About Thermal Imaging Services
We will sometimes use / include "limited use" of Thermal Imaging cameras in our standard inspections at no charge. The use of this equipment will vary based on many factors such as; availability of equipment, the weather, the type of home & inspection, etc. However, for a small extra fee, you can include in your inspection a more detailed "thermal scan" of the home that you are having inspected. An added "Basic Thermal Scan" of the home will include; checking all exterior walls, ceilings, door areas, & potential problem areas such as under floor heating, and duct areas. See our "Fees Page" for pricing. Also note, that this service may not always be available, or be "best to do" at some times. Ideal conditions for thermal scans are when temperatures vary inside vs outside. i.e hot summer days, or colder fall or winter days.
What is "Thermal Imaging"?
Thermal Imaging* (also referred to as "infrared imaging"), uses infrared technology to detect very small differences in temperature. Every material has a unique thermal signature and when moisture, heat, cold, or wood destroying insects are introduced into the structure or component, the thermal signature changes. These changes can be subtle or dramatic but with "thermal image technology" the thermal signatures are detectable, where they "would not" be able to be seen with the naked eye. Thermal image scanning & technology is now being used (by some) to help evaluate residential and commercial structures. As a non-invasive testing tool it can quickly help discern where there are "suspected issues". This can help to limit the areas where time consuming further evaluation and destructive discovery is needed. See examples of what we see / detect with thermal scans below, or Click Here
What Thermal Imaging "is not" Click Here
Why add "Basic Thermal Imaging" to a Home inspection?
Combined with traditional home inspection techniques, the infrared or Thermal imaging inspection methods reveals substantially more of the house than can be perceived by the naked eye and conventional inspection tools. Many things can't be be seen with only a flashlight. Our basic "Thermal Scans" can show a lot of potential issues but this is not a full "home energy audit" (See notes ** about this at the bottom of this page). Also note that when we do include "limited use" of thermal imaging at "no charge", only "some areas / potential problem areas" are checked.
What are the "Applications" of "Thermal Imaging" in a Home inspection?
* Water intrusion: Scanning interior surfaces of a building with an infrared camera can reveal moisture issues due to plumbing leaks, roof leaks, leaks around windows, etc. "Wet areas" of building materials cool when energy is transferred during the water evaporation process; therefore, a wet "cooler" area will stand out from the surrounding dry "warmer" surface areas.
* Insulation deficiencies: This is a common problem found in areas where insulation can not be viewed such as; wall, cathedral ceiling, etc. Noticeable temperature differences, due to variations in the amount, or a lack of insulation allow for detection of deficiencies at areas missing insulation.
* Energy Loss: Again, This is a common problem we see and with thermal imaging, can be easily seen / detected. Leaks around exterior areas of a home, such as outlets & switches, air infiltration near fireplaces, built in cabinets, doors, windows, etc., can all be better evaluated. *See notes below about "Energy Audits".
* Structural issues: Differences in thermal capacity, conductivity, and other intrinsic qualities of building structural components can allow for their detection when scanning walls, floors, and ceilings with an infrared camera. This could be plumbing leaks, rodents burrowing in walls & ceiling insulation materials, under floor heating components, and plumbing materials.
* Electrical systems: Deficiencies within an electrical system can be made visually apparent by use of an infrared camera. For example, a deficient connection between electrical components can result in resistance which will manifest in temperature elevation when compared with similar types of connections, under similar load conditions.
Examples of what we find with "Thermal Imaging".
In looking at the thermal images below, the lighter yellow areas are "warmer" while the blue darker areas are "colder".
The picture on the left shows an "angled ceiling area" in the upstairs bedroom of a 1 1/2 story bungalow. These "angled ceiling areas" were not visible from the attic. As you can see on the thermal image (on the right), there is missing insulation in all of these "angled ceiling" areas. The darker, purple area shown on the thermal image shows a much cooler surface temperature, which is exactly the type of thing we investigate further. In this case "missing insulation". Over the course of ownership, this small find alone can easily save you hundreds in future energy costs.
Here is another home with the same type of upstairs "angled ceiling area". In this case Thermal Imaging (on the right) verifies that proper insulation "is present" and the home will be more comfortable and less expensive to heat and cool. This is nice information to know when making a decision on what house to buy.
This home had an issue where "peeling paint" was present at one side of the skylight "box". The owner stated that a roofer had just fixed a small leak that was causing this problem. However, the paint continued to have issues. Upon looking at the area with a Thermal Image, it is clear that two sections, at the problem side of the skylight "box" was missing insulation. Being in a kitchen area, what was happening is that warm moist air was comdensating on the "very cold side" of the skylight box, causing this "paint issue". This would have been very hard to find without the use of "thermal imaging", not to mention the wasted money on the "roof repairs".
Another interesting one! This split level home had a basic "thermal scan" and it was very odd that an interior wall was detected as very cold (see the dark areas). What was happening is that this interior wall section connected to an "open soffit area" in the kitchen behind this wall, which was connected to an exterior wall. The builder did not have any type of "blocking or insulation" to stop the cold air from getting into the interior soffits, and adjoining interior wall areas. See how great the use of thermal imaging is. This is a problem that would have mostly likely, never been found not to mention a huge energy waster.
The two left images show a good example of a well built "heated bathroom floor". No issues or problems, nice even heat. The 3rd picture is a thermal Image of a "not so well done" heated floor with just a couple of "hot spots". Not very well done or comfortable! Note: the heated toilet seat.
Additional examples of "Thermal Imaging".
Water getting behind shower tiles on the floor and walls.
At a new home, Missing insulation at wall areas above a window.
Missing ceiling insulation where a homeowner installed a ceiling fan.
A "defective breaker". Causing overheating of the breaker & circuit wiring in an electrical panel.
* Note: Although infrared / thermal imaging is a far better diagnostic tool than the naked eye, it does not guarantee 100% accuracy of a potential "source" of a problem. Many times removal of coverings or further evaluations are needed to validate findings. When "thermal imaging" shows a potential problem, we take additional basic steps to "visually evaluate" but our inspections are "non-evasive only" so permissions would be needed to "confirm and/or correct" potential issues. Remember, Thermal imaging is not an "x-ray" or "seeing into a wall or ceiling", it is measuring the "temperature differences" of materials and components as noted. Further evaluations and visual conformation is sill needed. Conditions will and do change, causing the apparent temperatures revealed on thermal images to be different at any given time or day.
** Note about Energy Audits: We do not currently "specialize or perform full energy audits", However, the use of thermal imaging has been a great tool to help homeowners save money, especially now that energy rates are on the rise. Heat loss and/or cold air influx, can be detected and corrective actions can be taken to help improve the energy efficiency of residential and commercial structures. Once the energy wasting areas are identified, changes can be made sometimes making a dramatic difference in energy consumption which means less money out of pocket.
*Also Note: It is deceptive to claim that thermal imaging detects moisture because the best that it can do is detect thermal differences. Using the infrared camera to help discover moisture issues is helpful because once the anomalies are identified then moisture meters and other diagnostic tools can be used to identify the source of the anomaly
What "Thermal Imaging" is NOT:
MOISTURE METER - The infrared thermal imaging camera is NOT a moisture meter. It simply identifies thermal anomalies. This device greatly aids in identifying areas that need further investigation.
X-RAY VISION - The infrared thermal imaging camera is NOT an X-ray vision scope. It does not provide the user with an immediate Superman S on their chest with the ability to clearly see inside walls. Instead, it identifies thermal differences.
SILVER BULLET - The infrared thermal imaging camera is NOT a silver bullet solution, but when it is used in conjunction with other technologies thermal imaging has helped us to identify issues that are rarely identified during the limited visual home inspection process.
TOTAL RISK ELIMINATOR - The infrared thermal imaging camera does NOT completely remove the risks of concealed damage.