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
IR Cameras: Inspecting for Moisture Intrusion
by Nick Gromicko and Ethan Ward
Detecting moisture intrusion problems is an
excellent application for thermal
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
Thermal imaging can help inspectors locate the
sources and extent of moisture intrusion.
Hereís a list of its advantages.
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
It identifies moisture without the need for direct
contact in potentially unsanitary areas, such as
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
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
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
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
Thermal imaging can be employed effectively to find
in the kitchen around the sink, under the
dishwasher, behind the ref
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
in the basement, including walls, ductwork
in the laundry area around the washer and dryer
hookups, drip pans and exhaust vents, as well as
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.
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
It provides a thorough assessment of compromised and
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.
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
excessively hot or loose connections;
Advantages of Using an IR Camera for Electrical
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:
Itís non-contact, which helps ensure a safe
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.