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Infrared thermography is a non-invasive, non-destructive technique for measuring surface temperatures of an object. These surface temperatures can be used to understand the thermal performance of window components and complete window systems. Infrared (IR) thermography has long been used for qualitative field assessment of window thermal performance, and is now being used in the laboratory for quantitative assessments of window thermal performance. As windows become better and better, more refined test methods and/or simulation tools are required to accurately detect performance changes and make comparisons between products. While hot box calorimetery has worked well to characterize the thermal performance of conventional insulating products, differences in the thermal performance of new highly insulating systems are often less than the resolution of conventional hot box calorimeters. Infrared imaging techniques offer the opportunity to resolve small differences in the thermal performance of components of highly insulating window systems that hot box measurements are not able to identify.
Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (LBL), a U.S. national research laboratory, is currently using infrared thermography to develop a database of measured surface temperature profiles for a number of different fenestration products for use in validating both basic and advanced two- and three-dimensional finite element method (FEM) and finite difference method (FDM) fenestration heat transfer simulation programs. IR surface temperature data, when taken under controlled laboratory conditions, can be used to direct the development of these simulation codes, identify their strengths and weaknesses, set research priorities, and validate finished modeling tools. Simulation of fenestration heat transfer is faster and less expensive than hot box testing of fenestration products, and forms the basis of window energy codes being implemented, developed, or considered in the US, Canada, the Former Soviet Union, Europe, and Australia. The National Fenestration Rating Council (U. S.) has developed a simulation-based standard which is used to rate and label window U-values for a published directory of over 10,000 different window products.