Benefits of Thermal Imaging
Benefits of Thermal Imaging in the detection of:
- Water infiltration (roof leaks located with recent rain fall within 24~48 hours)
- Cold air infiltration
- Excessive moisture in building materials
- Stud / Joist / Beam / Rafter placement and structure
- Insulation gaps, insufficient and unevenness
- Electrical drops, panels, breakers, switches and wire connections
- Heating and cooling duct placement, insulation, air leaks
- Pipe location
- Pest infestation
- Energy audits
- Insurance claims
Thermal Imaging Limitations
- Thermal imaging only displays surface temperatures of solid objects.
- IR detects the temperature based upon wavelength of the light emitted by the object (longer wavelength, colder). IR, therefore, does not show the temperature of objects that reflect light, (glass, shiny metal, light colored objects in direct sunlight).
- IR, does not “see through walls”, but only displays the very slight differences in surface temperature of the wall. Images of areas “behind” and not in contact with walls depends upon the temperature difference of the area. It is easier to see “hot” objects because they will be radiating heat to the not-in-contact surface. See pictures below for how IR is still incredibly useful.
- Careful adjustment of the range of temperatures displayed is important to proper imaging and interpretation. (but don't worry: I have been trained to do this).
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Updated August 4th, 2015
Below two different homes with the same electrical problem with recessed flood lights overheating an electrical circuit.
A series of 75 watt floods in kitchen causing the dimmer to heat up above 100 degrees...it's a problem.
Second home, temperature readings over 300 degrees. Dimmer switches have a limit on how much wattage they can handle i.e.: 6 x65w bulbs = 390 watts. The switch will be warm, but should not be 100 degrees as it is here.
One solution is move over to LED bulbs which will lower the heat and current load and save you money.
Massive water leak 5'x5'...not disclosed prior to inspection. Seller when asked claimed the hot tub above this ceiling flooded over. Would of gone unnoticed without thermal imaging...no water stains present on the ceiling.
Two roof leaks seen as blue shadows may of gone unnoticed due to wood paneling on the ceiling. IR found them.
Missing insulation, note temperature readings.
Using the framing diagram below we can see the wall # 1 is missing headers and top cripples above both windows. # 2 shows missing wall studs which should run from bottom plate to top plate. This wall is bowed out more than 1".
Thinking of an older home? Look at the photos below with temperature readings. If these homes are hot during the summer I think we can agree they will be cold during the winter costing you the owner money.
Vacant home, electrical panel had one hot breaker. This is a problem because the home is empty...electrical issue. May of been overlooked on a normal inspection.
AC compressor, air flow blocked with debris, reducing cooling efficiency.
Interesting fact, with IR is you find items you never knew existed. Below is a IR picture taken of the main electrical panel on a vacant home. Something is drawing power on one leg. The house is empty, now we need an electrician to correct it. Without the aid of thermal imaging this may of been missed. What makes this more interesting is this house already had one fire. This was not disclosed until I found evidence in the attic space. The seller still denied the fire damaged until their agent told them he was looking at it, only then was it disclosed.
More and more high end homes are moving to radiant heat in the flooring.
Newer home less than 12 years old, insulation has fallen out of place. See photos below.
Blue shadows indicate heat loss.
Chimney flashing failed, blue shadows on bricks show moisture leak.
Photos from a multi family I inspected.
See anything wrong in the photo below?
How about now? See below
At the 198°must get pretty toasty sitting on that toilet, less than 6" away from the radiator. Safe to assume a burn hazard here. The actual building code states, toilet center should be a minimum of 15 inches from contact with walls, cabinets or in this case a heat source. Odds are no building permit was issued.
Another problem is the window is too low, minimum height should be 44". This is a Rental Property once you purchase it the you assume all liabilities.
Below is one of many heating pipes plumbed through apartments that are not insulated, notice the temperatures, possible burn hazard. Without thermal imaging an inspector may miss the importance of this problem.
Same apartment building, next we have a deck improperly installed just below windowsills allowing moisture entry.
Interior look below using thermal imaging, blue shadows indicate moisture.
Enclosed are photos from a thermal scan I was called to do on a very high end home on Lake Winnipesaukee.
The client had a new addition built with all the approved permits and wanted to double check the workmanship of the spray foam insulation installer. Spray foam is sprayed between the roof rafters. Conventional insulation installed in the floor is removed.
The day these were taken outside temperatures were high 80’s, inside was low 70’s due to central air running. Therefore, when looking at the thermal images heat shows up as yellow as it enters the home. In addition, this was on the North side which is usually cooler.
The missing insulation is causing two problems. Heat and cooling costs will be higher. Second, ice dams, which can cause roof leaks, interior drywall damage etc…
Roof leak (blue shadow) into ceiling and wall, very expensive repair. Needs new roof and interior walls need to be opened to see extent of water damage.
Electric baseboard heaters on same circuit, one working one not.
In the photos below, we have a water leak at the chimney flashing. The blue shadows show active moisture. The walls need to be opened to examine the damage. This repair could be costly.
When conducting a home inspection I check all faucet temperatures to ensure that they are balanced throughout the home. In addition, I also record if the water temperature is above 130 degrees which may become a burn hazard if you have small children.
Here's what I found in one home. Above is the kitchen sink at 136 degrees.
The basement tub above is at 114 degrees, lower than kitchen sink, but usable.
Main floor hallway above, bathroom maximum hot water temperature is 54 degrees, off by 82 degrees from kitchen sink. Unusable for baths, unless you like cold baths.
The owner is compensating by raising the water temperature on the hot water heater which is also raising his electric bills.
The problem is the mixer valve is not adjusted correctly requiring a plumber to make repairs. This would go unnoticed unless the inspector was using a thermal camera to check for water temperatures.
The photos below show radiant heat in the ceiling. Normal?
This is from a small ranch home I inspected that has electric radiant heat in the ceiling. There is only one problem it's not suppose to be there. Worse, it's costing the current tenant over $250.00/month in electric bills. To make matters worse, it appears to be hot wired to run 365 days a year, 24/7. Want to know more? Click here
Mice in walls and ceilings is a common problem here in New Hampshire. Without the aid of a thermal camera you would never know where they are and how much damage they have done to the insulation in your walls. The blue shadows are the tunnels and damage.
If there is enough insulation damage it will cost you money to heat the home due to energy loss. Repairing mice damage in walls and ceiling can get very costly.
Photos below are from a plumbing leak below the kitchen sink. No signs of plumbing leak in cabinet. Ceiling will need to be opened to make repairs.
Photos below are from an inspection which had ice dams on all 4 sides of the hip roof. The blue shadows show missing to low insulation allowing energy loss. If not corrected moisture can enter into the walls, cause mold in the attic space and deteriorate the roof. Repair costs will be in the thousands of dollars.
For more information on how to prevent ice dams click here.
Pictures above are from a bank owned property. At the start of the inspection rooms were scanned looking for any water leaks. I recorded an area that showed some signs of moisture. However, the moisture meter recorded low levels within normal range.
After one hour this area started to change, the dark blue shows an active water leak between 1st and 2nd floor. Extensive damage, ceiling will need to be opened.
In these photos I was surprised to find a very slight water stain in the living room ceiling. The room above is the master bedroom. No plumbing I thought. Further review showed that the boiler pipes running to baseboard convectors in the ceiling were leaking. Only seen with thermal imaging.
In the 4 photos below the client was shocked to find that missing insulation in the walls sent the surface temperature of the walls up over 100 degrees. Talk about energy loss, just imagine the winter!
Recent home inspection of a foreclosed home found issues with wiring. The prior owner built an addition without the proper permits. Using the thermal imaging camera I was able to find 1 GFCI breaker for the hot tub incorrectly wired and 2 ARC fault breakers.
More interesting was that the hot tub was no longer connected and the bedrooms for the ARC fault breakers were empty. Electrician needed!
2nd set overheating...nothing installed, house is vacant!
Below shows a water heater circuit breaker overheating. Anytime you have a circuit breaker running above 100 degrees there is a problem. In this case further review showed that the hot water heater also had a sediment knock. First sign it was nearing end of life.
Add in the overheating circuit the client knows that the water heater needs replacement.
New Photos 4.27.12
Radiant heat in bathroom floors...it's working!
Photos below radiant heat in concrete slab, and below carpet flooring.
Photos above show radiant heat in concrete slab, and below carpet flooring.
Exterior car port, IR shows framing members.
New photos 3.13.12
Cause of the overheated circuit breaker is this power strip. Note the temperature 106 degrees -fire hazard.
The above photos show a overheated circuit breaker, observed over 100 degrees, possible fire hazard left unchecked.
The above pictures shows the boiler in the basement, heating pipes are not insulated making the kitchen floor 70 degrees +, causing the vinyl flooring to lift, not to mention energy loss.
New photos as of 3.4.12
Below, cold spot in master bedroom was insulation pulled back in attic space hiding a water leak with a bucket below the drain waste vent pipe. IR found it.
Windows below have lost seals. This means they have lost their insulating ability. Often see as cloudy windows as time progresses.
When you see the thermal images of the radiant heat in the flooring below. Consider this if you hired an inspector without a thermal imaging camera what are they inspecting? Better yet what did they miss?
New photos as of 2.21.12
Missing insulation above the sill plate along the foundation wall seen below the white line resulting in energy loss. Finished basement preventing view, but not from IR.
Without thermal imaging would never of seen this. Due to improper design the radiant heat does not work properly, little or no heat felt in room.