Can thermal imaging find underfloor heating leaks?
As the days and nights become colder and heating systems are being switched on again, some unlucky people are
As the days and nights become colder and heating systems are being switched on again, some unlucky people are finding that they have a leak and the boiler is 'losing pressure.' We've had a couple of calls over the past week from people with this problem.
The next question is usually "How accurate is the system at finding leaks?"
That's where it's important to explain what the thermal imaging camera can and can't do.
Thermal imaging only detects surface temperature. So you are relying on the leak to create a change in surface temperature. If the system is a radiator system fed by hot water pipes suspended under a timber floor, then depending on the size of the leak (and the thickness of the flooring and its coverings) it may or may not create a change in surface temperature. Therefore you may or may not detect the location of the leak. Compound that with the fact that you'll almost certainly get false hot spots due to missing insulation, pipes pushed closer to the flooring, t-pieces etc, and you'll want to make sure you've got someone who knows what they're doing with a camera before you start ripping up the floor.
For example if an old timber floor has been overlaid with chipboard and then laminate flooring, there's quite a barrier restricting heat transfer, especially if the leak is only small and/or is dripping downwards on to the ground and running away.
However, that would be the worse case scenario and thermal imaging can usually at least highlight suspect areas to target for further investigation.
Where thermal imaging works really well is when it's an underfloor heating system with pipes set in screed. In that scenario there is a direct transfer of heat from the pipes to the floor and your experienced thermographer should be able to set up your heating system and the camera to get the best results.
Can you spot the leak below? - ok, it's not always as clear as that, but that's how it can work
The image below shows the manifolds with all switched off except the leaking loop.