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 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).
While there is no guarantee that nothing will be missed during the visual inspection. Thermal imaging brings me one step closer to not overlooking anything.
So you have to ask yourself: do you want a home inspector that offers thermal imaging or risk going with one that does not?
As you study the photos, I remind you, these images would not be visible without the aid of a thermal imaging camera. Which is included in all my inspections!
Thermal Technology is the newest and upcoming star in Home inspections. It affords the ability to inspect on a deeper level. It does not come with out it's limitations mind you. There is a term called Delta-t. Basically we're looking for a differential in temperatures.
In terms of energy loss, an IR camera can detect:
- heat loss and air infiltration in walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors;
- damaged and/ or malfunctioning radiant heating systems;
- air-conditioner compressor leaks;
- under-fastening and/ or missing framing members, and other structural defects that can lead to energy loss; and
- broken seals in double-paned windows.
In terms of detecting moisture intrusion, an IR camera can locate:
- plumbing leaks;
- hidden roof leaks before they cause serious damage;
- missing, damaged and/ or wet insulation; and
- water and moisture intrusion around penetrations and at the foundation and building envelope that could lead to structural damage and mold.
IR cameras are equally effective at locating hot spots in the home, including:
- circuit breakers in need of immediate replacement;
- overloaded and undersized circuits;
- overheated electrical equipment and components; and
- electrical faults before they cause a fire.
Additionally, based on the color gradients that thermal images provide, an inspector can locate:
- possible pest infestation, as revealed by energy loss through shelter tubes left by boring wood-destroying insects;
- the presence of intruders, such as rats, mice and other larger pests hiding within the structure and detected because of their heat signature that the IR camera captures; and
- dangerous flue leaks, which can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning of the homes residents.