Thermal Imaging (Infrared) Inspection
While infrared or thermal imaging technology was once a thing of science fiction, we use thermal imaging cameras more often than you think when performing home inspections in San Antonio. Not just a cool toy, thermal imaging allows home inspectors to observe things invisible to the naked eye, and through education and training, observe conditions and draw conclusions that we would otherwise never be able to do in the past.
What is an Infrared or Thermal Imaging Camera?
A thermal imager creates a visible picture from temperature readings. The thermal imager measures the temperatures of the surfaces in the direction it is pointed, and using the difference in temperatures from these surfaces creates overlays over the real-time image that allow us to visually observe the difference in temperature/heat.
At it’s most basic level, an infrared camera is a thermometer. With training, experience, and a quality camera, we can use these differences in temperature to identify moisture, air leaks, missing insulation, and other problems in a building.
How Does a Home Inspector Use an Infrared Camera?
As a home inspector, we use the thermal camera for a multitude of different purposes, but the primary function of the thermal imager when used in day-to-day home inspections is actually to confirm or verify something that the inspector already suspects. Every Home Inspector at Ensure Home Inspections carries with them a thermal imaging camera with a resolution of at least 320 x 240 pixels on every inspection for this reason.
Here’s a very common scenario: I’m inspecting a two-story home and at the beginning of the interior inspection, I go to the upstairs bathrooms and immediately turn on the hot-water side of the faucets. We normally operate bathroom faucets for a multitude of reasons, but it’s especially important to operate them on second floor to check for drain leaks. After running hot-water through the drain line of the home for at least 5 minutes, I can pull out my infrared camera and identify the main drain lines that are present in the walls or ceilings for the home-buyer (so they don’t try to hang any pictures/shelves in this area!). Once I know where the main drain lines are, I switch the hot-water to the cold-water side and let them run further. We do this not only to check for leaks in the under-sink “p-trap”, but after enough water has run through the main drain line, its not very rare to find that there is actually a leak! Using the thermal camera, we scan the areas where the main drain line is present to ensure that there are no hot/cold spots along the plumbing, potentially saving our clients thousands in repair costs.
Another common use is looking at the ceiling below tile showers. We typically test the shower pans of all tile showers present on a home to ensure that the “pan” of the shower is functioning properly. If the pan has a leak on the first floor, we’ll typically observe this by water discharging out of an exterior wall, visible from the outside of the building or from the garage. But on the second story or higher, that water tends to go straight down. While it is true that if enough water is allowed to leak below the pan, that water will eventually begin to drip through the ceiling, we prefer to use our thermal cameras to observe the area below the shower for any signs of water to indicate a shower pan leak. Leaking shower pans typically require complete replacement of the shower, again saving homeowners $1000s.
What About a Full Thermal Scan or Thermal Imaging Service?
While we use the thermal imaging camera for a multitude of different reasons, we don’t pull it out on every job. In fact, we don’t pull it out on most jobs. More often than not, the infrared camera is just another tool in the home inspectors belt, to be used when seen fit. But what if the client wants a more thorough investigation of their home with the thermal camera?
For this, we offer a separate, completely-optional add-on service that we call Advanced Thermal Imaging.
The purpose of the Thermal Imaging Scan is for the home inspector to use the thermal imaging camera to identify air leaks, missing insulation, and other deficiencies that are outside the scope of a typical home inspection. We do this by observing the building’s exterior or “envelop” for evidence of deficiencies, most typically found around windows and doors (called a fenestration), but also walls and ceilings.
Due to the differences in thermal conductivity between wall studs/framing, insulation, conditioned inside air, etc, we’re able to spot things that are otherwise invisible. Thermal imaging can help identify:
- Areas of the exterior wall where insulation is missing or inadequate
- Areas of the ceiling where attic insulation is missing or inadequate
- Gaps between windows and doors where our cool, conditioned interior air is leaking out.
- Areas of the exterior building envelope where water is penetrating, such as wall cladding
- Leaks in air-conditioning ducts, allowing conditioned air to escape
As you can see, thermal imaging can do a lot.
How Much Does a Thermal Imaging Scan Cost?
While there are variables that affect the final cost of a thermal scan, our current rate for the average home begins at just $48. Included with every thermal scanning is a report containing all photos taken with the thermal camera, as well as a breakdown of any deficiencies found.
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Contact Your Home Inspectors
Home Inspector Kyle D. Scott
TREC # 23813 - TDA # 0819063
Ensure Home Inspections provides thorough inspections, detailed reports, and personalized consultations at affordable prices in San Antonio, TX & surrounding areas to Homebuyers, Homesellers, and their realtors. Offering WDI/Termite Inspections, Thermal Imaging, Drone Roof Inspections, Foundation Elevation Survey and more!
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