25 Myths about Thermal Technology

Thermal technologies are getting more and more interests from general public. Unfortunately, with those interests there are some myths and untruthful information regarding the Thermal technologies. If you ever encountered a statement that might sound odd or untruthful to you that is probably the case, especially with Thermal devices. If this topic intrigues you and you want to debunk the numerous myths about thermal technology, then keep on reading. We are going to take a look at the 25 Myths about Thermal technology.

Myth – 1: Thermal Imagers Indicate Air Temperature

This is definitely a widely spread false information around the internet. If this was the case and in-fact the thermal Imagers actually detected Air temperature – than what were you actually going to see when using the Thermal Imaging device? Nothing but an unrecognizable colorful picture.

Why exactly is that? Well this would be the case, because as its name applies – thermal technologies rely on heat and temperature. This one is correct. But the Thermal Imagers ONLY detect emitting heat and wavelengths from objects – living or not living, avoiding and completely ignoring air temperature. This results in the detection of the most important thing when using a Thermal Imager – and in fact, the object/s that the user is trying to detect.

Myth – 2: Thermal Imaging cameras should not be used in daylight

A clear proof that the thermal imager could be used during the day even on hot days!

Thermal Imaging cameras are mainly used during the nighttime –  this is a wide-known fact. But just because they are widely used as a night-time detection tool doesn’t mean they cannot be used during the daylight.

Objects, living or not-living, still emit their own temperature and infrared wavelengths during the daytime too right? So why wouldn’t it be possible for the Thermal Imaging camera to detect those emitted heats and infrared wavelengths? It definitely is possible.

Thermal Imaging cameras have a built-in special lens that focuses on heat or simple infrared energy (IR) which is transported onto a detector that is extremely sensitive to heat. So taking into consideration that direct sunlight can slightly hinder the picture quality, the Thermal Imaging cameras will work just as well in the daylight as they do in complete darkness.

Myth – 3: Thermal is not affordable to normal users

A common misconception that is widely spread among thermal technology enthusiasts is that it is not affordable to normal users.  Fortunately, this is definitely not the case.

There are devices that are top notch and definitely can be a bit pricey for the average user. But those top-notch devices are mainly oriented for professional use only and this definitely doesn’t mean that a budget-oriented user cannot afford a very good thermal vision device. Almost all manufacturers of Thermal vision devices have budget friendly lines that specifically target the users that have a big budget constraint.  There are devices varying from different budget friendly price ranges that  combine the three strongest points in a device of this kind – very good performance, impregnable durability and at a very budget friendly price.

Even though there are some compromises in performance compared to top notch devices for example, for the price of the devices from a budget line this is pretty understandable. Nevertheless, the performance that a budget thermal device can bring to a user is definitely something to not be underestimated. It will offer you all the strong points that a thermal technology device offers, all at a very decent and budget friendly price.All of those strong points are always covered with a very long and often a life-long warranty to make sure that you get the best bang for your buck even if you have some complications with your chosen device.

Myth – 4: Thermal Cameras can be handled only by professionals

This is definitely not true. If this was the case, then why are there even thermal imaging cameras that have an added description as even kid-friendly? Thermal Cameras are nothing this complicated as they sound or may seem to the new users of the night vision world.

Even though there are definitely Thermal Cameras with the main intent for professional use, you definitely do not have to be a professional to simply take a look through a thermal camera and tell what objects you are seeing, for example. There can be some learning curve if you are a younger user, but being a professional is definitely far from the recommendations for using a thermal camera device.

Myth – 5: Thermal Cameras can see through walls

This one would be great if it was possible right? Well, unfortunately it isn’t. There isn’t a device of that kind, in the night vision technology world, that is capable of seeing through walls.

A clear expectation what could you see with Thermal Imaging Infrared Camera.

Thermal Cameras can detect heat giving you a blurry object, if there Is like a paper thin cover or something like that, but seeing through walls with a thermal camera will definitely not be one of the possibilities that those great devices offer its users.

Check the article Can Thermal Imaging see through walls for more in depth info.

Myth – 6: Thermal Technology has a short live

False. The manufacturers of all thermal technology devices make sure to never compromise in the durability and lifetime of a thermal technology device.

Their lenses are very complex compared to normal lenses as they need more performance but are also more durable. The battery life of the Thermal Technology devices  is also another strong point. The Thermal Technology devices are overall more robust, tough and are made out of materials that are hit and blunt proof – which only adds up to even making their lifetime longer.

With all that said, almost every manufacturer of a thermal technology device makes sure to bring to the user a long-life warranty which only adds up to the longevity of a thermal technology device.

Myth – 7: High Performance Systems are not affordable

This is actually a popular statement among thermal technology  high performance system users and enthusiasts. For higher tier Thermal top-notch  systems this may somewhat be true.

But this doesn’t mean that High performance systems are only present in  higher price-tier devices , where price is a big factor and there are hardly any budget devices there. This is where the budget line Thermal technology devices come into play. For this statement that high performance systems are not affordable, thermal technology manufacturers made sure that this isn’t correct. Varying from different prices according to the user’s budget, there are thermal technology devices that have a higher than average performance all at a very budget friendly price.

Combining affordability with possibly the best performance that a thermal technology device can bring to a user is what a lot of manufacturers focus and rely on.

Myth – 8: Thermal Cameras Can see Through Glass

A guy testing Thermal Camera and piece of glass.

Unfortunately for some people, thermal cameras cannot actually see through glass. Thermal cameras rely on receiving energy waves and emitted heat that comes from the surface of the object itself – not searching for wavelengths or heat through certain objects like glass in this example. 

Thermal cameras convert the received infrared light wavelengths and emitted heat then convert it into a picture, which the user of the device receives. All surfaces, that block out the passage of the infrared wavelengths and emitted heat make it impossible for the thermal cameras to receive any kind of this information.

Myth – 9: Thermal Cameras Can’t be used as surveillance cameras

FLIR demonstrating how thermal cameras could be used as surveillance cameras.

This one is definitely not true. In-fact, Thermal Cameras, removing their practical use in night vision and daytime object detection, have the second widely spread application as surveillance cameras.

The strength and performance of Thermal cameras, makes them a reliable and powerful choice as a surveillance tool. All objects have a measurable emitted heat and thermal cameras can detect even the slightest differences amongst moving objects like humans, animals, cars, background and much more to generate a video that highlights the contrasts between different objects. All of this makes up to a scenario, where the Thermal Cameras can and are used as a great unable-to-be-hidden-from surveillance camera.

With Thermal Cameras, as they work perfectly in the daytime – they definitely do not require daylight to perform. Bright light wont distort the pictures that are received by the camera and other harsh weather conditions won’t change the ability of the thermal camera to be used as a surveillance tool. Using the invisible heat radiation of each moving/nonmoving or living/nonliving object in its FoV or field-of-view, these cameras can even detect objects better than the traditional cameras used in surveillance scenarios.

Myth – 10: Thermal Cameras cannot see through fabric material

False. Thermal Cameras can definitely see through most fabric materials, as the heat and infrared wavelengths, emitted from the body of a person, cannot be blocked out by any fabric material. If the case with this myth was correct, you could simply put on a full set of clothes and not be recognizable to the thermal camera – this is definitely not the case.

If this wasn’t a myth, the simple fur that most animals have would also be logical to block out their emitted infrared wavelengths and emitted heat. This is definitely not the case. Simple fabric material or animal’s fur cannot block out their emitted body temperatures or the detection of infrared wavelengths by the thermal cameras.

Myth – 11: Thermal can’t see through plastic bags

Plastic bags are one of the thinnest and light-proof material on the planet. They are not thick enough to be able to block out any kind of emitted heat or infrared wavelength from an object, no matter what the object is. Thermal night vision is definitely powerful enough to be able to receive its needed information to give the user a picture, no matter what kind of plastic bag is trying to block out the required infrared wavelengths or emitted heat.

Myth – 12: Thermal Cameras could see underwater

Unfortunately, thermal cameras cannot operate underwater. The reason is that water blocks out most of the infrared wavelengths. You can look at water as a simple see-through barrier that blocks out all of the visible light wavelengths. In this article “Do Thermal Camera Work Underwater”I give more in-depth information why seeing underwater with Thermal Camera is not possible.

Myth – 13: Thermal Cameras have no application in real life

This statement will definitely have to be a big false. Thermal Cameras actually have a lot of different uses in our day-to-day life. Even if you are not a thermal technology enthusiast, you can still find your own into using thermal cameras for numerous different scenarios, where thermal cameras can come in handy.

Home and building inspections – have a problem or leak in your house but cannot figure out what or where it is exactly? – thermal cameras can definitely help. Marine use is one of the first thing that comes into mind when talking about Thermal Cameras and night vision technology. Those devices are widely used in different marine operations and missions.

In this article What is Thermal Imaging Used For? there are different example of the technology use.

Other fast example where thermal cameras can be used in our day-to-day lives are electrical inspections, law enforcement, security cctv and surveillance for examples. The thermal cameras even find their way into medical use. The thermal cameras are used to spot damaged tissues and to detect specific severe fever conditions in both humans and even animals.

Myth – 14: Thermal Imaging can be blocked by Mud

Let’s take a look at this myth with one interesting movie example. Have you seen the film called the Predator? In the movie, there is a specific scene where the main actor, Arnold Schwarzenegger uses mud to cover his body, to not be able to be detected by the alien Predator’s thermal detecting night vision.

The scene in the movie Predator.

In the movie, this technique works, but in real life this will technique will definitely not block out any body-emitted heat. The mud layer that one person can cover himself with, is definitely not enough to block out the emitted radiating heat from his body and for the detection of the thermal imaging to catch infrared wavelengths. In time, no matter how cold the said mud is, it will get heated up by the skin and still be detectable for the thermal imaging device. Infact, in some cases, if the mud is even warmer than the object’s body temperature, the effect will even be controversial.

The mud applied to the body will actually make the object ‘’glow’’ even brighter to the thermal imaging device, letting the device itself pick up even more emitted heat radiations and infrared wavelengths

Myth – 15: Thermal Cameras need light to see

A big myth. If thermal cameras needed light to see, then how would they actually operate during the night-time? The night time is a very widely-spread scenario where thermal cameras are used. Thermal cameras do not need any visible light to see AT ALL.

Unlike night vision technology, that need at least some minimal ambient light from the starlight and moonlight, the thermal cameras do not need even that. They only need to catch infrared wavelengths and emitted heat from specific object/s and result in giving their user a clear picture.

Myth – 16: Thermal Technology is not suitable for hunting

Hunting Hogs with Thermal Scope.

Yeah right. This one is definitely false. During the daytime, hunters can easily detect and pursue the animals that are being hunted. During the daytime, animals can easily escape the hunters and for this purpose, the hunters widely choose to do their hunting activities during the night. But with this choice, come another disadvantage.

The awareness and night vision sight of all animals is much better compared to an ungeared hunter. For this purpose, comes the help of Thermal images to even out the odds. Thermal imagers are actually one of the most usable and most suitable devices when we talk about hunting. They offer their users the most accurate and detailed information about a living object. Mud, weather, rain, heavy snowfall, bushes, camouflage or even harsher weather conditions cannot block out the wavelengths and emitted heat that are required for the operation of thermal imagers.

Thermal imagers help the hunters detect animals that are much further away from them – an option that would not be possible without a sniper scope or the naked eye. But a naked sniper scope without the help of a thermal imager during the night would pretty much be useless.  All of those factors make up for one extremely essential and useful device for hunting scenarios.

Myth – 17: Thermal Imagers can see through bodies like an X-RAY

Thermal Imagers definitely do not have the ability to see through bodies like they are an X-RAY. All that the thermal imagers can possibly do is only give you a location of this body. The thermal technology only works, based on catching infrared wavelengths and emitted heat that get radiated only FROM the skin.

So thermal Imagers do not have the ability to detect THROUGH that skin, only to it. Enough to catch valuable information needed for the thermal technology to give its user a clear picture. But definitely not enough to look through skin and bodies, like X-RAYs do.

Myth – 18: It is illegal for civilians to own a Thermal Imager

Even though there are some states in the United States that regulate the legal possession for Thermal technologies, for the most parts of the world it is completely legal for any kind of civilian to freely own and buy himself a Thermal Imager.

With that being said, possessing a thermal imager is completely legal. The illegal part comes into place if a civilian buys a thermal imager with the intent of shipping it or delivering it to another country outside of the United States or Europe – which is illegal, if you are not a contracted distributor with legit documents and contracts.

Myth – 19: Thermal night vision could be used only at night

Thermal night vision technology relies on a specific principle – image intensifier tubes that convert the received infrared wavelengths and emitted heat from objects and further giving the user of the thermal night vision device a thermal image. Even though there are some cases where thermal night vision cannot be used in other scenarios different then at night.

This is the case because some thermal night vision devices can potentially overheat when used during the daytime and potentially get permanently damaged from bright lights. But with today’s improvements in technology and adaptation, this is not the case. Thermal night vision systems like FLIR for a quick example, do not have any of those possibilities. They perform perfect in both day and nighttime scenarios.

The thermal information that is gathered by today’s technology advanced thermal night vision devices cannot be ‘’over-exposed’’ to bright sunlight and perform perfectly during all kind of daytime scenarios. A targeted object in a camouflage, far out or during harsh weather conditions will unquestionably be detected by thermal night vison in the night the same way that it would be detected during the day.

Myth – 20: Thermal Technology is used only in warm climate

This is definitely false information. Thermal technology is usable in any kind of different weather conditions, no matter the climate. They can be used in such flexible scenarios – from scorching heat in the dessert to extreme snowstorms in the Arctic for example.

This is true because for example, Marines use thermal technology in any kind of operations and mission – in the Afghanistan dessert and even in missions and operations with snowstorms where the temperature is far below 0 degrees Celsius.

So if the marines, which have one thing in mind- saving human lives, rely on the thermal technology during warm and cold climate, then the thermal technology is definitely usable no matter what climate it is in.

Myth – 21: The color of the target will have an impact on its measurements

The color or size of a detected target by a Thermal device does not play any role in its ability to detect it. The only thing that is in the core of the ability of the thermal device to detect is simply two things – the wavelengths that are required for the thermal device and the emitted heat from the object/s themselves.

The true color or size of the object does not matter one bit as the thermal technology gives the user of the device a picture, based on its heat and emitted wavelengths rather than its actual size or color of the target.

This article explains it all all: What are Thermal Color Meanings?

Myth – 22: Thermal Imaging should never be used during the day

A pretty widely-spread myth. Infact, the truth is that thermal imaging has a lot of different uses during the day.  It works just as good in detecting night-time objects as it does during the day. There are other uses for thermal imaging in our day-today lives like daytime surveillance or CCTV for example.

Thermal Imaging offers much more to its users than just being a simple night-vision device that can be used in nothing more than just detecting objects during the night.

Even though older models of Thermal Imaging can be permanently damaged if exposed to bright sunlight and street lamp lights – the case with this possibility is no longer possible as the advancement of the thermal imaging technologies as a whole has developed greatly. This development allows for thermal imaging to be freely used during the day.

Myth – 23: Maintenance of Thermal Cameras is too expensive

False. The only thing that way be considered a bit expensive is just buying your own thermal device. From then on, the manufacturers of every single Thermal Camera has made sure to offer their users an extremely budget friendly maintenance of any kind of thermal camera, no matter what price tier  it is from.

For a quick comparison, the maintenance of a simple budget friendly unit will not differentiate itself much in price compared to a much higher price tier  device for example. Budget friendliness after buying your thermal camera is what the manufacturers of those devices focus on greatly – with the purpose of the most pleasurable and enjoyable usage of your device without worrying that it can potentially ‘’break’’ your wallet or budget.

Myth – 24: Thermal Imaging cameras can see below the surface of a target

For Thermal Imaging cameras, the option of seeing below the surface of a target is not a possibility. Thermal imaging cameras work only as much as the target itself. Nothing through, under or below the target.

Thermal Imaging Cameras only work, based on gathering information from the object/s that the user is willing to detect. Nothing more nothing less. Thermal imaging cameras will only be able to see as much as the surface of the target that is detect, but nothing through, above or below the said target for example.

Myth – 25: Ghost busting with a Thermal-based device

Yeah right. If it would only be this simple. There are a lot of different shows that are sure and claim that they used thermal cameras to detect a ghost. This is one of the biggest myths actually.

How is the Thermal device going to detect any energy, infrared wavelength or emitted heat from an object you can’t even see with your naked eyes for example? Thermal devices require a solid-surface object, living or non-living to be able to give you any kind of information regarding this said object.

What will the Thermal device actually detect if the object is not even there? Yeah that is right – no valuable information that can be used for creating a thermal image for the user.


Even though there are numerous false information floating through the internet and different forums and discussions, your best bet to not taking the bait and instantly believing those myths is to take a further investigation and put your mind to it. Thinking reasonably and logically will definitely be a helper when we talk about all of the false information and myths regarding thermal technology devices.

Leave a Comment