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What is a Thermal Engineer and What is Their Role in Facility Management?

What is a Thermal Engineer and What is Their Role in Facility Management? 6 August 2021

Thermal engineering is a complex, specialised area of mechanical engineering that can be difficult to understand. National Thermal Engineer Day is celebrated in July, so in celebration, we are looking into what thermal engineers do and what they bring to the world of Facility Management (FM).

What is Thermal Engineering and What Does a Thermal Engineer Do?

Thermal engineering is a specialised subset of mechanical engineering that deals with “the movement of heat energy and transfer.” This energy can be “transformed between two mediums or transferred into other forms of energy,” so thermal engineers must “have knowledge of thermodynamics and the process to convert generated energy from thermal sources into chemical, mechanical, or electrical energy.”

Where Does Thermal Engineering Fit into Facility Management?

Thermal Imaging

Thermal imaging is a technology that translates “thermal energy (heat) into visible light in order to analyse a particular object or scene.” It can be used in facilities management as a cost-effective way to maintain buildings and electrical equipment, such as by showing when a building is losing heat or whether equipment and/or machinery is heating/cooling as expected.

Thermal imaging and analysis can also be used to spot issues such as “heat loss and insulation gaps” throughout the building. This helps facility managers keep track of and update their sustainability and eco-friendly efforts, as well as ensure proper ventilation and airflow in the building.

Planned Preventative Maintenance

As part of recurring maintenance, thermal imaging can be used in your mechanical and electrical facility management services to find failures in the respective systems. A common cause of many problems with electrical systems can be “abnormal heating” that is “associated with high resistance or excessive current flow.” Thermal imaging used in planned preventative maintenance and routine inspections helps to detect internal heating issues and allow you to prevent the issues from escalating.

Thermal imaging can also be utilised in your routine and ad-hoc HVAC inspections as part of your mechanical facility management services. Using thermal imaging, you’re able to scan your HVAC systems to easily find issues or potential issues:

  • “Check the HVAC system for loose electrical connections, misaligned ducts, air leaks, clogged air filters and leaking condensation,
  • Scan the thermostat to ensure its readings are not affected by a light switch or other warm connection nearby,” ensuring that your heating systems are functioning correctly,
  • “Inspect the electrical systems, starting with the fuse box. Look for overheating, overloaded circuits, and loose connections,
  • Check smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to make sure they are active,
  • Scan near plumbing lines, bathrooms, and along walls for evidence of water leaks.” Plumbing leaks can lead to mould growth and damage your building, so identifying problems before they happen using thermal imaging can save you time and money.

Fire Safety

Facility management encompasses a range of services, one of which is the role of fire safety in the workplace. Thermal imaging can be used in your business’ fire and security services to look for potential fire hazards in electrical equipment or wiring, as well as rising heat levels in specific points of the building. Potential and rising issues can then be dealt with accordingly. This contributes to a larger fire safety plan to protect your office from fire hazards.

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