Earlier, thermal imaging cameras were used only by the military. Later firefighters used the devices to see through smoke and find the hotspots. Then the thermal cameras introduced in law enforcement to trap suspects and investigate the crime scenes.
For a long time, the thermal imaging camera has been unavailable to the normal traders due to their high price volume. The entry of thermal device companies like FLIR has developed a series of affordable and powerful thermal camera models that any technician or electrician can use for building and electrical inspections.
Below we have listed the best cheap thermal imaging cameras. They may have less resolution and no advanced features of professional grade cameras but they are more capable of inspecting water or gas leaks and temperature difference while building inspection.
The list has everything from handheld and unique thermal imagers to the add-on cameras connect to a Smartphone. You have to decide based on the format or style you like, budget, and features you will need of.
Table: Best Cheap Thermal Imaging Cameras
Best Cheap Thermal Imaging Cameras: 10 Cameras Reviewed
1. Perfect Prime IR0001 Infrared Thermal Imager
Perfect Prime IR0001 is a unique and versatile thermal imaging camera with simple thermal features.
If you need a thermal camera for detecting heat loss, intrusion, moisture and other defects that will result in heat or air loss, this device will be a better choice. These cheap thermal cameras are applicable for car inspection also. It is a cost-effective camera with user-adjustable functionalities to receive accurate thermal values.
Thermal Imaging & Design Features:
This Perfect Prime IR0001 has the IR sensor with the resolution 32 x 32 (1024 pixels) which is low but for the price this accepted. This cheap thermal camera offers detailed thermal images up to 1024 pixels. This will detect the hotspots and cold spots in an instant so you don’t need any guesswork.
You can use this thermal camera to take measurements for the temperature range of -20 degrees Celsius to 300 degrees Celcius. With this thermal camera helpful in measuring heat in and around hot electrical equipment. So you can pick this thermal imaging camera for electrical inspection in your home or office.
You will not miss anything with this camera as it has temperature accuracy of +/-2 degrees. This device has the refresh rate 6 GHz which is low so it cannot be used for tracking faster moving objects but capture precise images for slow moving objects.
About the design, Perfect Prime IR0001 is one of the lightweight compact thermal cameras for the budget. The ergonomic handle in this device makes it easy to carry for any outdoor inspections. The manufacturer designed to keep it simple with one shutter button and six other control buttons to capture or scan.
It has 2.4-inch full angle LCD screen display with the visible resolution 0.3 MP. The device can store images on the included 4GB SD card.
There is no option to view the digital image as a separate image.
2. FLIR TG130 Spot Thermal Camera
FLIR TG130 Spot Thermal Camera is the best budget option of HVAC systems. This comfortable design makes it a good option for homeowners.
You have to face the thermal camera on the detectable area and trigger the device to capture the heat signatures or thermal image of floors, pipes, doors, insulation, windows, and boards.
Thermal Imaging & Design Features
This thermal camera has FPA uncooled microbolometer so you will get the bright and contrasting images that will speed up the inspection. It has the IR sensor resolution 80 x 60 (4800 pixels). So you will get contrasting and detailed images. The 1.8 inch TFT LCD screen display provides a good view of objects.
It has the temperature detection range between 14 degrees Fahrenheit and 301 degrees Fahrenheit. This wide heat sensitivity works well when you inspect equipment including car units. You can also use this thermal camera to make sure whether the food is in proper temperature by inspecting the refrigerator.
This camera does not have any internal memory to save the thermal images. You can identify the cold or hotspots and gather the temperature details. It will save the time of detection as you won’t need a visual inspection for pipes and insulation system while looking to identify the problem.
This thermal imaging camera has a fixed lens so you get a clear view without focusing. The device has a 55 by 45-degree field of view. With this feature, you can see the complete image from a safe distance. As it has a low refresh rate of 9 Hz, you can’t use this device to capture images while moving.
It has only one trigger button and no touchscreen which may complicate the process. The 3xAAA batteries used in this thermal camera has the operating time up to 4 hours.
For user's convenience we'd like to inform that, this particular product is unavailable right now, if it comes back to the market intimations will be given shortly for the customers by us.
This thermal camera has no onboard storage to store the thermal images.
3. Pyle IR Thermal Imaging Camera
The best part of this handheld thermal imaging camera is you don’t need any professional training to operate it. Pyle IR thermal camera is also one of those best handheld thermal cameras available in the market.
This model has more high-end thermal imaging and camera features that only a few FLIR and FLUKE thermal imagers have. You can use this compact thermal imaging camera for indoor and outdoor.
Thermal Imaging & Design Features
Pyle thermal imaging camera digital, fixed lens, a thermal sensor to provide the detailed thermal image with accurate heat details for electrical and HVAC inspections.
It has a 2.4-inch digital display with 4 color palettes such as grey, iron red, high contrast, and rainbow.
You can clearly view the thermal images on this digital LCD screen.
It has a point-and-shoot design that means you can simply face the camera on the interested area and trigger the button to capture the thermal image.
This device has 4 GB SD card that can store all your captured images. The memory is also expandable to 16 GB.
The temperature detection range allowed by this camera is from -4 degrees Fahrenheit to 572 degrees Fahrenheit.
This camera has a small field of view at only 20 x 20 degrees. As it has 0.5m fixed focus distance, you can experience faster scanning without changing the focus system.
To obtain the critical details you have to close to the target as it has low resolution.
It is a lightweight thermal imaging camera with 12.8 ounces weight. It has six intuitive control buttons in which four buttons for navigation and the other two buttons for accessing the menu and color palettes.
This thermal unit has a small field of view and low IR resolution.
4. FLIR TG167 Spot Thermal Camera
Before thermal imaging, electricians and professional technician have to open the panels when inspecting switch boxes and electrical units and then use a thermometer to detect the problems. This approach was not safe since it would be too late to detect the cold or hotspots.
But after the development of thermal imaging cameras, they can do an inspection on a safe side and get the required details.
FLIR was one of the important reasons to make thermal cameras available to everyone.
TG167 thermal camera from FLIR has lepton microthermal, an uncooled sensor for spotting the hot or cold units at an affordable price.
Thermal Imaging & Design Features
FLIR TG167 thermal camera can be used to identify the unseen hot and cold spots in a specific location.
The IR sensor in this thermal camera has the resolution 80 x 60 pixels. And its thermal sensitivity varies between 13 degrees Fahrenheit and 716 degrees Fahrenheit which is comparatively better for a budget camera.
FLIR TG167 thermal camera has a lens with 25 degrees. The refresh rate of this device is 9Hz.
The 2 inch TFT LCD screen display in this thermal camera offers a complete view of detected areas.
This TG167 stores thermal images as bitmap (BMP) color images on the internal 8 GB onboard storage which is expandable to 32GB.
About transferring the files, you can use the USB cables to get the images on your PC for in-depth analysis.
The printed document available with this thermal camera makes it easy to use this. The quick intuitive controls on this thermal camera make it easy to use even for the beginners.
The device has the Lithium-Ion battery which has 5 hours of operating time on continuous detection that can be recharged.
It has the rugged outer shell to withstand any surface and terrain and the camera has drop resistance up to 6 feet.
FLIR TG167 vs. FLIR TG165
Both thermal imaging cameras provide good performance in spotting heat leaks. So you can rely on these thermal cameras for leak detection purposes. While TG167 has the field of view 25-degrees, the TG165 has 5-degrees. Now you know that FLIR TG165 can provide you with a large view of the image area on the small screen and TG167 able to provide more temperature details. The battery life of the FLIR TG165 thermal camera is about 8-hours which is high compared to the 5-hours battery life of TG167.
FLIR TG167 lacks in color palettes and battery life.
5. FLIR ONE and FLIR ONE Pro Thermal Imaging Cameras
FLIR is one of the best thermal imaging device manufacturers and there is no doubt about it. Their series of thermal imagers are made the thermal imaging technology affordable to the people.
In that case, FLIR ONE, FLIR ONE Pro, and FLIR ONR Pro LT are the compact and affordable thermal imagers for smartphones.
All of the above three are applicable to both Android and iOS devices.
Thermal Imaging & Design Features
FLIR ONE thermal imagers are developed especially for the homeowners and outdoor people who would like to do a home inspection without the help of professionals. Its ideal design and size make it best thermal camera for home inspections.
This thermal imager can be attached to the phone and offer the real night vision and transmit 1080 pixels contrasted footage which is the resolution of the visual camera.
This thermal imager has built with Lepton Imaging Core and thermal sensor of 80 x 60 pixels resolution. It can provide sharp and clear videos that are easy to note the needed temperature details.
This is the adjustable connector so you can plug it without removing your phone case. It uses the iPhone’s charging port to connect.
The operating temperature of FLIR ONE is from -4 degrees Fahrenheit to 248 degrees Fahrenheit.
In iPhone, it captures the radiometric video images and MPEG file formats.
In Android, it shoots radiometric images and MP4 videos formats.
This device depends on the mobile phone for battery life and storage space.
FLIR ONE Pro and FLIR ONE Pro LT
Both thermal cameras have the quality of similar features and aimed the professionals. They have VIVIDIR which is the advanced imaging systems. FLIR ONE Pro thermal camera has the IR sensor resolution 160 x 120 pixels and the thermal sensitivity of about 17mk whereas FLIR Pro LT uses the 80 x 60 pixels thermal sensor with 100mk thermal sensitivity.
FLIR ONE Pro has the temperature range -4 degrees Fahrenheit to 752 degrees Fahrenheit but the PRO LT’s detection range is similar to FLIR ONE of -4 degrees Fahrenheit to 248 degrees Fahrenheit.
With this, you will know that FLIR Pro is the best choice for detecting heated equipment than the other two.
All the above three FLIR thermal imagers have MSX image enhancement technology and capture radiometric images. These devices withstand from drops as high as 0.8 meters.
Similar to FLIR ONE, these two capture thermal images and videos at 9Hz refresh rate. So you can use these devices to shoot while moving.
Above all have 10 color palettes and emissivity values so they are applicable for detecting different targets.
Though above three imagers mostly have similar features, FLIR ONE PRO leading the race with its high sensor resolution.
All three FLIR thermal imagers have only one hour of battery life.
6. FLIR C2 Compact Thermal Imaging Camera
FLIR has scaled down the thermal imaging as part of the toolkit. They introduced the compact and affordable thermal cameras without compromising on the thermal imaging features and quality. FLIR C2 is one of the best pocket-sized and cheap thermal imaging cameras.
This standalone thermal camera can be used for industrial maintenance, building, and home inspection. For the building inspector, electrician, contractors, HVAC operators and plumbers, this camera would be the ideal choice. It can detect the heat or air leaks, clogs, cold or hotspots and other structural defects.
Thermal Imaging & Design Features
FLIR C2 has a highly sensitive thermal sensor with the detection range from -14 degrees Fahrenheit to 302 degrees Fahrenheit. This allows seeing the small changes in temperature so that any professional or homeowners can see the heat pattern of hidden and unseen insulation leaks.
HVAC technicians use this thermal camera to detect these leaks which can create discomfort in a home. The heat or insulation leaks from doors and windows can also affect indoor air quality.
FLIR C2 is the perfect combination of thermal imaging camera and detector. It has VGA display with the 640 x 480 pixels resolution and 80 x 60 pixels thermal sensor. Altogether, they capture images of 320 x 240 pixels resolution. The different patterns available on the images make it easy to understand the issue.
This cheap thermal camera store radiometric images in JPEG format up to 500. Every image can have 4,800 unique temperature values that are helpful in in-depth analysis.
This thermal camera uses MSX image enhancement technology. It allows overlaying thermal image on the digital image and recognizes the temperature change instantly.
This is because it provides a visible light image and a thermal image on a 45 degrees field of view which is easy to see the critical heat details.
It has 9Hz refresh rate so you can capture the clear images while moving.
With a full battery, this FLIR C2 can run up to 2 hours. It includes the charger and USB cable to make detection and transfer of files easy.
FLIR C2 vs. FLIR C3
As FLIR C3 thermal camera is the advancement of C2, they both have few similar features. The Wi-Fi feature in this C3 thermal camera offers wireless video streaming to other smart devices. This thermal camera also has a picture in picture mode to get the detailed images.
FLIR C2 does not have options to transfer the files wirelessly.
7. Fluke VT04A Infrared Imager
The Fluke VTO4A is the handheld visual IR thermometer. This thermal camera is 40% smaller than the other thermal imaging cameras used for home and industry. You can use this infrared thermometer to detect the temperature of the objects without getting close to them.
This thermometer can be ideal for electrical circuits in a computer or for air conditioning. It is compact and easy to find the animal in the dark or measure the frozen food temperature in the freezer.
Thermal Imaging & Design Features
Fluke VT04A thermal camera comes with high resolution using PyroBlend Plus Optics. It has the thermal sensor with 31 x 31 pixels resolution that allows the user to shoot thermal images along with the built-in digital camera. It presents the thermal images with visible light photo to provide an accurate temperature difference. This will speed up the process of finding the defects.
This cheap thermometer has the field of view at 28 x 28 degrees which is impressive. You can set the maximum and minimum temperature value when capturing the measurements so the device is set off when the selected temperature is out of limit.
This camera can shoot the time-lapse images and has automatic recording after an alarm trigger.
With just one press, the device offers the blended thermal and visual image.
The temperature detection range of this IR thermometer is between 14 degrees Fahrenheit and 482 degrees Fahrenheit.
As it has the uncooled thermal sensor, this IR thermal imager can take temperature measurements from 6 feet away.
You can store almost 10,000 images on its 4 GB SC card. The SmartView software helps to create the final reports clearly.
It has 4 AA batteries to power up the imager. They are cheap to replace and offers 8 hours of continuous working time.
Fluke VT02 vs. Fluke VT04A
Fluke VT02 thermal camera has offered as a cheap option to their Fluke VT04A. It is also a pocket-sized imager that has the same uncooled pyroelectric ceramic sensor to take thermal and visual images. VT04A has five blended modes which are 0%, 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% but VT02 has only three such as 25%, 50%, and 75%.
It provides inaccurate temperature reading by 5 degrees.
8. Seek Thermal Compact Camera
Seek compact is the smartphone thermal imaging device or camera that convert the iOS and Android smartphones into thermal imager when connected.
This thermal imager depends on the connected smartphone for screen size and battery life but yet this is accurate and powerful thermal software.
Thermal Imaging & Design Features
Seek compact has the thermal sensor with the resolution 206 x 156 pixels. It transforms the phone into a thermal camera and detects the heat radiation.
The thermal sensor in this camera can detect the objects by measuring the hear signatures in complete darkness.
Though these are mobile-add on, the device can be used as a professional model to identify the air or heat leaks, pipe clogs, electrical deficiencies, etc and various commercial uses.
Seek compact thermal imager can detect any target or object up to 1000 feet so you can clearly monitor or track the animals from a safe distance. This would be ideal to check the hotspots in a house fire or find an animal hidden in bushes. In animal hunting being in safe side is important as targeting.
This compact thermal camera has 36 degrees field of view. It is common in most of the cheap thermal imaging cameras why because it helps to detect the heat signatures of objects in a wide area which is helpful in outdoor conditions.
Apart from capturing thermal images, you can also record videos which are huge with details. A video clip will reveal the exact heat issues in equipment like the electrical line so following the video you can rectify the problem quickly.
The refresh rate of this thermal imager is 9Hz which provide the steady images even when you are running behind the animals.
The waterproof and shock resistant carry case for this thermal imager keeps it safe in any situations. This seek thermal imager get powered by the mobile battery.
The iOS version of this imager is compatible with iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, 6, 6+, and 5th Gen iPod while the Android version can be used on most of Samsung, Motorola phones, and HTC One.
It has an adjustable focus lens so you can set the focus from 6 inches to 1000 feet to view the image. Thermal imager from this camera has good clarity in low light than bright outdoors.
This camera has a free mobile app on Play store and Apple store. It has 3 color palettes such as Black and White, Cool, and Tyrian and 2 scene modes that are Spot High/Low displays.
Seek Compact vs. Seek Compact XR
Both thermal imagers have the same thermal sensor of 206 x 156 pixels and temperature range. But Seek Compact XR has high detection range up to 1800 feet and wide field of view at 20 degrees.
Seek provides clear and sharp images but they can't do it for daily commercial use.
9. Seek Reveal Thermal Camera
Seek Thermal Reveal imagers are used for both indoor and outdoor applications. This Seek thermal imaging camera would be rank for affordable and convenient thermal imagers. This all-in-one device can be used for building inspections, wildlife or finding anything in the dark. Especially for hunters who prefer compact size tool, this thermal camera for hunting would be a perfect choice.
Thermal Imaging & Design Features
The device has built around the Vanadium Oxide microbolometer of 206 x 156 pixels.
The temperature detection range of this thermal camera is -46 degrees Fahrenheit to 626 degrees Fahrenheit which is acceptable for a budget thermal camera.
The wide temperature range made this camera suitable to find the heat loss as well as use the imager in rescuing a person in high temperature or below normal.
This is handy to those building inspectors to find the insulation leaks. This device saves energy, time and money as all it requires is taking the measurements and get the accurate temperature information.
This device reduces the processing time and allows taking the important steps for repairing.
Using this thermal imager you can detect the objects from 6 inches to 500 feet. It is the best pick for the DIYers as it can work in different areas.
It has the field of view of 36 degrees and LCD color screen in 2.4 inches so you can scan even a room and find the issues. The 300-lumen flashlight provides the illumination if you need to seek in the night.
The captured images can be stored on the SD card in the camera. As it does not have Wi-fi features, you could use the SD card reader or USB cable to transfer the files from camera to your PC for detailed analysis.
It has an ergonomic design with the rugged and rubberized outer shell. As it weighs less, after a few minutes you don’t feel that your phone has an attached device. It has three button controls to access the device.
It has 10 hours battery life which adds huge popularity to this camera. The rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery can be charged via USB cable.
Seek Reveal vs. Seek Reveal Pro
Seek Reveal Pro is for the professionals who need to receive more from a thermal imaging camera. Reveal Pro has a 320 x 240 pixels resolution thermal sensor. The magnification zoom is up to 4x and you can adjust or control the reticle and emissivity. But it costs high as it has a high resolution.
There is no special software for post-processing and it can't record videos.
10. FLIR E4 Thermal Imaging Camera
FLIR Ex has a series of best thermal cameras from E4, E5, E6, and E8 in which FLIR E4 is the cheapest option.
FLIR E4 has the rugged construction but features a sleek design and finished with rubber. The drop resistance of this thermal camera is up to 6 feet. So any contractor or building inspector can use this tool on various floors and terrain.
Thermal Imaging & Design Features
FLIR E4 is capable of capturing the detailed thermal images using the 80 x 60 pixels thermal sensor. It uses both 3.1 MP digital camera and thermal camera. The digital camera provides high-resolution images with more temperature details.
It also has the MSX image enhancement technology which receives the details from the visible light image and sets them on the thermal image so at the end inspector will get overall heat data. This feature makes it competitive with other advanced models that cost more.
It has 45 degrees field of view and fixed focus so you can adjust the distance between you and your target. The only one button for the onscreen settings and intuitive menu provide ease of use.
The thermal camera stores the heat images in JPEG format and each image has 4800 pixels. The memory can save 500 images of this kind.
The Wi-Fi connectivity in this camera is the change we could not see in a most budget thermal camera. Instead of sitting on the computer, you can choose your smartphone or tablet, transfer your files using Wi-Fi, analyze and send them to your customers or coworker.
The removable Lithium-Ion battery in this camera has 4 hours of continuous operating time. You can use the included USB cables to transfer the images.
It has a low refresh rate and less overall thermal sensor resolution.
How Much A ‘Cheap’ Thermal Imaging Camera Is?
Usually, the low-cost thermal imaging camera models fall under two categories; under $1,000 and under $500.
Thermal imaging cameras under $1000 are mostly handheld and stand-alone device that has their own reasonable thermal sensor resolution and used for home and few professional works. Some of the FLIR cameras such as FLIR E4 and FLIR E3 are having the built-in Wi-Fi which makes the transfer and final reporting easier.
Thermal camera under $500 are usually thermal sensors or mobile attachments that can be mounted on smartphone and utilize the phone’s battery and display screen which save the thermal images either on phone memory or sends files to other devices using the internet. FLIR One and Seek Thermal are two well-known thermal imagers used for both iOS and Android.
What To Expect From An Inexpensive Thermal Camera
Here is what you can expect from cheap thermal imaging cameras under $1500.
Most of the inexpensive thermal cameras have a black and white camera. Think twice whether you really need a color display.
You can’t expect a high sensitivity range from cheap thermal cameras. Because they are not designed to be super smart. The devices are capable of finding the leaks and hot/cold spots.
Don’t expect for the large or HD display when you looking for a budget thermal camera. All the cheap thermal cameras have decent resolution and display.
It is the biggest step from the thermal gun. With these devices, you can show the hotspots and temperature differences to your customers.
How To Choose The Best Cheap Thermal Imaging Camera
Here are some of the factors other than price to consider while purchasing the cheap thermal imaging camera to accomplish the detecting tasks as you expected.
1. Accuracy and Sensitivity
When it is about the accuracy, you have to decide based on the needs and usage of a thermal camera. The sensitivity of the thermal camera is the ability to indicate the temperature difference between objects which affects the accuracy of the device.
The high-end thermal cameras usually have an accuracy of +/-2% and thermal sensitivity 50mK. But thermal cameras with +/-5% accuracy and 100mK sensitivity are decent ones.
Most of budget thermal imaging cameras have less pixel resolution than the typical visible light cameras. For better thermal images, you need cameras with high resolution.
Thermal camera with a resolution of 160 x 120 pixels could be average quality and 320 x 240 pixels resolution is considered as high quality.
For example: Seek Thermal Compact Imager with 206 x 156 pixels and Flir One Pro thermal camera with 160 x 120 pixels are two average quality thermal cameras with less price, and Seek Reveal Thermal Imaging Camera with 240×320 resolution is the pro level camera.
3. Temperature Range
Every thermal imaging camera has its own range of temperature detection range with minimum and maximum value. The application of thermal camera really matters when choosing the temperature range of the thermal camera.
Normally, a thermal camera that measures temperature up to 600 degrees Celsius is good enough for many applications.
4. Screen Size
Even thermal cameras from the same brand have different display screen sizes and resolution. To view a large image you need a wide display screen camera. Always go for the display size on and above 3.5 inches as it provides the comfortable view of one or more images on the screen.
A large display for professionals makes it easy to analyze and describe the reading on the screen to the clients.
5. Image Format
JPEG is the most common image saving format in thermal imaging cameras. It is always nice to save the images in JPEG to easily transfer the images on a computer using USB cables and for further process.
Thermal cameras that have bitmap image storage format typically remove the temperature details to be stored. Whereas there will be a problem if the image stored as nonpopular image format which then need a particular application to open the file.
6. Built-in Visible Light Camera
If you supposed to do an inspection at low light conditions, a built-in visible light camera offers great use. So you don’t have to bring an extra lamp for all the dark areas.
To submit the clear and detailed customer report, you would definitely need a thermal camera with a built-in visible light camera.
7. Battery Life
If you are a professional technician, the thermal camera you chose should have a high battery life to complete inspection without any interruption. Choosing the thermal camera with a removable and replaceable battery is a wise choice for anyone.
The thermal cameras with built-in batteries will trouble when the batteries die and you have to run for the power supply in the middle of the task.
With so many options and choices, it may confuse you to rely on one thermal imaging camera which fits your budget and needs.
Always select the thermal camera by witnessing the necessary features mentioned above and the field of application.
Do deep research and compare the different models which will give you a better understanding of what you actually necessitate or what is not.
I hope you’ve got an idea of choosing the best cheap thermal imaging camera for your home inspection.