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 Thermal Imaging     
Infrared (thermal imaging) is an advanced, non-destructive technology that allows me to show you things about your home that no one can show you with conventional inspection methods.
An infrared inspection can identify and document:
  • electrical faults before they cause a fire;
  • overloaded and undersized circuits;
  • circuit breakers in need of immediate replacement;
  • missing, damaged and/or wet insulation;
  • heat loss and air infiltration in walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors;
  • water and moisture intrusion that could lead to mold;
  • possible pest infestation;
  • hidden roof leaks before they cause serious damage;
  • air-conditioner compressor leaks;
  • under-fastening and/or missing framing members;
  • structural defects;
  • broken seals in double-pane windows;
  • energy loss and efficiency;
  • dangerous flue leaks;
  • damaged and/or malfunctioning radiant heating systems;
  • unknown plumbing leaks; and 
  • overheated equipment.

Thermal imaging is a non-invasive, non-destructive way of evaluating conditions below the surface. Because everything from faulty wiring to the presence of termites to mold to wet insulation affects the surrounding temperature, heat-sensitive photography can reveal these and other issues that just cannot be seen by the naked eye or with conventional or digital photography. In providing thermal imaging reports you can document a hidden fault for corrective action or to prioritize repairs. For an energy audit you can show exactly where cold air is entering the home or heat is being lost, along with energy dollars. You can also document the safety of a property by revealing dangerous electrical hot spots or the presence of harmful mold. Thermal photography lets you deliver a more thorough and in-depth report to your clients when you can show them what lies beneath the surface.


IR Cameras: Inspecting for Moisture Intrusion

by Nick Gromicko and Ethan Ward


Detecting moisture intrusion problems is an excellent application for thermal Description: http://www.nachi.org/images10/lrg-943-mositure-intrusion-inspection.jpgimaging or infrared (IR) cameras.  Moisture intrusion may be identified through basic visual inspection if it has lead to obvious defects, such as staining or mold growth.  By the time visible evidence has presented itself, however, significant damage may have already been done.  In many cases, moisture or water intrusion may have been developing for a while before obvious signs become apparent.  By employing thermal imaging and a moisture meter, inspectors can locate moisture issues before they become large problems and lead to serious damage, as well as gather details in cases where moisture intrusion has already become obvious.


Using an infrared camera provides certain advantages in locating moisture problems.  Thermal patterns created by latent moisture become readily apparent when viewed through an IR camera, even when they are not visible to the naked eye.  This is because the IR camera sees the apparent temperature difference between wet spots and building materials.  Water intrusion and excessive moisture within walls, under floors, and above ceilings will show up in the thermal image.  Water intrusion implies that the house has been compromised somewhere, perhaps through the roof, in the basement, or as the result of a mechanical or plumbing leak. 


Thermal imaging can help inspectors locate the sources and extent of moisture intrusion.  Hereís a list of its advantages.

         It's time-saving.

         It's easy to set up.

         It allows examination of areas that are not visible to the naked eye.

         It allows examination of areas that are difficult to access, such as tall ceilings.

         It allows for larger areas to be examined quickly.

         It helps locate sources of moisture intrusion.

         It helps determine the extent of moisture intrusion.

         It allows the user to trace the moisture intrusion through other affected areas.

         It provides visual documentation of moisture intrusion.

         It identifies moisture without the need for direct contact in potentially unsanitary areas, such as behind toilets.

There are few disadvantages associated with using infrared imaging to locate sources of moisture intrusion.  There is a slight learning curve at first, but, with time, inspectors can become more adept at accurately reading images and utilizing the equipment to its fullest capabilities.  Extensive documentation is available from manufacturers on how to use all the features of their products. 

It's important to remember that thermal imaging should be used in conjunction with a moisture meter to identify moisture intrusion problems.  Once a potential trouble spot is located through thermal imaging, the problem can be verified with the moisture meter.  Moisture meters come in different models that are both invasive (with probes) and non-invasive.

Applications for Finding Moisture

Since infrared technology provides so many advantages for inspecting for moisture intrusion, it is applicable in many situations.  Inspectors can benefit by using an IR camera in the following scenarios:

         during an energy audit.  Thermal imaging makes apparent any areas of moisture intrusion (and air leaks) of the building envelope;

         after a water-damage event, such as a flood or pipe rupture.  Thermal imaging can help document the scope of the damage, as well as find affected areas that may not be immediately obvious;

         behind finished basement walls.  Inspectors can view inside for moisture in a non-intrusive way;

         if an in-slab water supply or waste line is suspected of leaking;

         when windows, doors or other openings are suspected as points of moisture (or air) intrusion.  Thermal imaging can help confirm such suspicions;

         to help identify wet spots in insulation;

         to locate hidden leaks under resilient flooring; and

         to find wet areas in inaccessible spots, such as a narrow crawlspace and inside ductwork.

Inspecting with Infrared Cameras and Moisture Meters

At the beginning of an inspection, getting oriented within the interior to be inspected is immediately helpful.  Knowing the general layout of the house can help determine where to start inspecting.  Exterior walls should be noted in relation to shared walls, as well as areas of the floor above.  Is the bottom of a basement wall above or below grade?  Is there a deck above the room being inspected?  the roof?  another room?  What part of the particular room being inspected is a likely point for moisture intrusion?  Taking such factors i Description: http://www.nachi.org/images10/moisture_confirmation.jpgnto account can help determine the obvious areas to start inspecting with the IR camera.

After identifying the areas that are most at-risk for moisture intrusion, along with any visual evidence, such as staining, discoloration,  and/or apparent wet spots, the surfaces can be scanned with the IR camera to locate the source of problems.  Since the apparent temperature of wet spots will be lower than that of building materials, moisture will be visible through thermal imaging as dark areas.  After a potential problem is located, it can be confirmed with a moisture meter.  The issue can then be documented by saving an infrared image alongside a digital photo to include with a description of the problem in the inspection report.

It is also important to keep in mind that a house is a dynamic system, made up of many components that are all interconnected and interactive.  Leakage or moisture intrusion at one point will likely affect other areas as it moves or grows.  Attention should be paid to what other areas are at risk downstream from the point of moisture intrusion.  For example, if an upstairs toilet is found to be leaking, the ceiling area in the room below it should be examined.  Using thermal imaging, all the areas affected by leaks or moisture at a specific location can often be traced down the line and documented, giving a fuller picture of the nature and extent of the issue.

Important Areas to Check

When inspecting for moisture intrusion, there are many areas that may be more obvious than others to search, such as below-grade window wells and basement walls.  It can be helpful to consider several areas that may be at risk so that a thorough inspection can be conducted without overlooking less-obvious areas.   

Thermal imaging can be employed effectively to find moisture:

         in the kitchen around the sink, under the dishwasher, behind the ref Description: http://www.nachi.org/images10/IR_suspect_moisture_in_trim_near_shower.jpgrigerator, and under the cooking range, as well as around vents and exhaust fans;

         in bathrooms around plumbing fixtures and outlets, shower and bathtub enclosures, fixtures and vents, the toilet and bidet, and windows;

         the HVAC system; 

         the water heater;

         in the attic, including roof pass-throughs and penetrations, connecting walls, vents and fans, and recessed lights;

         in the basement, including walls, ductwork and crawlspaces;

         in the laundry area around the washer and dryer hookups, drip pans and exhaust vents, as well as utility sinks.

Infrared cameras are popular for finding moisture intrusion problems because of the many advantages they provide over conventional methods.  Using an IR camera in conjunction with a moisture meter allows problem areas to be located quickly and documented easily.  Inspectors can benefit from recognizing the applications of this technology and understanding the different ways to use it to their business' and their clients' advantage.

Consumers should always seek inspectors who are Infrared Certified by looking for the Infrared Certified logo below.


Description: http://www.nachi.org/images10/infraredceritifed-lg.gif



Advantages of Using IR Imaging for Roofs

Thermal imaging is non-invasive and allows inspectors to scan large areas very quickly.  More traditional methods require a grid-type contact search, which is very time-consuming for inspectors who choose to walk a roof for inspections.  Core sampling and other invasive testing are destructive and beyond InterNACHI's Standards of Practice.  Using an infrared camera to locate areas of moisture intrusion and wet insulation is quick, accurate and inexpensive compared to other methods.  Since IR imaging allows problem areas to be located before severe symptoms appear, significant damage can be avoided by catching and addressing issues as they develop.  Thermal imaging can also be performed from an elevated vantage point, allowing an even greater area to be examined at once, and eliminating the need to lug equipment up and down various roof elevations.   

HereĎs a list of advantages of using an IR camera for roof inspections:

         It's fast and accurate.

         It can identify small problem areas before they become larger.

         It provides a thorough assessment of compromised and damaged areas.

         IR equipment is lightweight and portable.

         It provides visual documentation of problems.

         It is non-invasive.

         It can be used for inspections that are conducted as part of regular home maintenance.


IR Cameras: Electrical Inspections

by Nick Gromicko and Ethan Ward


Thermal or infrared (IR) imaging in the practice of building inspection has been used to inspect electrical systems for some time now and its use has steadily grown increasingly popular.  Since components in electrical systems almost always overheat before they fail, problem areas are more easily and safely found when viewed through an IR camera.  Description: http://www.nachi.org/images10-2/service-panel-inspection.jpg Infrared imaging allows apparent temperatures to be seen as gradient colors, with hotter spots displayed as brighter colors, and cooler (and wetter) spots displayed as darker colors.  When a malfunctioning electrical component or connection is generating more heat than it should be, its apparent temperature will make it stand out right away when viewed through thermal imaging.


What kinds of problems can be detected?


During an inspection, electrical equipment, such as distribution panelboards, switch boards, contacts, transformers, receptacles, and service and control panels, can be examined through an IR camera.  By viewing apparent temperature differences, inspectors can identify and document problems, such as loose connections and overloaded circuits, which are the most common causes of electrical fires.  Other issues, such as transformer cooling problems, induced currents, arcing, and motor-winding faults, also become readily apparent.

Thermal imaging can detect electrical issues that include:

         excessively hot or loose connections;

         overloaded wiring;

         overloaded circuits;

         overloaded transformers;

         overloaded motors;

         arcing; and

         excessive harmonics.

Advantages of Using an IR Camera for Electrical Inspections

Because viewing apparent temperature differences through an IR camera requires no physical contact and can cover a lot of space in one sweep, no other technology allows electrical faults to be found as safely and as quickly as thermal imaging.  Another important benefit is that it allows problem areas and components to be located before damage from any serious failure or electrical fire occurs.  This helps ensure safety.  It can also save money that might otherwise need to spent on extensive repairs.

Hereís a list of advantages of using an IR camera for electrical inspections: Description: http://www.nachi.org/images10-2/faulty-electrical-panel-inside.jpg

         Itís non-contact, which helps ensure a safe inspection.

         Itís fast and accurate.

         It helps identify problems before they cause serious failure or an electrical fire.

         Itís non-intrusive, so there is no interruption of power during the inspection.

         It can be used as part of inspections that are conducted as preventative maintenance.

         IR equipment is light and portable.

         It provides documentation of problems.