Infrared Inspection: See The Invisible!
Many home inspectors offer an infrared service. This technology allows us to see more than the naked eye is capable of which can be very useful for identifying hidden issues. Common infrared finds include insulation inefficiencies, moisture problems, air leakage, and overheating electrical components. Infrared isn't like the movies, though...we can't see through walls, but we can see surface temperature differences (commonly referred to as "thermal anomalies"). How these colorful pictures are interpreted may require some additional investigation.
What do all those colors tell me?
All objects radiate energy...the "warmer" the colors, the warmer the surface of that object. White, yellow, and orange, for example, will correlate to warmer areas but blue and purple will show the opposite. Every surface will be displayed in some variation of this spectrum which is not initially reason for concern...but if we find "cool" colors where they shouldn't be (or the other way around), that pinpoints where we need to look closer during our analysis. Next we'll discuss some common finds that can have expensive or even dangerous implications.
Missing or Under-Performing Insulation
Properly installed insulation is one of the best ways to keep a home comfortable and help reduce heating and cooling utility costs. Sometimes insulation is damaged, collapsed, or otherwise degraded. Once in a while, it's missing altogether! Infrared lets us see these areas, even if attic access isn't available or the ceilings or walls are covered.
Moisture Intrusion or Water Leaks
Moisture can ruin building materials and often creates an environment for mold to flourish. Obvious water problems are, well, obvious...but slow leaks or drips can remaining concealed within walls, ceilings, or floors for quite some time. Whether a roof is leaking, flashing is missing, or a plumbing fixture is no longer watertight, infrared can often see these problems before the damage is visible on the surface.
Toilet leak photos courtesy: Lucas Inspection Services - www.lucasinspectionservices.com
Air leakage into or out of the conditioned "building envelope" can cause a significant increase in utility costs to heat or cool your home. You know that uncomfortable drafty feeling on a winter day? Cold air is likely leaking through a failed seal on an exterior door or even though a light fixture or electrical box. The same is true on a hot summer day...your air conditioner will have to work hard to keep up!
Excessive Electrical Heat
Electrical connections are expected to heat up within their normal ranges. Loose or defective connections, however, can experience extreme heat fluctuations that may lead to melted materials or even a house fire!
Electrical photos courtesy: Lucas Inspection Services - www.lucasinspectionservices.com
Presence of Cats
Jokes aside, this example illustrates how the surface temperature of an object (in this case, a hardwood floor) can quickly change and an infrared camera will let us clearly see the thermal anomaly.
Infrared technology is invaluable during your home inspection, but the use of a thermal camera is not required...some inspectors simply do not offer this service. When you hire an inspector, consider finding one who is qualified in residential thermography to ensure you're getting the best eyes - and tools - looking at your investment! At Cameron Home Inspections, I carry both Certified Residential Thermographer and Level 1 Certified Thermographer qualifications.
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-Jonathan firstname.lastname@example.org 406-306-1331 ASHI #265859
ITC #273199 *The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.