Tools of the trade: Thermal imaging camera

In January of 2022, Summit Home Inspections will add a thermal imaging camera (FLIR) to our roster of tools we use during a home inspection. The camera will only be used in certain circumstances, primarily when there is the suspicion of a moisture related deficiency. The Standards of Practice dictate that we as home inspectors follow in Va. Dictates that we perform a non-invasive, visual inspection and this tool fits perfectly with that description.

How will we use this on an inspection? When moisture is suspected, for example from a stain on a wall under a window, on a ceiling under a bathtub or stains around a skylight, we can use the FLIR to help us determine the presence of moisture. To be clear, a thermal imaging camera does not test for moisture, rather it measures and displays temperature differences. Water or moisture and, or wet building materials will have a different temperature than the surrounding dry areas.

Let’s take the example of staining observed on a ceiling. A regular digital camera will show us color variances such as the yellow, brownish staining that is indicative of the present or past presence of moisture. Captured with an infrared camera, this might reveal a dark area indicating that there is moisture above it. This will be displayed both by the temperature variance and by the shape or pattern of the wet area such as a “V” which indicates gravity is moving water down from its source. Once this is observed, because a pattern that looks like moisture doesn’t always guarantee it, we will then use our moisture meter to confirm if there is in fact moisture intrusion. We will then examine the area above the ceiling with the infrared camera in an attempt to determine the source of the leaking.

This makes inspecting with an IR camera a “qualitative’ measurement, rather than a “quantitative” one as the thermal imaging camera is used to locate differences in temperatures, or “anomalies,” which then allow us to analyze the captured shapes or patterns and document the issues in our inspection report where we will suggest further evaluation to exactly locate and remediate the issue.

The temperature variances can also be used in certain circumstances where termite infestation, leaking HVAC ducts or insulation issues are suspected.

The pictures below are from an inspection where the client was concerned with water intrusion around a window area. We used a FLIR infrared camera and then a moisture meter to determine that there was no moisture present at the time of the inspection.

Summit Home Inspections LLC is a licensed and insured home inspection company that is licensed in the state of Virginia to inspect commercial and residential real estate. We serve the Hampton Roads Area. Our professional home inspectors are trained and certified. We are constantly updating our tools and education with state-of-the-art equipment and software to give our clients the best inspection and report and help them make an informed decision about purchasing their new home.

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