Infrared Thermography (IR) is an advanced home inspection method that utilizes specialized thermal imaging equipment to find anomalies hidden in walls, floors and ceilings. Infrared light, unlike visible light, has a longer wavelength, so it is not visible to the naked eye, which is why IR scanning is an essential and specialized inspection.
What is IR Scanning?
Using an infrared camera, a trained and certified inspector will be able to detect thermal emissions around the home. The differing temperatures are then displayed on the camera’s screen using color variations. With this method, the inspector is able to spot potential issues, such as insufficient heating or cooling, thin or missing insulation, or cracks and gaps in window or door frames.
Infrared Scanning is non-invasive, so it is oftentimes a quick and efficient alternative for a traditional Full Home Inspection. It can also be more comprehensive as the inspector can identify small issues in real-time and recommend repairs and maintenance.
Advantages of IR Thermography
IR Thermography offers homeowners, buyers and sellers several advantages to help with current issues as well as predict future problems. IR Thermography:
- Detects construction defects
- Finds faults in areas of the home that are difficult or dangerous to access
- Shows visual images of temperature distribution in large spaces to identify issues
- Helps locate the source of a problem in a timely manner
- Can be stored in the cloud for future reference to create records, track performance over time and identify patterns
If an IR Scan takes place while under contract, potential home buyers can use the infrared findings to gain better insights into the home they are looking to purchase, negotiate the purchase price or repairs if maintenance is needed, and account for future problems that could arise.
What can Infrared Thermography detect?
Typically, electrical issues are often indicated by surges of heat in the problematic area. When the electrical current flow is operating normally, some energy will get converted into heat. However, when there is an issue present, abnormally high amounts of heat will be generated. IR Scanning picks up on varying levels of heat being emitted and can detect when levels are too high.
Thermal imaging can also detect electrical issues including:
- Loose connections
- Overloaded circuit
- Faulty wires
- Defective insulation
What's great about IR Scanning for electrical issues is that it is faster than a manual inspection and homeowners don’t have to turn their power off for testing to be completed.
Thermal imaging cameras can create a detailed image of the roof, indicating the areas where moisture may be trapped as a result of a leak or insufficient insulation. This eliminates the need for a lengthy roof inspection as it quickly identifies the sources of the moisture.
While great for roof inspections, there are several factors that can affect the accuracy of infrared testing on the roof including:
- Wind speed
- Air temperature
- Weather conditions
To receive the best data, home inspectors prefer to conduct IR Scanning on roofs under these conditions:
- On clear and sunny days to detect the temperature differences between moist and dry spots
- When wind speed is less than 15 mph
- At dusk the roof releases heat quickly during these hours, so the temperature difference between moist and dry areas is easier to detect.
Active infestations of termites, rodents, and other pests produce visible heat that can be picked up by thermal imaging. The presence of animals or other pests can result in extreme variations in the temperature of a wall, and detecting such occurrences is crucial when it comes to keeping your home safe and free from unwanted intrusions and structural damage.
Missing or Damaged Insulation
Insulation is installed throughout the home, within walls, around windows and doors, and sometimes even in the attic. Having insulation properly installed throughout the home helps to regulate the home’s interior temperature, keeping it cool in the warmer months and warm in the cooler months. IR Scanning can find where warm or cool air is escaping, detecting a problem with the insulation. This is especially important when understanding the performance of the HVAC unit.
IR technology can also be applied when trying to find compressor leaks from air conditioners. Faulty equipment will oftentimes exhibit significant differences in their actual performance from their rated performance. These differences can oftentimes be identified through sudden changes in temperature.
IR Scanning can identify leaks and backdrafts from fireplaces and chimneys that are entering the home and could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
How does IR Scanning with WIN work?
Inspecting a home with a thermal imaging camera is a simple process. First, an inspector will let the water run through the drains of the toilets, sinks, showers, and dishwashers. Next, the inspector will use the HVAC system to change the temperatures in the house to help detect flaws in air circulation. Areas that are dry have less thermal mass and will change temperature quickly. On the other hand, areas with a higher thermal mass, which may include damp areas, will change temperature more slowly. These differences will be obvious when viewed through the infrared camera. Then, depending on the findings, the inspector will explain what anomalies were found and provide recommendations to repair them.
It is important to understand that infrared cameras do not see through walls, cabinets, or concrete. Rather, they show differences in the surface temperature of a material. It’s these temperature differences that indicate moisture or another issue.
How to Prepare for an IR Inspection
In preparation for a scheduled IR Scan, the homeowner should take several steps to ensure an accurate result:
- Remove drapes, curtains or other hazards that may affect airflow and function
- Shift furniture away from exterior walls
- Ensure the air temperature inside your home is suitable for scanning
- Open all air vents throughout the home
If you have additional questions about preparing your home for an IR Scan, ask your local WIN home inspector!
WIN Home Inspection is here to help you find issues that could be hidden in your home with an Infrared Thermography Inspection. From pest infestations, to moisture problems to weather-proofing issues and everything in between, this inspection finds it all! Contact your local Win home inspector and book your inspection today!