Using Infrared Thermal Imaging for Home Inspections

IR is a non-invasive and very advanced technology that is greatly used by home inspectors in order to show their customers the various parts of their homes that have various problems which cannot be detected during a regular home inspection. Although benefits of thermal imaging inspection can be recognized in all parts of the US, the most rewarding would be most likely for the homeowners / buyers in climates characterized with significant temperature variations: cold winters and hot summers.

This article was inspired by a story I heard from my folks from Norther Illinois. Despite my suggestions they postponed performing a home inspection until finalizing their real estate purchase and moving into the house. That unfortunate decision resulted in rather costly home improvement job or should I say a few projects, the house was cheap but still….

They had to perform new window installation in Chicago home, replacement of their old siding, and install a new roof / gutters. Having a home inspection done before the purchase or at least an infrared camera scan could have save them a lot of money.

Let’s go back to our main subject, since thermal imaging inspection is highly specialized, it’s vital that the info the customers are presented with meets their needs and they can use it in order to take action and fix the issues their home is dealing with.

One of the main things you should know about infrared imaging inspection is that the results interpreted by the inspector need to be very accurate. If they’re not, then the customer won’t know what kind of action he should take in order to deal with the various issues affecting his property.

I encourage you to watch this video from FLIR, the leaders in IR cameras.

Inspectors should generally:

a) Explain the pros of thermal imaging and the benefits customers can get when considering such services. As an inspector, it’s very important that you have marketing materials that you can give to your clients which outline the various issues that can be detected through IR.

b) Explain the limitations of IR imaging, including the fact that it can also be used in order to predict future problems. Keep in mind that if your roof for instance, has been detected to experience moisture intrusion, then it’s certainly going to cause you a lot of trouble in the future if you don’t repair it as soon as possible.

IR inspections can easily document and identify the energy loss, moisture intrusion and also hot spots. When it comes to energy loss, infrared cameras can detect:

  1. Broken seals in double pane windows.
  2. Missing insulation around window frames
  3. Structural defects such as missing framing members or under-fastening.
  4. AC compressor leaks.
  5. Malfunctioning or damaged radiant heating systems.
  6. Air infiltration or heat loss in doors, windows, floors, ceilings and also walls.
When it comes to moisture intrusion, an infrared imaging camera is able to detect:

a) Moisture and water intrusion at the building envelope, foundation and around penetrations which could cause mold and structural damage.

b) An infrared imaging camera can be used to detect hot spots in the house, including:

  1. Electrical faults prior to them causing a fire.
  2. Overheated electrical equipment.
  3. Undersized and overloaded circuits.
  4. Circuit breakers that require immediate replacement.
Depending on the color gradients the IR imaging provides, home inspectors are able to detect:
  1. Hazardous flue leaks which can cause CO poisoning of the house’s occupants.
  2. The presence of intruders, including large pests, mice and rats hiding in the home’s structure. The IR camera can detect them because of their heat signature.
  3. Potential pest infestation as it’s revealed by energy loss through shelter tubes.
Standard Images with IR Images

One of the best things about the IR report is that it’s user friendly. So the way it goes is that after it’s done, the home inspector is going to show the customer the standard images side by side with the infrared images. As a result, the client will be easily able to locate the problem points in his house and then address the issues.

Interpreting the Data

In order to ensure the home inspector provides a solid infrared imaging report, he needs to make sure that he knows exactly how to interpret the data. It’s a process that greatly depends not only on his experience, but also on his level of training as well.

Based on the locations of the images and the established baseline infrared readings, the results can show customers the critical repairs that need to be made (for instance electrical hot spots) or maybe show them one or more items that need to be kept in check (such as insulating an interior or maybe an exterior wall).

Since overall, thermal imaging equipment is very expensive, not every home inspector can offer such services. However, if you’re someone who wants to see exactly what’s wrong with your house and make the required repairs or improvements to enhance its energy efficiency, then you certainly need to take some time to research a great home inspector that offers thermal imaging inspections.

Just remember that before hiring one, to ask him several questions regarding his experience, the equipment he’s using and the types of problems that can be detected throughout this process.