Thermal Imaging Tool Saves Money - And More - at Selfridge

Darren Burton, a civilian electrician with the 127th Civil Engineer Squadron, uses a thermal imaging camera to look for hot spots in electrical wiring inside a building at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich. The 127 CES purchased the camera using funds from an energy conservation program. By using the camera, technicians are able to look for areas where energy is being lost through heat. Burton said in his case, as an electrician, he believes that he has helped to prevent several fires by detecting areas where an excess heat load was being generated by old wiring. (Air National Guard photo by John S. Swanson)

Darren Burton, a civilian electrician with the 127th Civil Engineer Squadron, uses a thermal imaging camera to look for hot spots in electrical wiring inside a building at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich. The 127 CES purchased the camera using funds from an energy conservation program. By using the camera, technicians are able to look for areas where energy is being lost through heat. Burton said in his case, as an electrician, he believes that he has helped to prevent several fires by detecting areas where an excess heat load was being generated by old wiring. (Air National Guard photo by John S. Swanson)

Bruce Zysk, left, and Darren Burton, a roofer and an electrician, respectively, with the 127th Civil Engineer Squadron at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., describe how they use a thermal imaging camera to develop energy saving techniques at the base. Zysk said by using the camera, he’s able to prioritize roofing repairs to help Air National Guard maximize energy conservation efforts by tackling projects that represent the most heat loss fist. (Air National Guard photo by John S. Swanson)

Bruce Zysk, left, and Darren Burton, a roofer and an electrician, respectively, with the 127th Civil Engineer Squadron at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., describe how they use a thermal imaging camera to develop energy saving techniques at the base. Zysk said by using the camera, he’s able to prioritize roofing repairs to help Air National Guard maximize energy conservation efforts by tackling projects that represent the most heat loss fist. (Air National Guard photo by John S. Swanson)

SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. -- Sometimes energy efficiency can pay dividends in unexpected places.

"I've prevented three fires using this," said Darren Burton, a civilian electrician with the 127th Civil Engineer Squadron at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich.

"This" is a thermal imaging camera, paid for by Air National Guard Energy Incentive Program money earned by the 127th Wing at Selfridge, and used to help direct energy conservation efforts at the base. Burton said the device also help him to isolate overloaded circuits as he's performing his routine preventative maintenance on the base's more than 350 buildings.

"It helps me to isolate a problem. I can instantly find where there is a wire that's overheated from carrying too much load or a switch that has been used to many times, because it is going to be hotter than everything else around it," Burton said. "Without this thermal imaging device, I may not be able to see a problem until after a circuit breaker has tripped -- and that's too late."

Burton and Bruce Zysk, a roofer with the 127th CE, have made the camera a routine part of their maintenance work, since the device was purchased in May of this year.

While the camera and its related software cost about $10,000, that cost did not get added to the annual budget of the wing's maintenance fund, thanks to $10,0000 the wing earned in 2012 through the ANG Energy Incentive Program. Based on FY12 energy reductions SANG is on track to earn $75k in ANG Energy Incentive Program money.

"The ANG incentives reward installations that reduce their usage by conservation efforts. At Selfridge, we're directing those incentives right back into more conservation programs," said Shannon Bergt, energy program manager at Selfridge. "Our goal is to reduce our consumption by another 5 percent in overall energy usage in Fiscal Year 2013."

Energy efficiency is an important priority for the Air Force - and for Selfridge, said Col. Mac Crawford, commander of the 127th Mission Support Group, which oversees maintenance and facilities operation across the entire 3,185-acre base.

"By running a leaner organization, and we are being very aggressive in our conservation efforts, we place Selfridge in a stronger position as we seek to secure new missions and new aircraft assignments for our base," Crawford said. "Dollars that we don't have to spend on energy bills allows us to reinvest those dollars into capabilities that support the primary mission of the Air Force, to defend our nation."

Zysk said the new thermal imaging camera came in particularly handy after a recent flood inside one of the buildings on the base. Using the camera, he was able to determine exactly where water had damaged the insulation inside the walls of the building, letting him know exactly where repair work is needed - without unnecessarily opening walls that didn't need work. In a similar vein, the camera has helped to pinpoint problem areas on large, flat roofs that are covered in rock.

"To move all that rock, just to look to see if there might be a problem just isn't realistic," he said. "This allows me to see where a problem is and where a problem may be developing in the future, so I can adjust maintenance priorities."

Zysk and Burton said the camera will likely pay greater dividends in the future, after initial tweaks to buildings and systems have been made and a base-line data has been created.

"As we make changes today, we'll be able to look at a building next month or next year and see if we need to further adjust," he said.

"Many of the buildings we are dealing with, they have inherent challenges," Zysk said. "They have huge hangar doors that have to be open to allow aircraft or large vehicles to move in and out. So we have to look for ways to squeeze out the dollars when it comes to saving energy."