Infrared (IR) thermal imaging is an advanced non-invasive technology with several residential uses. All objects above absolute zero emit radiation in the infrared wavelength that is associated with the object’s temperature. A thermal imager, also called an infrared camera or radiometer, can detect this radiation and display it as a visible image called, a thermogram, for analysis and interpretation. A trained thermographer using a professional grade thermal imager can detect the following issues that cannot otherwise be seen:
Improperly Sealed Doors and Windows
Failed Double Pane Window Seals
Covered Structural Details
Below is an example of a roof leak discovered with an IR camera that could not be seen with the naked eye.
The leak can be seen with the infrared camera because evaporative cooling of the water causes the surface temperature of the drywall to drop. Since many conditions can cause variations in surface temperature, it is important that a thermographer has proper education to recognize the heat signatures of various anomalies.
What Thermal Imaging Cannot Do
Thermal imagers cannot see through walls and do not guarantee all defects will be found. Since thermal imagers measure surface temperature, they need certain conditions in order to find thermal anomalies. For example, a thermogram of a wall will not show insulation defects if the inside and outside temperatures are the same. Regardless of the marketing claims of IR camera manufacturers, thermography is not a simple point and shoot technology. This is why it’s important for an inspector to have proper education and experience to understand how the technology works, what conditions are necessary for defect detection, and how to artificially create conditions favorable to detection if possible. Grand Home Inspection LLC is certified to standards specified by the American Society of Nondestructive Testing (ASNT) so you can expect the best possible analysis.
How Grand Home Inspection LLC Utilizes Thermal Imaging
Grand Home Inspection LLC utilizes thermal imaging in two ways:
As a dedicated Thermal Imaging Service
As a tool to assist in Standard Home Inspections
When used as a dedicated thermal imaging service, Grand Home Inspection LLC inspects using procedures specified by the Infraspection Institute’s Standard for Infrared Inspection of Building Envelopes SOP. The Infraspection Institute is the oldest infrared training and certification firm with the most widely adopted standards in the infrared field. Dedicated thermal imaging services are performed on an hourly basis with a scope agreed upon by the client and Grand Home Inspection LLC in advance. We can do everything from troubleshooting specific issues to a complete building envelope scan. An example of troubleshooting would be a register that is not putting out heat even though the duct is open. Thermal imaging can help determine where the duct is disconnected by searching for heat patterns behind the wall, which would be much less expensive than tearing out all the drywall covering the duct until the leak is found. A complete building scan would look for all thermal patterns caused by excess energy loss, latent moisture, or defective structural details.
When used as a tool to assist in Standard Home Inspections thermal imaging is considered limited. It is another tool in the box just like an electrical receptacle tester or moisture meter. All standard home inspections are performed using procedures specified by InterNACHI’s SOP under current conditions at the time of the inspection. Thermal imaging often reveals defects that would not otherwise be detectable, however current wind, solar, air temperature, and precipitation patterns will affect what defects can be found.