This paper describes a transient thermography method to measure the heat loss of parabolic trough receivers and separate their heat loss mechanisms. This method is complementary to existing stationary techniques, which use either energy balances or glass envelope temperature measurements to derive overall heat losses. It is shown that the receiver heat loss can be calculated by applying a thermal excitation on the absorber tube and measuring both absorber tube and glass envelope temperature signals. Additionally, the emittance of the absorber selective coating and the vacuum quality of the annulus can be derived. The benefits and the limits of the transient method are presented and compared to the established stationary method based on glass envelope temperature measurements. Simulation studies and first validation experiments are described. A simulation based uncertainty analysis indicates that an uncertainty level of approximately 5% could be achieved on heat loss measurements for the transient method introduced in this paper, whereas for a conventional stationary field measurement technique, the uncertainty is estimated to 17–19%.