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Useful In-House or Out-Sourced
Your Infrared Program, In-House or Out-Sourced?

We are frequently asked about the comparative costs and benefits of establishing an in-house infrared inspection program versus outsourcing to a consultant. To answer those questions we have put together the most up-to-date costs of initiating an in-house program and an estimated average daily rate for the services of an out-sourced consultant. The comparison is dramatic, and yet even those figures do not tell the whole story.

Cost comparison:

The initial investment required to create a complete program is approximately $185,000 (which includes camera, peripherals, hardware, software, taxes, training, and collateral training costs). The average estimated cost to out-source a consultant is $1,100 per day (including report and travel). Note: consultants fees are tax exempt.

Training Requirements:

The American Society for Nondestructive Testing has established rigorous guidelines for training and experience for Level I and Level II certification. The classroom-training requirement consists of 20 hours of physics, 19 hours of camera operation, and 41 hours of application training. After the required experience has been documented, a thermographer is qualified to provide quantitative analysis of the observed temperature measurements. Both thermographers at Infrared Research are Certified at Level II.

Technical Expertise (Use it or lose it):

Each organization considering an infrared program will need to determine how many days per year they expect to have an employee utilizing the camera and associated equipment. This is important not just to calculate when the break-even point will occur in the purchase vs. out-source decision, but also to consider the quality of the program.

Thermographers who are behind the lens of the camera 8 hours a day, every day, keep their skill set tuned, and are adding significantly to their knowledge base each day. The ability to differentiate a true anomaly from, say, a reflection, a normal heating pattern or normal load condition, is critical to save unnecessary repair costs. Likewise, the intuition that comes from greater experience can lead to a thermographer "digging deeper" to find a hidden anomaly that presents only the slightest hint of such at first look through the lens. An experience thermographer is an invaluable "component" in the process.

Technicians How Many?

Each organization will have to consider how many trained thermographers it requires. The cost estimates provided here include just one trained thermographer. ($1500 to Level I). The risk is obvious if an organization only has one qualified thermographer. How long will that person remain in his/her current position, or with the organization? If the financial analyses are based on that one person using the camera full time, then vacation, sick-time and other estimated time off must be factored into the actual number of days the camera will be utilized. If the organization intends to train more than one employee, then those additional training and collateral training costs need to be added to the estimate shown here, and consideration given to how to keep the skills of all thermographers up to date.

Camera Malfunction / Depreciation / Obsolescence:

Each organization will need to consider how it will maintain its infrared program when a camera malfunctions. Should your camera need repair, it is likely that you will be without your camera for a minimum of two weeks. This includes time to ship the camera to the repair facility, diagnose the problem(s), prepare estimate, authorize the PO, make repairs, and ship the camera back. Your organization will similarly be without the camera during annual calibration.

Camera repairs are costly, with a minimum charge of $500 plus shipping if no malfunction is observed at the repair facility. Routine calibration and maintenance is approximately $2,000 (including shipping). Should a detector need to be replaced, your repair bill would probably total $20,000.

The working life of the camera and peripherals will depend on their usage and any subsequent technological developments. The range could be from five to ten years. Repairs required during this period of time cannot be estimated and depend upon usage and conditions of use, handling and storage.

Software Version Updates/Upgrades:

Upgrades to software offered by the camera manufacturers occur at the rate of about one per year. The first upgrade may be included in the cost of the camera, while subsequent upgrades are usually not.

Shifting risk / costs to qualified consultants:

An organization that chooses to out-source its infrared program shifts many of the costs and risks to the consultant. The capital cost is borne by the consultant. The consultant bears the risk and expense of equipment becoming obsolete and requiring replacement, as well as keeping software current. The consultant has the responsibility of arranging for replacement equipment during repairs. The consultant funds the training of the technicians and not only keeps their experience current, but broadens the experience with exposure to varied applications.

Not all infrared consultants offer the same breadth of services, personnel or equipment. Be sure that you are getting a quote on the same things.


An in-house program can make economic sense for a few large or specialized organizations; however, generally an out-sourced program will offer more flexibility and be more cost-effective in both the short and long term. There is no substitute for experience.


Certified Infrared
Thermographic Specialist

Jim Garner, President
Infrared Research Inc.
100 Park City Road
Rossville, GA 30741
email jim


Infrared Thermography sees inside your operations to spot problem areas before they become critical.


800.866.7480 |

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Infrared Research, Inc.


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