Using Thermal Imaging to Identify PEX in Our Concrete

We’re moving ahead on many aspects but lagging on others.  The penetrations of the concrete floor and roof have long been on our critical path and one area that we have been lagging.  We engaged Lorna Fear of Visual Cue Thermal Imaging to help us, again.  Installing Schneider Electric’s Whole Home Automation Solution is moving forward rapidly.

Penetrations through the Concrete Floor

We need to core though our concrete floor for various plumbing, electrical, central vacuum and other services to go from the ground floor to the lower level.  We anticipated these penetrations and then made some design changes.  During the construction, we put PEX into the concrete for our hydronic heating and cooling.  With the design changes, we must ensure that when coring through the concrete we do not damage the PEX.

Although Bryan took measurements of the PEX before we poured the concrete floors, the PEX could have moved slightly and the risk of damaging the PEX, while low, has a very high cost to repair.  Consequently, we decided to take Wes Wenger’s advice and circulate hot water through the PEX and use thermal imaging to confirm the location of the PEX in the concrete.  Thus, we could be very confident that while coring the concrete we will not damage the PEX.

Setting up the thermal imaging required a number of steps.  First, Wes assembled a pump that could be connected to the PEX so we could pump hot water though the system.  We used hot water from our rental house, and we had to connect a hose to the hot water heater and fill clean plastic 35 gallon garage pails with the hot water and then transport them to the job site.  The hot water had to be circulated through the PEX and increase in temperature.  Then, Lorna could take the thermal images that would identify where the PEX was located.  Lorna had been to our project site on August 20, 2010 to take thermal images of our roof structure, and she identified where there were voids between the SIPs.

We got it done by 10:15 am.

Installing the Electric Distribution Panels and Lighting Control Panels

At the same time, Al was busy installing the electric distribution panels and lighting control panels in various locations in the house.  We have a 400 amp combined service entry device, which holds our electric meter from PG&E.  From there, electricity is distributed though four load centers inside the house.

The East Mechanical room has a 200 amp panel and a 100 amp panel.  The West Mechanical room has two 100 amp panels.  Our lighting control system has three locations – the Upper Laundry room (1 panel), Air Handler room (2 panels), and East Storage room (3 panels).

At this stage, Al is putting the panels in place so we can start to run the wires (conductors) between the panels.

It is coming together nicely.

Wes Wenger circulating hot water through the PEX to prepare for the thermal imaging.

Wes Wenger circulating hot water through the PEX to prepare for the thermal imaging.

Lorna Fear, of Visual Cue Thermal Imaging, using her Fluke infrared thermal imaging camera to identify where the PEX is located in our concrete floor.

Lorna Fear, of Visual Cue Thermal Imaging, using her Fluke infrared thermal imaging camera to identify where the PEX is located in our concrete floor.

Mapping the PEX in the concrete.

Mapping the PEX in the concrete.

The picture-in-a-picture thermal image, showing where the PEX is embedded in the concrete.

The picture-in-a-picture thermal image, showing where the PEX is embedded in the concrete.

Lorna, with her Fluke infrared thermal imaging camera, identifying exactly where the PEX is in the concrete.

Lorna, with her Fluke infrared thermal imaging camera, identifying exactly where the PEX is in the concrete.

Thermal image showing the temperature differences that identify where the PEX is embedded in the concrete.

Thermal image showing the temperature differences that identify where the PEX is embedded in the concrete.

Wes measuring to identify where the penetration through the concrete would be for the tub drain.

Wes measuring to identify where the penetration through the concrete would be for the tub drain.

Inside the East Mechanical room, showing the 200 amp distribution panel (right) with the two non-fused disconnects mounted under the embedded connection box. There will be another 100 amp panel mounted on the left side and the transfer switch will be mounted on the cover of the connection box.

Inside the East Mechanical room, showing the 200 amp distribution panel (right) with the two non-fused disconnects mounted under the embedded connection box. There will be another 100 amp panel mounted on the left side and the transfer switch will be mounted on the cover of the connection box.

The lighting control panel inside the Upper Laundry room. This is a large penetration of the shear wall so we will transfer the shear to the other side of the wall (in the Atrium).

The lighting control panel inside the Upper Laundry room. This is a large penetration of the shear wall so we will transfer the shear to the other side of the wall (in the Atrium).

Atrium side of the shear wall, which will be covered with 1/2 inch plywood and then sheet rock.

Atrium side of the shear wall, which will be covered with 1/2 inch plywood and then sheet rock.

Three lighting control panels, mounted in the East Storage room. These panels will contain the components of Schneider Electrics Whole Home Control System.

Three lighting control panels, mounted in the East Storage room. These panels will contain the components of Schneider Electric’s Whole Home Control Solution.

Two more lighting control panels, located in the Air Handler room.

Two more lighting control panels, located in the Air Handler room.

1 Comment

  • Scott Heeschen says:

    Glad to see the progress – I’ve biked past and seen the shakes – beautiful.

    I’m mainly commenting here to let you know that I can barely read the photo captions when they’re within the photos. A lot of grey with the concrete and electrical boxes, so the grey text disappears.

    Good luck with the concrete coring!

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