Thermal imaging has the precision to have served as a wartime tool to spot enemies in Vietnam and a medical device capable of diagnosing and monitoring the progress of health conditions. It wasn’t long before industrial and construction workers found a use for it during consultations. Building inspections using thermal imaging can now be done to assess the energy efficiency of a home, infestations and damaging water intrusion. Even new houses can have improper flashing and waterlogging. Some faults are difficult to spot, with pipes running beneath the soil and large structures being time-intensive to inspect. Thermal imaging, when in the hands of a trained thermographer, makes those invisible, costly problems visible by isolating cool and warm temperatures caused by water, power and life.
Interpretation and Expectations
While imaging can pick up the extent and location of problems with a high degree of accuracy, it cannot tell you a home’s past. It remains important to research the house’s original building permits, which point out where modifications have been made and even, through pricing, the quality of its architects and builders. This information gives your inspection added mettle, letting you know more about its value as well as showing you where potential construction problems may have arisen. Thermal imaging can tell you a certain amount about a home’s future, in that water and electrical damage that can eventually cause structural damage and become safety hazards can be caught in good time. It also picks up infestations that may be challenging or even impossible to control.
When a house has renewable power sources, thermal imaging is particularly good at identifying wear, given that heat is a large component of their functioning. Solar panels with signs of wear, for example, will be easy to spot. Window installations that are not properly insulated, heated paving that is dysfunctional and HVAC systems with defects can first be examined in low detail with a basic thermal imaging camera.
Where the causes of problems need to be pinpointed, infrared thermometers allow you to do a more in depth inspection. The thermometer operates at a far higher resolution, creating distinct images with precise borders. This is often useful when wall joints are losing air. With these two tools, your energy loss can be documented. In a best case scenario, this will decrease the cost of the house, or ensure that it is repaired by its sellers. At worst, it allows you to do repairs when faults are still relatively inexpensive. The best readings, in this scenario, are in summer for homes in hot climates and winter for cold regions.
Water is to blame for the majority of building deterioration, whether it comes in the form of condensation, moisture or leaks. Thermal imaging cameras track down any developing damp that could lead to mold or damage. Thermographers change room temperatures if necessary to gain a clearer view of the damage. Where walls have not been correctly flashed, water often accumulates in spaces within them, revealing distinctive purple patterns in images.
Rodents, termites, cockroaches and other insects sometimes nest in old wood while some are more actively destructive. Plaster and gypsum board that has been placed during building is a food source for termites but it is hidden behind plaster and lathe. Experienced thermographers are better able to detect infestations. This is a specialized process that can take hours to conduct, so a combination of manual and thermal inspection is necessary. It isn’t always easy to tell the difference between termites and leaks, and some insects prefer dry areas to damp ones. For these reasons, a background knowledge of seasonal factors and the kinds of pests most common in the area is crucial.
Cool and hot spots can indicate infestations that have existed in the past through structural damage. This way, infestations that tend to diminish seasonally can still be identified. By injecting cool or hot compressed air into suspicious areas, unclear images are improved. A moisture meter is then used to develop a more accurate idea of what the problem is. When used together with microwave and acoustic detection equipment, inspections can be done deep inside concrete blocks and inside garden plants.
When you’re looking for electrical damage such as reversed polarity wiring or worn insulation, you need an electrical inspector who is qualified to use a thermal imaging camera. Specialized knowledge of nominal loads and safety standards is a must. In this situation, surface temperature picks up infrared energy that indicates specific scales of emissivity. Because reflective surfaces are not good heat conductors, thermal imaging is used to calculate the differences between electrical inspection areas and surrounding objects.