Why use an infrared camera?
Infrared cameras are the latest technology being used for fast, reliable, accurate building diagnosis in a wide range of building problems, from evaluating Heating and AC systems, over-heated electric panels, and moisture problems.
Several home inspection companies offer Infrared services, but not all equipment is the same. We use the best high-end FLIR Infrared Thermal Imaging cameras. Just like any line of cameras, there are low end and high end. Our cameras provide a better resolution which results in more accurate inspections.
How does Thermal Imaging work?
Thermography is the use of an infrared imaging and measurement camera to “see” and “measure” thermal energy emitted from an object. It is not a moisture meter and does not “see” moisture. The cameras help the inspector see temperature differences and anomalies which can be caused by moisture. When two areas composed of the same or similar materials experience changing ambient temperatures, the area with the higher thermal mass (usually moisture) will change temperature more slowly.
The first thing we do is let the water run through the drains of the toilets, sinks, showers, and dishwasher. Depending on the ambient conditions at the house at the time of inspection, we may run hot or cold water. If the house is cold, hot water will show up better than cold water. We may use the heating or AC system to help change the temperatures in the house. The dry areas with less thermal mass will change temperature quickly. Areas with a higher thermal mass, which may include damp areas, will change temperature slower. These differences will be obvious when viewed through the Infrared camera.
Evaluating a home with an IR Camera is a simple process, but one that most home inspectors do not do (The cameras are very expensive ranging from $6,000 – $24,000). And with many bank-owned homes getting a quick paint job for a fast sale, water stains may be covered up. It is important to note that the Infrared Cameras do not see through walls, cabinets, or concrete. Rather, they show differences in the surface temperature of a material. It is these temperature differences that may indicate moisture or another anomaly such as missing insulation.
The pictures at the left and right show an area that looked fine to the naked eye. After a quick scan with the Infrared Camera, you can see the wet carpet, which led to the discovery of a leak at the sliding glass door. The door was new, but the small drains at the track were clogged causing the water to back up into the room.
Please note that an Infrared camera is not a magic tool. It cannot determine if a leak will occur in the future if the area has had time to dry out. For example, if there has been no rain for several months, the Infrared camera will not detect moisture from a roof leak since no moisture is present. It also cannot detect moisture behind cabinets, furniture, or deep within a structure.
Thermal, or infrared energy, is the light that is not visible because its wavelength is too long to be detected by the human eye. It’s the part of the light spectrum that we perceive as heat. Unlike visible light, in the infrared world, everything with a temperature above absolute zero emits heat. Even very cold objects, like ice cubes, emit infrared energy. The higher the object’s temperature, the greater the IR radiation emitted.
An Infrared camera allows us to see what our eyes cannot. The picture to the left shows a leak above some French doors. This was a freshly painted “flip” house that looked perfect inside. The Infrared Camera helped find this leak by showing the inspector the dramatic difference in temperature. The wet areas remained cold while the dry area to the left was warmed by running the furnace.
Another interesting feature of the picture shows the diminished thermal efficiency of the failed window pane at the left-side door. You can see how it is cloudy at left. On the right side, more heat is entering the house through the failed window than the intact window.
When evaluating which inspection company to use for your home inspection, please consider this technology. The Real Estate Inspection Company uses Infrared Cameras at every inspection. Each of our home inspectors is equipped with and “IR” camera. Isn’t your house worth it?
U.S. Dept. of Energy recommends a Thermographic Inspection