One of the things that sets The Real Estate Inspection Company apart from other inspection companies is our use of state-of-the-art equipment including FLIR® infrared thermal cameras. During a seller or home-buyer inspection, we’re able to detect thermal energy that can point out a number of potential problems that otherwise would be missed. Contact us at (800) 232-5180. We serve San Diego area and beyond.
How Does Thermal Imaging Work?
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.
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. Thermal scanning helps the inspector detect temperature differences and anomalies that 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.
Evaluating a home with a thermal imaging camera is a simple process, but one that most home inspectors don’t do because of the expense. Cameras are pricey, ranging from $6,000 to $24,000. Here’s our process:
- 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 then use the HVAC 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 more slowly. These differences will be obvious when viewed through the infrared camera.
It is important to restate that 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.
Infrared Technology at Work
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.
An infrared camera allows us to see what our eyes cannot. The picture to the left shows a leak above the 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 windowpane 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.
Other Inspection Services
In addition to thermal imaging, The Real Estate Inspection Company offers several more inspection services that protect and inform our clients:
Certified Home Inspectors
When evaluating which inspection company to use for your home inspection, please consider the advantage a thermal camera gives our certified inspectors during a home inspection. The Real Estate Inspection Company is committed to the value of this technology, and we use infrared cameras at every inspection. For more information, call (800) 232-5180. We service San Diego County, Orange County, and Riverside County.