FLIR TG130/TG165 Spot Thermal Camera (2022)

I have been seriously interested in the value of Infrared photography ever since I had my home inspection almost ten years ago and the inspector went around taking pictures with his ten-thousand dollar thermal camera. A DIY'er can know the value of insulating and caulking like a pro but to actually visually quantify and identify issues in your own home is amazing. So why didn't I just run out and buy an infrared camera ten years ago? Expense. Ten years ago infrared cameras were so price prohibitive that a home owner would never see the return on investment from energy savings.

My home inspector's camera was made by a company called FLIR. FLIR has been the definitive standard for infrared technology since its inception in the late 70's. FLIR has maintained a dual focus not only on quality good enough for aviation and military application, but also for low cost. But we all know what low cost in aviation and military equipment means....still way too expensive for home use. I grew up with the name FLIR, it was the Cadillac of infrared technology. I never thought I would be able to own infrared, it was too cool and too expensive to purchase without a real strong need.

In the last couple of years there have been some small outfits and independents that have come up with less expensive alternatives usually by coupling a device to your smart phone. While it seems like a great idea at first, I am not particularly keen on this idea. Since you don't have an integrated device the future of your new infrared camera is now linked with your near disposable smart phone. If you get a new smart phone you might have to keep your old one around for compatibility and if you purchase an Android compatible camera you could never lend it to your iPhone wielding friend. My personal woe in this field was a camera I purchased from a company called Seek Thermal that attached to my phone but due to the direction of my USB port the camera faced towards the user instead of away so that effectually I could only take infrared selfies. Personally, IMHO, I would suggest that anyone interested in owning an infrared camera stick with a fully-integrated unit.

After multiple frustrations in the crowd-funded arena I decided to shop for a less expensive infrared camera that was already in production, I just knew I was in for higher prices but a higher price was better than nothing at all. In my search I was absolutely shocked to find an integrated camera for only $200, less than many of the smartphone options. To my further amazement the camera I found wasn't from some odd-ball Chinese import company I had never heard of but was from FLIR, the market leader in infrared technology.

The unit I found was the FLIR TG-130, a pistol gripped camera used with one hand, however the pictures in this article are generated with the more expensive FLIR TG-165 solely because the FLIR TG-130 lacks storage, you can look but you can't save. The TG-130 and TG-165 have near identical optics so what you see in these pictures will be the same as what you will see in the TG-130's screen. A home user doesn't really need to save pictures of the issues found, he just needs to identify them so they can be fixed. If you were to make a money making venture out of the idea and provide home energy audits, the added expense of the TG-165 would be much more palatable.

Since infrared imaging is best when showing temperature differentials it is best to do an energy audit of your home during harsh temperatures. In the summer, while its hot outside and the air conditioning is running, you can go around the inside of your house looking for hot spots. In the winter, try looking for hot spots from the outside and in the attic; heat loss will light up like a Christmas tree. It's summer now, so all my pictures will be from the inside.

(Video) Introducing the FLIR TG130 Spot Thermal Camera

To be absolutely honest my first impression when opening the box was mildly underwhelming as there was an incredible lack of documentation. The camera comes with a nice thick book but only two pages are for any given language and are comprised of basic information such as where the ON/OFF button and USB slot are. The very well hidden documentation for the TG-165 is actually stored on the included SD card. But, to be honest again, the use of the camera is actually rather simple. I think I may have been mildly intimidated by the FLIR logo. :)

The TG-165 comes with an incredibly versatile charger and USB charging cable. The first step is simply to find the appropriate plug for your locale, attach it to the charger and plug the camera in via the USB charger and wait for the internal battery to be charged. I didn't time how long mine took to charge as I plugged it in on the way to bed but I can say the charge has lasted long enough to do very informative and thorough walk-through energy audit of three houses and a follow-up on my house for this article and the battery still shows full.

There is a very simple menu system on the camera to change things like the color palette the camera uses to display thermal information and whether to use Celsius or Fahrenheit for temperatures. You can consult the manual if you like, but most of it is pretty straight forward and the options are simpler to understand than the average laser printer.

For my images I opted for Fahrenheit temperatures, a nice Predator-style color palette (loved the first movie) and a target in the middle that shows where my temperature reading is coming from. The target allows me to tell with rather good accuracy where the camera is pointed and easily see that my reading is on the mark for small spot temperature variations.


Since I had replaced several dual pane windows at rather great expense in the last few years my curiosity started there. As you can see in my first picture the window glass does OK but the aluminum frame glows red hot from the summer sun outside.

(Video) Demonstration of the Flir TG130 Spot Thermal Camera

Next I went into my office which sports a two-part window; a square pane below and a half-circle pane above. As you can see, the half-circle is in need of replacement.

A bedroom window suffering from the same aluminum frame issues as my picture window. Whoever thought black aluminum frames was a good idea really needs to take a peek at these images. This will be a project to address.

While not alarmingly hot, this image shows heat leakage at the upper corners of my outside walls. This is a sign of under-ventilated roof soffits which I am currently addressing to help cool my attic.


This has actually concerned me for a while. In a house filled with dual pane windows, my master bath is adorned with a decorative single pane, round, window. The temperature doesn't seem too extreme in this pic at 76F, but this pic was in the evening and the sun was on the far side of the house. This is purely conductive heat from the air outside. This will be a more involved fix as it is both something I need to preserve the beauty of...and it is annoyingly round.

(Video) Using the FLIR TG165 Spot Thermal Camera for Automotive Diagnostics


This image was actually very revealing in two ways. The first WTH moment was; why is that corner of my office wall glowing warm? A quick trip to the attic showed some insulation that had fallen out of place. I wonder how many dollars in HVAC bills that one little spot has caused me over the years? Easy fix. The second oh wow moment....see those lines on the walls? Those lines are the studs behind the Sheetrock. Pretty cool.

Side by side you can see the difference between can lights with covers and can lights without covers. I will be getting covers for the rest of my can lights.

Looks like the air conditioning is working great. A nice 51F breeze at my feet will keep the house cool.

(Video) FLIR TG 165 Thermal Imaging Camera Review -EricTheCarGuy

Last but not least, for you ghost buster types....don't freak out when you see this in your camera. It's just your own heat reflection in the glass of the shower door.

All in all I believe it will be easy to get a return on a $200 dollar investment by focusing my efforts at the biggest heat losses in my house and especially by identifying items that I never would have thought of. I can hardly wait for cold weather to do a follow-up heat scan in my attic and around the house to see all the hot spots I missed from the inside.

This product gets a big thumbs up!

FAQs

What is the difference between FLIR and thermal? ›

FLIRs make pictures from heat, not visible light. Heat (also called infrared, or thermal, energy) and light are both parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, but a camera that can detect visible light won't see thermal energy, and vice versa.

Can FLIR detect water leaks? ›

The FLIR E50bx is still the camera they use to identify internal rain leaks and intrusion paths, as well as to check repairs. The company conducts water intrusion tests before and after a repair, and can take more than 100 thermal images in the process.

Can a FLIR camera be tracked? ›

FLIR's M400XR and M500 models are equipped with a video tracker feature. Video tracking allows the camera to follow a target of interest automatically without any continuous input from the operator. The camera will automatically track the target if the target remains in an unobstructed view.

Can you see fish with FLIR? ›

Both FLIR and Iris offer handheld thermal scopes and fixed-mount cameras that network with multifunction displays. This technology can also help you find fish.

Can FLIR see through walls? ›

Thermal imaging devices can't “see” through walls. But pointing a thermal camera at a building still reveals sensitive information about what's going on inside. Thermal cameras read the heat radiating off of an object.

Will snakes show up on thermal imaging? ›

Against the background of other objects, humans, animals, or cars have higher temperatures, and they show up more clearly on the device's screen. However, cold-blooded animals like snakes, for example, would be virtually impossible to detect with a thermal imager.

Can FLIR see through concrete? ›

​The answer is NO. The explanation to this answer to this is the same as the one applied for walls. Thermal cameras cannot see through concrete.

Can thermal imaging detect mold? ›

Thermal imaging can not detect mold but can detect variations in temperatures behind walls, which assists in cold spots that can become potential moisture or water intrusion issues. Moisture meters are used after the hot and cold spots are found.

Can infrared see underground? ›

Under the correct conditions, infrared thermography can help you detect evidence of leaks from buried systems that carry hot or cold product. When a leak develops in a buried piping system, be it underground or within a concrete slab, fluid is lost to the surroundings.

Can thermal camera see through water? ›

Water blocks a lot of infrared wavelengths, much as an opaque barrier blocks visible light wavelengths. In the same way that we can't see through paint, infrared sensors can't 'see' through any significant depth of water, because the waves it detects don't pass through water easily.

Can night vision see through water? ›

The answer to this question is unequivocal - yes, it does. Night vision devices are specially created for this purpose. Some night vision scopes are used underwater for military activities, search operations, diving, and sea hunting. Such equipment is waterproof and can be used for many purposes.

What does FLIR stand for? ›

The term FLIR stands for the abbreviation Forward Looking InfraRed. The abbreviation FLIR originated in the course of the further development of the infrared camera at the beginning of the 1960s.

Does the Coast Guard use thermal imaging? ›

FLIR's SINS-2 products integrate with existing FLIR M-Series and SeaFLIR® thermal imaging cameras currently in use by many U.S. Coast Guard boats and cutters. This integration will help the U.S. Coast Guard streamline configuration management, installation, and crew readiness while improving overall efficiency.

Does infrared work on fish? ›

Like human eyes, many marine species, such as fish, cannot see IR-light. One major obstacle is the relative high attenuation of IR-light under water compared to visible light [2], [3], [4]. That limits this method to short-range observations.

Can a thermal camera see through clothes? ›

Can Thermal imaging cameras see through clothing? No, thermal imaging cameras can detect the temperature of the cloth but will not see through it.

What is the difference between infrared camera and thermal camera? ›

Active IR systems use short wavelength infrared light to illuminate an area of interest. Some of the infrared energy is reflected back to a camera and interpreted to generate an image. Thermal imaging systems use mid- or long wavelength IR energy.

Why do thermal imaging cameras work better at night? ›

Since the ambient temperature at night (and importantly the temperature of unheated objects and the center of the environment) is much lower than during the day, thermal imaging sensors can show warm areas with higher contrast.

Can you see antlers with thermal? ›

Typically, deer have antlers so the thermal should be able to definitively tell you that none of your deer have horns. With a thermal, you can see the antlers when they are growing in and there is blood running in them. When they stop growing and harden you most likely can't see them, especially at any distance.

Is thermal imaging harmful? ›

Is thermal imaging dangerous? No. In fact, our thermal imaging system is a non-contact, non-invasive, passive imaging system that is measuring the heat emitted, or given off, by the human body.

Can helicopters see inside your house? ›

Police helicopters are also equipped with high-quality cameras that work as any other cameras do. This means that a police helicopter is unable to see through walls, floors, roofs, and structures.

Are thermal cameras legal? ›

Thermal Imaging Case

However, the U.S. Supreme Court has since extended the warrant requirement to the use of thermal imaging devices, prohibiting police officers from using such devices without a warrant to detect indoor activities.

How do soldiers avoid thermal imaging? ›

Across the globe, the US Army is eyeing two new technological breakthroughs to avoid thermal imaging, with the help of US camouflage manufacturer Fibrotex. These are the Ultra-light Camouflage Netting System (ULCANS) and the Improved Ghillie System (IGS).

How do you check for mold behind walls? ›

How Can Consumers Detect Mold Inside Their Walls - YouTube

Is thermal imaging worth it for a home inspection? ›

Structural Defects

Infrared imaging can tell the buyer a lot about a house, and makes damage that may not have been noticed otherwise easy to find. It is a good idea for owners to have an infrared scan of the home before selling so that they can find and fix any serious problems.

What can Thermal cameras detect? ›

An infrared camera (also known as a thermal imager) detects and measures the infrared energy of objects. The camera converts that infrared data into an electronic image that shows the apparent surface temperature of the object being measured.

How far can a FLIR camera see? ›

A thermal camera with an SSR of 36:1 could measure an object as small as 1 foot at 36 feet away, or 1 meter at 36 meters away, or 4 meters at 144 meters away.

Can FLIR see through fog? ›

Although thermal imaging cameras can see in total darkness, through light fog, light rain, and snow, the distance they can see is affected by these atmospheric conditions.

Can infrared go through walls? ›

Walls are generally thick enough—and insulated enough—to block any infrared radiation from the other side. If you point a thermal camera at a wall, it will detect heat from the wall , not what's behind it.

Can you see fish with thermal camera? ›

Since a thermal imaging camera displays a contrasting temperature background of the objects you are observing, it will not show fish with the same body temperature as the water. However, thermal imaging can help you locate fish, but it is not a good idea to use thermal imaging for fishing solely for finding fish.

Can a thermal camera see through blinds? ›

Blinds are still effective even for blocking thermal camera drones from seeing indoors, and the thicker the curtain, the fewer chances there are to see through them.

What material can block infrared? ›

To trap infrared light, Jiang and colleagues turned to a unique material called black silicon, which is commonly incorporated into solar cells. Black silicon absorbs light because it consists of millions of microscopic needles (called nanowires) all pointing upward like a densely-packed forest.

What camera can see through walls? ›

The latest version of a 'sense through the wall' camera, developed by Israeli company Camero, can detect any object, wire, or even shallow breathing of a human, from a distance of over 50-meters (164 feet).

How do I hide my infrared lights on my security camera? ›

Place the duct tape directly over the panel on the security camera and press down with your fingers. Place a second piece of duct tape, identical to the first, over the panel. The density of the duct tape will prevent the glow from the IR LED from being seen.

Does night vision work in total darkness? ›

Can You Use Night Vision Goggles in Total Darkness? No, you can't use night vision in total darkness because there is no light to be enhanced.

Is thermal better than night vision? ›

Thermal is best used to detect the desired game object. Night vision is best used to recognize, identify and harvest the game only if facial recognition is required or for deer depredation. If you have your choice of options, thermal imaging is the best twenty-four hour imaging option.

How much does a FLIR cost? ›

The FLIR E4 Thermal Imager is the first handheld infrared camera under $1,000.

Does FLIR work in daylight? ›

FLIR thermal cameras work both day and night, regardless of light. They're totally immune to the effects of darkness, glare, or even direct sunlight.

Are thermal and infrared cameras the same? ›

Active IR systems use short wavelength infrared light to illuminate an area of interest. Some of the infrared energy is reflected back to a camera and interpreted to generate an image. Thermal imaging systems use mid- or long wavelength IR energy. Thermal imagers are passive, and only sense differences in heat.

What is the difference between thermal camera and IR camera? ›

An IR thermometer, also known as a spot pyrometer or a temp gun, gives you a single number—the temperature measurement of a single spot on your target. A thermal imaging camera gives you temperature readings for each pixel of the entire thermal image, and allows you to visualize an entire scene in thermal.

Is FLIR thermal imaging? ›

The FLIR E4 with Wi-Fi is an easy-to-use thermal imaging camera for electrical, mechanical, building, and HVAC/R applications.

Is infrared camera the same as thermal camera? ›

An infrared camera (also known as a thermal imager) detects and measures the infrared energy of objects. The camera converts that infrared data into an electronic image that shows the apparent surface temperature of the object being measured.

What's better night vision or thermal? ›

Thermal scopes can easily detect animals or moving objects from a long distance whether it is day or night. Their detection is better than night vision scopes. Even in the roughest weather, they can help you see (except in extreme cold).

How far away does thermal imaging work? ›

A typical application for thermal imaging is border security, where most threats occur at night. Watchtowers spaced at 4km intervals or more have to be able to detect threats at ranges up to 2km or more to guarantee full coverage of the border.

Can you see at night with thermal? ›

Night vision is impaired by conditions like dust, smoke, overcast nights, rain, and fog. Thermal imaging is not impaired by these conditions and can see in complete darkness. Night vision is an outdated technology that, while it still has its uses, is cheaper but lower quality than other options.

Can thermal imaging see through fog? ›

Although thermal imaging cameras can see in total darkness, through light fog, light rain, and snow, the distance they can see is affected by these atmospheric conditions.

What does FLIR stand for? ›

The term FLIR stands for the abbreviation Forward Looking InfraRed. The abbreviation FLIR originated in the course of the further development of the infrared camera at the beginning of the 1960s.

Do infrared cameras work in daylight? ›

Do Infrared Cameras Work In the Daylight? Infrared cameras should not be confused with night vision, which enhances visible light. Because infrared cameras measure light that is not visible, they can work in darkness as well as daylight.

Can I use my phone as a thermal camera? ›

This accessory turns your phone into a thermal camera - YouTube

Can FLIR see through clouds? ›

In each case, pilot vision improves, but clouds and fog remain a problem. Water droplets are usually smaller than 100 microns, which is small, but still much larger than the span of an infrared or visible-light wave, so neither infrared light nor visible light can pass easily through clouds.

Does FLIR work in daylight? ›

FLIR thermal cameras work both day and night, regardless of light. They're totally immune to the effects of darkness, glare, or even direct sunlight.

Can infrared see through clothes? ›

As Wired say: "But one odd side effect of infrared photography is that, in some cases, it can see right through clothing. Not always, and the clothes have to be pretty thin in the first place." The issue being that nowadays, the majority of high street clothes are indeed incredibly thin.

What camera can see through walls? ›

The latest version of a 'sense through the wall' camera, developed by Israeli company Camero, can detect any object, wire, or even shallow breathing of a human, from a distance of over 50-meters (164 feet).

Videos

1. Flir TG130 Thermal Imaging Thermometer
(GalcoTV)
2. FLIR TG165 Spot Thermal Camera
(ITM Instruments Inc.)
3. FLIR TG165 Spot Thermal Camera Quick Start Guide | Instrumart
(Instrumart)
4. FLIR TG130 Spot Thermal Camera Unboxing & Overview
(BatterFly2002)
5. FLIR TG165 Spot Thermal Camera review
(Dolly Rutledge)
6. FLIR TG165 Spot Thermal Camera review
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