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Infrared Thermal Imaging Camera Helps Detect Heat Loss In Cold Weather

Reported: Jan. 7, 2014 8:27 PM EST
Updated: Jan. 7, 2014 8:38 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Stefano Dipietrantonio) – Have you ever wondered what heat loss on the body looks like? We went to the Charleston Fire Department Station One to find out. They have an infrared thermal imaging camera, which they use to “see” through smoke in fires to find those hot spots, which we used, to show where heat is lost on an uninsulated body.

"This is a thermal imaging camera," said Captain Brian Stiltner with the Charleston Fire Department. Firefighters use the thermal camera to see where their eyes cannot. It can also show us where our bodies and our homes lose heat in the bitter cold weather.

"In this display, the lighter colors indicate areas of heat," said Stiltner, who pointed out that that whitest areas indicated my face and head, uncovered, were giving off the most amount of heat.

"You can have a heat signature there on your chest where you're passing heat through your jacket, but it's not as bright as your head, your face, which is uncovered,” said Stiltner. “Because you're losing more heat there, where it's not insulated."

So, we put on some gear to see how much of a difference it made in holding heat in.

"Got my hat on, got my ears on, some wraparounds, even a scarf, now what do we see?,” we asked Stiltner. “Absolutely, the scarf shows the darkened area where the heat's being contained inside that layer, so you're not losing the heat that you were," said Stiltner.

Even my hands, with gloves, show that heat was saved.

"The gloved hand is obviously, appearing as a lot darker image here," explained Stiltner.

Even placing my hand on a cold, concrete block left a heat signature for a few moments. Then, we used the camera to show how a loosely closed door or window, can be a heat vacuum;

"This is the actual cold air coming in right there?,” we asked, pointing to the monitor.” It is,” said Stiltner. “But the door isn't completely sealed. Now the cold air is showing up as a large black mass."

The door was only open about a quarter of an inch, but the amount of black showing-up indicated a ton of cold air was leaking in and the heat inside, leaking out.

"Your best advice?,” we asked. “Don't go out if you don't have to, stay in!," said Stiltner.

The U.S. Army survival manual from 1970 strongly recommended covering the head when it’s cold, claiming 40 to 45 –percent of the body heat, was lost from the head. But now, some scientists claim, whether it’s your head or your hands, heat loss is heat loss.

The face, head, and chest are more sensitive to changes in temperature, than the rest of the body, making it feel, as if covering them us, does more to prevent heat loss.



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