Up until now you either had to have a generous tooling allowance or employ the services of a marine electrical company to do switchboard surveys. However, with the release of the new Fluke VT04 Visual IR Thermometer as a diagnostics tool, these surveys, plus a lot of other condition-based maintenance items, can be monitored for a much more reasonable sum.

Fluke is a name synonymous with good quality electrical test tools and I have personally only purchased its own meters. The VT04 Visual IR Thermometer carries on the trend in the usual Fluke yellow colours and arrives in a vacuum moulded case with the software, charger and memory card all ready to go.

Five minutes to enter the date and time and you are up and running. The display is only 56mm across, so working on a large switchboard or bearing in a space-constricted engine room might be difficult for some, but I found it ideal for scanning across contactors and measuring bearing temperatures on electric motors. The display is crisp and you have the rainbow spectrum (blue cold to red hot), so identifying potential hot spots is quick and easy. The display can also be represented in grayscale or high contrast depending on the operator or use. The temperature displayed corresponds to a crosshair in the centre of the display, and two buttons change settings for near (below 9 inches) and far (above 9 inches).

To store log entries and images for future comparison, a simple trigger pull and the data is stored to a mini SD card. You can also set up the VT04 on a tripod and set it to do time lapse recordings of an item.

All in all, another great product from Fluke. We are using it on board Aglaia for measuring halyard temperatures around sheaves and it is already providing valuable data for us to improve on the high-tech lines that we use.