Enhance Your Home Inspection with Thermal Imaging

The biggest limitation to your home inspection is the human eye. Even the most thorough home inspectors are limited to the visible light spectrum. However, you can enhance your home inspection with thermal imaging (infrared imaging). 

What is Thermal Imaging

Thermal imaging, also known as thermography, is a technology that captures the infrared radiation (heat) emitted by objects and converts it into a visible image. Simply put, an infrared camera allows us to see surface temperatures and patterns that are not visible to the naked eye.

In a home inspection context, thermal imaging cameras detect variations in temperature on surfaces and within structures. These temperature anomalies can reveal hidden problems and provide valuable insights into a property’s condition. For example, a regular home inspection probably won’t uncover missing insulation, but a thermal inspection would.

However, it’s important to understand that thermal imagery is NOT X-ray vision. Thermal images do not show the inside temperature of an object. For example, imagine you put a metal cup in a heated oven until the cup is hot. Then, you put ice-cold water in the cup. An infrared camera will only show the heat on the cup’s exterior. It will not reveal that there is ice-cold water in the cup.

Detecting Energy Efficiency Issues with Thermal Imaging

One of the primary ways thermal imaging enhances your home inspection is by detecting energy loss issues. It can identify areas of heat loss and air leakage, which are common problems in many homes. By pinpointing these issues, homeowners and potential buyers can take steps to improve energy efficiency, reduce utility bills, and create a more comfortable living environment.

1. Insulation Problems

Thermal imaging helps identify insulation gaps in exterior walls. Cold spots on walls or ceilings can indicate inadequate insulation, allowing warm air to escape during the winter months and cold air to infiltrate during the summer. Plus, in some cases, missing insulation causes condensation and mold in the walls. Missing insulation is not uncommon in brand-new homes.

2. Air Leaks

All homes have air leaks. Leaks are common around windows and doors. However, thermal imaging can help find excessive gaps and air leaks that would otherwise go unnoticed. 

3. HVAC Issues

Some defects with the (HVAC) systems can be detected through thermal imaging as well. For example, it can reveal duct blockages, duct damage, or excessive leakage. It can also be used to inspect for apparent temperature differences. 

Moisture Detection with Thermal Imaging

Another significant advantage of thermal imaging in home inspections is its ability to detect moisture-like patterns. Water intrusion and moisture damage are common concerns for our clients. Thermal imagers supported by a moisture meter can identify and verify wet areas. These can be exterior water leaks, plumbing issues, or water damage hidden behind walls or ceilings.

1. Roof Leaks

Thermal imaging can help locate roof leaks by identifying areas with higher moisture content. This is especially valuable for flat or low-slope roofs where leaks are not readily visible. Minor roof leaks can go unnoticed for long periods, causing severe damage. 

2. Plumbing Leaks

Hidden plumbing leaks can lead to water damage and mold growth. Plus, it can pinpoint the source of leaks within walls or under floors, allowing for targeted repairs.

Electrical Hazards

In addition to identifying moisture and energy issues, thermal imaging can enhance electrical safety inspections. Overheating electrical components can pose a significant fire hazard. These cameras can quickly identify hot spots in electrical panels, wiring, and outlets, allowing for preventive maintenance and repairs.

For example, mismatched breakers or loose connections are electrical faults that may not have visible symptoms. However, hot circuit breakers seen on a thermal camera prompt our inspectors to take a closer look. 

Pest Infestations

thermal imaging shows pest activity

Pest infestations can be a homeowner’s nightmare, causing damage to the property and posing health risks. Thermal imaging can aid in the detection of pest infestations by identifying areas of heat generated by pests or their nests. For example, it can reveal mouse tunnels in the attic insulation. The tunnels they create give off heat energy in the winter.