Thermal Imaging (Infrared Camera)
Thermal imaging is an advanced technology that allows PrimeFirst Inspections to look beyond what is seen by the naked eye. Many people only think of the benefits of thermal imaging for a Home Energy Audit; however, its use is much broader as our inspections tell the complete story of your home.
We utilize thermal imaging in both pre-listing inspections and buyer inspections because of the incredible depth of information that we get from these reports.
How Does It Work?
Very simply put, thermal imaging utilizes an infrared camera to capture the wavelength of light that emitted from solid surfaces. The camera’s output is a colorful “heatmap” that displays different colors based on the temperature interpreted.
Your home inspector should explain to you the limitations and capabilities of thermal imaging. Thermal imaging can certainly not predict future conditions. However, some inferences may be drawn—such as a moisture intrusion in the ceiling could spell trouble for the roofing structure.
Ultimately, a home inspection utilizing thermal imaging should provide results that are accurate enough for you to have actionable information. While this imaging will not detect everything, it should provide you a baseline starting point to take your inspection to the next level.
How does Thermal Imaging detect structural issues?
There are four areas where thermal imaging excels at providing a basis for further investigation.
Lost heat or air conditioning
Your home should be a sealed environment with an indoor air temperature to your liking. And, of course, heating and air conditioning units regulate that indoor temperature. But when there is a breech in that sealed environment, there is a difference between the inside air and outside air.
That difference is EXACTLY what is detected by our infrared cameras.
You can see in the image below that the solid surfaces are a different temperature. Unless there is a source of heat or cold behind the wall . . . then the air temperature must be what is causing that change in color.
That’s when the inspection becomes an investigation as we find the source of the “air leak”.
But what happens where there is no visible signs of air flowing in or out of your house?
That brings up our second area of concern...
We’re getting into some next-level science here . . . so hang on to your lab coat.
We all know that moisture evaporates. And evaporation causes a temperature decrease (just like perspiring cools your skin). And thermal imaging can detect a different in temperature.
Therefore, thermal imaging can detect the presence of moisture.
It is quite amazing how this happens. And since moisture evaporates no matter if it is an ocean of water or just a drop of water soaked into a wood surface . . . then our infrared cameras can be calibrated to detect moisture content in even visibly dry wood and drywall.
Look at the image below and you can see how these walls appear to our camera versus the naked eye. Even when feeling the outside of this wall, no moisture was noticeable.
Hotspots are primarily the result of overloaded electrical circuitry. Perhaps the circuitry needs replacement, or the circuit is just under-sized for the required load.
Either way, hotspots that are detected beyond a normal range could provide clues that the electrical circuits of the house were not properly planned or that the current electrical load is configured in a way that was not originally intended.
Once again, this is just a detection tool for us and more investigation is necessary to ascertain what remediation is needed, if any.
Lastly, thermal imaging can be helpful . . .
That’s right, you may be surprised to learn that these simple changes in temperature may be a sign of a pest infestation, revealed by the energy loss as air escapes the tiny tubes used by wood-boring insects.
For this reason, thermal imaging may be used as the first line of detection during your wood-destroying insect inspection.
Additionally, unusual heat signatures behind covered walls may uncover a hidden rodent problem that you never knew existed since it stayed hidden behind closed drywall.
Thermal imaging is an incredible tool in our arsenal, and its use is well beyond that of a Home Energy Audit.