09 Dec What is an Infrared Thermal Imaging Inspection?
Utilizing thermal Imaging, also known as infrared, during your home inspection gives Warrior Inspections the ability to show you things about your home that wouldn’t ordinarily be visible just using conventional inspection methods. Thermal imaging is an advanced, non-invasive technology with equipment expensive enough that not every inspector offers this type of ancillary inspection. Nevertheless, those who use IR cameras for both ancillary inspections and as part of their standard home and commercial property inspections will tell you it has become one of the more indispensable implements in their toolkits.
How it Works
Thermal imaging displays the slight differences in surface temperature of a wall. This temperature difference of areas not in contact with walls creates an interpreted “behind” the wall image. It is easier to see warmer objects because they will be radiating heat to the not-in-contact cooler surface.
Because infrared detects temperature based upon wavelength of the light emitted by the object (longer wavelength= colder, shorter wavelength=warmer) it does not show the temperature of objects that reflect light like shiny metals, light colored objects when they are in sunlight or glass.While we still can’t see behind walls, thermal imaging brings Warrior Inspections one step closer and allows us to see more. Certainly, thermal imaging can’t predict future conditions but it may detect a roof that is experiencing moisture intrusion which has been detected through thermal imaging that will very likely lead to serious structural issues, if left unaddressed. The art of an IR inspection is to interpret the results as accurately and reasonably as possible so you, our client, are given actionable information in order to make a decision if to address necessary repairs.
An infrared inspection can identify and document moisture intrusion, energy loss, and even unexpected hot spots.
In terms of energy loss, an IR camera may detect:
- heat loss and air infiltration in walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors;
- damaged and/or malfunctioning radiant heating systems;
- air-conditioner compressor leaks;
- under-fastening and/or missing framing members, and other structural defects that can lead to energy loss; and
- broken seals in double-paned windows.
In terms of detecting moisture intrusion, an IR camera may locate:
- plumbing leaks;
- hidden roof leaks before they cause serious damage;
- missing, damaged and/or wet insulation; and
- water and moisture intrusion around penetrations and at the foundation and building envelope that could lead to structural damage and mold.
IR cameras are equally effective at locating hot spots in the home, including:
- circuit breakers in need of immediate replacement;
- overloaded and undersized circuits;
- overheated electrical equipment and components; and
- electrical faults before they cause a fire.
Additionally, based on the color gradients that thermal images provide, an inspector may locate:
- the presence of intruders, such as rats, mice and other larger pests hiding within the structure; detected because of their heat signature that the IR camera captures; and
- dangerous flue leaks, which can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning of the home’s residents.
Standard Images with Infrared Images
When there is a concern, Warrior Inspections provides standard digital images side by side with IR images. This gives you an accurate point of reference for the IR data, which is essential for mapping out improvements and repairs.
Interpreting the Data
This is perhaps the most critical aspect of providing a solid IR report, and goes hand in hand with the limitations of thermal imaging, as well as the depth of training and experience. Depending on the established baseline IR readings and the locations of the images, the results can either alert the client to a critical repair needed – such as an electrical hot spot – or simply be an item that they need to keep in check – such as adding insulation at an exterior wall.
What if we find concerns?
That is the purpose. Many times imaging reveals minor concerns that are inexpensive fixes that can save significant money in a short amount of time. For example, insulation that has fallen or that has been pushed aside. This minor fix can save on heating and cooling. A minor leak from an upstairs toilet wax ring that may otherwise be undetected is an inexpensive fix. An over extended dimmer switch handling too much wattage can many time easily be corrected by replacing incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs. Debris blocking an AC compressor that reduces the cooling efficiency can easily be removed. What about the big problems? Most clients agree, it is better to hire a home inspector that offers thermal imaging so they know about something like a major hidden leak than risk going with an inspector that doesn’t offer thermal imaging and you find out after you have purchased the home.
Is this the same as a Home Energy Audit?
While we can perform a home energy audit separately, home energy audits are much more involved. They include the use of a blower door test to depressurize the home, a thorough examination of appliance efficiency, and in depth analysis of base energy consumption. We implement many of the similar evaluations, tests, and features during our home inspection, during the FREE thermal inspection and during the FREE Home Energy Score Assessment to the point where most clients are pleased with those findings without a full Home Energy Audit.
We look forward to providing you with exceptional reporting and service.
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