countries definitely bear the brunt of the ever-increasing record-breaking heat wave and climate crisis, developed nations are also adversely affected like never before.
What is making it all worse is demographics.
For instance, America’s and Europe’s aging population is starting to contribute negatively to the crisis. All over the United States, news of tragic deaths is surfacing from various outlets.
As America is aging, the elderly have become the most vulnerable to the negative effects of a heat wave. Statistics show that 80% of the 12,000 people who died in the United States due to heat-related heart attacks are over 60 years old.
Worse, seniors are ill-equipped to deal with a sudden rise in temperature. The bodies of three women who were found dead in a Chicago senior housing facility in May this year are revealing.
“Hotter and more dangerous heat waves are coming earlier, in May ... and the other thing is we are getting older and more people are living alone.”
By the looks of it, America is reeling from this ever-increasing global heat wave. Added that, everything seems going crazy at the airports as lack of manpower and the virus are still creating major stumbling blocks. Already, dozens of states have declared extreme heat prompts.
It’s getting worse faster than it’s getting better. Rising global temperatures as a whole are exacerbating the situation. In 2018, National Climate Assessment found that American heat waves have tripled in frequency starting from the ‘60s. Worse, they’re longer now by as much as 45 days.
How Extreme Heat Today Can Destroy You
Again, heat waves are the #1 cause of death by natural disasters in America. It’s not flooding. It’s not the extreme cold.
But the greater question is how does heat kill people? One thing’s for sure: It’s not like you’re stricken by a bolt of lightning. The truth is heat waves are far harder to escape from compared to the megawatts of electricity from the sky.
The reason why we can die of such extreme heat is simple. Our bodies are not made to withstand the lethal combination of high temperature and humidity.
Man’s ancestors in the search for meat may have survived the extreme heat in the African savanna. But our conditions today are far worse than in those times. And the reason for that is humidity.
- High heat and high humidity common to islands and peninsulas, not to mention the eastern half of America, is a deadly combination.
Water vapor from the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes means the high heat comes with high humidity. Normally, without too much humidity, sweat evaporates off your own skin. But the air that’s saturated with water vapor results in very limited evaporative cooling. So as you continually sweat, you are threatened with dehydration which could lead to a fatal heat stroke.
Figure 1: Sample Estimated Peak Heat Index Readings for July 20, 2022 (government source)
Heavy sweating alters the potassium and sodium concentrations in one’s blood. This confuses the heart and the nerve cells — a condition that could lead to your heartbeat or your breathing grinding to a halt. In short, you could die.
It’s no surprise that the aging and those that already suffer from degenerative diseases are the ones worst affected by the growing heat. Their ability to fight it is very much weakened. And that concerns, for the most part, the poor and underprivileged communities.
How a Thermal Camera Helps You Save Your Own Skin
It may come as a surprise for you to hear that thermal cameras in all their puny sizes can be a deterrent in the fight to put the wildly-increasing global heat wave under your heel. But to be fair about it, the science behind the device isn’t exactly low-grade. On the contrary. For instance, infrared technology has made possible the detection of newborn stars thousands of lightyears away.
To a large extent, there may not be a better way to detect increasing heat than by using infrared. Many may dispute how increasingly hot these days are. But, scientific records may have never painted a clearer picture. As weather stations all over the planet point out, temperatures have reached 15C hotter than the all-time hottest record in the history of the world. And still increasing. Imagine that.
So, what remains to be seen now is how you can leverage a handy infrared technology device to put the health risks of a global heat wave to an utmost minimum right where you need protection the most: in your home. Here are ways how.
Fix Energy Saboteurs in Your Home
Your precious abode is your immediate protection from the heat of the sun or the pangs of an icy-cold winter. However, a home's ability to shield you from the elements should go beyond just having a roof above your head. The latest news about an elderly man dying in his home in Clackamas County, Oregon due to extreme heat complications is an example.
It’s best therefore that your dwelling place should be checked. And this is where the thermal camera is a treasure trove.
Without a shadow of a doubt, quality air exchange sits atop the laundry list of putting your health and comfort in the place you call home. The same holds true for everyone you love who shares the precious abode with you. However, the fact remains most man-made buildings harbor a far greater rate of air leakage than needed.
Of course, this is a design and/or construction failure. But rather than complaining and whining about it, it’s best you check where these energy gaps are located. If you don’t get your game face on, air leakage could be sneaking in your wall vents, chimneys, and through badly-sealed doorways.
While these may seem negligible, these drafts can sabotage your home by letting needed cool air out. Warming your home even more. The problem is the sources of these pesky drafts are, more often than not, hard to trace. In short, they’re invisible to the naked eye.
But not if a thermal camera can’t help it.
With an infrared camera in your hand, seeing the energy movement can be a breeze. You can detect the flow of incoming hot air in contrast to the outgoing cool air. In short, you can detect leaks.
Knowing the direction of the airflow in your house allows you to easily plug holes. It gives you a distinct advantage over going in blind. The problem is that most people associate insulation with protecting the home from the cold.
Well, insulation works both ways. It can insulate you from the freezing winter and also the scorching summer. Bear in mind that insulation’s main role is the prevention of heat transfer. So, if you do it right, insulation will protect you from heat from getting in and at the same time, keep extreme heat out.
The secret is to cool your precious abode down to a manageable temperature. While putting the AC on may come to your mind, there are ways to lower the room temp without tapping the electrical unit. By looking at natural ways to do it, you not only minimize your summer heat but also lower your monthly power bill.
Use the thermal camera to reveal faulty insulation. That way, you’ll know where to begin quickly without missing a beat.
Oh, don’t count windows out just yet. You may think they’re harmless to your energy situation, but they’re actually not. According to the study done by the American Department of Energy (DOE), about a third of heat anomalies that happen in a home is thanks to windows. This is especially true for those older windows that are single-pane. And the reason for that is poor insulation.
Now, you need not look far and wide to find a tool to test the integrity of your windows. The thermal camera will do just that for you. It will reveal if your old windows are as energy-efficient as you want them to be.
Thus, if your thermal reading portrays a high-heat transfer that’s happening via your windows, then you’re actually being rid of your precious dollars right under your nose. You can avail of an energy audit from a home inspector. By doing so, you don’t waste time and get around the problem sooner than expected.
Check Your HVAC System
It’s funny how air conditioning was a laughingstock when it was introduced to the public. Not only were they too large to be used at home but also they were largely unreliable. However, Dr. John Gorrie of Florida’s concept of relieving residents of the various “evils of high temperature” in the 1840s has now become a necessity. Thanks also to a number of visionary minds who made strides in AC technology: from Willis Carrier to Henry Galson.
So much, failure in the AC can be catastrophic nowadays as a massive killer heat wave gathers steam. In fact, the recent death in Florida has been attributed to just that: the lack of proper air conditioning.
The good news is a thermal camera is meant to inspect the integrity of an HVAC System. Giving you another advantage in your fight against the scorching heat.
Air leaks in your HVAC distribution system can easily be visible with a thermal camera. It could be caused by improper insulation between components, leaky ductwork, old ductwork, or the faulty operation of various components.
Airconditioning not working properly can give inconsistent thermal readings of the AC system. A home inspector can scan every register and vent to check if the intended temperatures are there in uniform. Spots that are too cold or too warm can be a sign of inefficient distribution of the cool or warm air as the case may be.
The advantage of using thermal readings to zero in on these problematic zones cannot be overemphasized. By fielding thermography, issues with belts, fuses, bearings, hoses, and breakers can easily be spotted in no time. Plus, the device can give the experts a quick look at the integrity of the building structure.
All electrical circuits give off heat. Problem areas, however, tend to produce more heat than normal or none at all. These can easily be picked up by a thermal sensor making the job of inspecting a lot more efficient.
That way, thermal imaging can guide a technician directly to any electrical component that is not operating as efficiently as needed. A circuit that looks hotter or cooler compared to the surrounding area is definitely worth looking into.
Plus, a thermal camera can help you document possible electrical anomalies in your system. You can thermal imageries digitally to any expert that could help you unravel an issue.
Check the Integrity of Your Roof
Let’s face it. Your roof is your first line of defense against the scorching heat of the sun. A defective roof, therefore, is actually putting you at a distinct disadvantage. But here once again is where infrared technology can come in handy.
Indeed, appearances can be deceiving when it comes to your roof. The shield may seem in excellent condition but underneath it could be rotting from the inside. For instance, a flat roof that’s harboring minor leaks could result in structural damage (e.g., mold).
As noninvasive as a thermal camera is, it can detect what’s happening in the membrane of your roof without damaging the system at all. In doing so, inspectors can detect the extent of the damage advising you if the whole roof needs to be changed.
Summer is ideal for checking the integrity of your roof via a thermal camera compared to winter. Yet, a thermal moisture survey has to be done under the best possible circumstances. Or the results may not be as reliable.
For instance, a clear night is the best time to do it with little to no wind. Take note that the roof holds heat coming from the sunlight during the day. So at night, the energy can be measured by the thermal camera. Brighter colors would signify there is more moisture underneath a roof membrane.
As the American government would tell you, having a cool roof is the best way to go. First up, you reduce your need for air conditioning when you do. In that regard, here’s a list of more benefits:
- Quality for money-saving rebates from the government
- Allows you to downgrade your AC saving money in the long run
- Better indoor comfort
- Decrease roof temperature extending your roof service life
- Lower the air temperature outside,
Of course, you can make it all happen by starting with a roof thermal inspection. Moreover, you can prove how much more effective a cool roof is with the infrared device. It doesn’t just make the job a lot easier but more importantly, it makes it a lot safer for you.
Though roof inspection accidents have not risen to jaw-dropping numbers, it happens. Every year, dozens of inspectors perish trying to make heads or tails of roof systems all over America.
Wrapping It All Up
Without a doubt, rising global warming is affecting America, Europe, and the world negatively. But it’s never a lost cause. It doesn’t have to be. Being able to adjust ourselves to the times should be paramount. Fortunately, a good start to making all that happen is employing the services of a thermal camera to the hilt.