Air leakage in building envelopes is responsible for a large portion of the building’s heating and cooling requirements. Therefore, fast and reliable detection of leaks is crucial for improving energy efficiency.
This paper presents a new approach to determining air leakages in a building’s envelope from the outside, combining lock-in thermography and thermal excitation by a blower door system. The blower creates a periodic overpressure within the building, inducing periodic temperature variations of the surfaces near the leaks on the outside surface, the façade. With the temperature variations excited at a known frequency, Fourier transforms of the time-series of the thermal images at the excitation frequency result in amplitude and phase images highlighting the areas affected by leaks. Periodic excitation and detection by an IR camera is known as lock-in thermography and is widely used to characterize semiconductor devices and in non-destructive testing. Excitation is usually achieved by optical, electrical, or mechanical energy input.
For this work, measurements of outside façades have been performed with three excitation cycles of a period of 40 seconds at a 75 Pa pressure difference, leading to a total measurement time of only 2 minutes. Measurements have been performed with air temperature differences of 5 to 7 K at highly variable conditions of irradiance, wind, and cloud cover. The measurements show higher detection quality and less impact from changing ambient conditions than the state-of-the-art differential infrared thermography measurements. With the method highlighting the variations in the amplitude image only at the excitation frequency, variations caused by environmental effects are filtered out. A temperature difference as low as a few Kelvin is therefore sufficient, and large façades can be examined from the outside. This amplitude image is already clearer than an image created with differential thermography. A further reduction of unwanted artefacts in the image is demonstrated using phase-weighing of the amplitude by scalar product.