Moisture may be conducive to fungi-mold, decay, and wood destroying insects that cannot always be seen. Also remember that more repair items may be discovered during the process of further evaluations and repairs of any item listed. Although infrared thermal imaging is far better diagnostic tool than the naked eye, it does not guarantee 100% accuracy, unless removal or destruction of components can be achieved to validate findings.
Other tools are used to verify thermal images, but even with these considerations we do not claim to have x-ray vision. Conditions may change and cause the apparent temperature readings revealed in thermal images to be different at any given time.
Benefits of Thermal Imaging in the detection of:
- Water infiltration (possible roof leaks located with recent rain fall within 24~48 hours)
- Cold or Hot air infiltration (depending on time of year)
- Excessive moisture in building materials
- Stud / Joist / Beam / Rafter placement and structure with the right conditions
- Insulation gaps, insufficient and unevenness
- Electrical drops, panels, breakers, switches and wire connections
- Heating and cooling duct placement, insulation, air leaks
- Pipe location
- Special Inspections:
- Energy audits
- Insurance claims
Thermal Imaging Limitations:
- Thermal imaging only displays surface temperatures of solid objects
- IR detects the temperature based upon wavelength of the light emitted by the object (longer wavelength, colder). IR, therefore, does not show the temperature of objects that reflect light, (glass, shiny metal, light colored objects in direct sunlight)
- IR, does not “see through walls”, but only displays the very slight differences in surface temperature of the wall. Images of areas “behind” and not in contact with walls depends upon the temperature difference of the area. It is easier to see “hot” objects because they will be radiating heat to the not-in-contact surface. See pictures below for how IR is still incredibly useful
- Careful adjustment of the range of temperatures displayed is important to proper imaging and interpretation. (but don’t worry: I have been trained to do this)
While there is no guarantee that anything will not be missed during the visual inspection. Thermal imaging brings me one step closer to not overlooking anything.
So you have to ask yourself: do you want a home inspector that offers thermal imaging or risk going with one that does not?
As you study the photos below, I remind you, these images would not be visible without the aid of a thermal imaging camera. Which is included in all my inspections!
To better explain what you are looking at in these Thermal images the photo on left is the thermal image and the photo on right is what you are looking at in the room. Thermal imaging cameras take both a thermal picture and a standard picture at the same time. This for obvious reasons help you to better have an idea what the thermal picture is imaging.
The numbers in the picture are the temperatures read in the image area. You will notice a round target in center of picture the temperature in the center of the target area is displayed in the top left of picture. On the right you will see a temperature reading in top right and lower right. The is the range of hottest and coolest temperatures detected in the viewing area.
Image of an HVAC register vent during inspection
It is somewhat normal to see a hot spot in the corners, but as you see here there is a spread beyond the corner of undesirable heat
In this image you can see the roof rafters. Wood is not a good insulator.
Drop down or Fur ceiling in bathroom over tub. The hot spot is due to blown in insulation will fall to bottom of drop down. There should have been bat insulation installed on upper portion of wall or the complete vertical portion of wall. Otherwise you would have to blow in about 2 feet of insulation and then when walking attic could fall in because you would not recognize the drop off.
Rather obvious the area in attic that needs more insulation.
Vaulted ceiling that as you can see has major insulation issues
This image shows how a wet ceiling shows up with thermal imaging. This was a leaking HVAC system in the attic.
Picture of heat signature left when my wife had gotten up. Thought this was just a fun and interesting picture.