Why Home Inspectors Should Use Infrared Thermal Camera
Updated: Jun 12, 2022
When it comes to inspecting a residential property for clients or homeowners, a licensed real estate (home) inspector can be limited by his or her experience, knowledge, and visibility. Having an infrared thermal imaging camera or device available can help add another layer of latent certainty for clients by capturing the unseen.
For new homeowners or for a home inspector’s client, this service and certainty delivers the sound of mind they’ve been needing. There are several advantages of incorporating an infrared thermal camera into a home inspection.
In this article, you will discover several benefits and the value of using infrared thermal inspections.
Infrared thermal does more than casting a picture of temperature disparities. It delivers a lot of information to a home inspector. It can make the invisible, visible. For instance, a very small leak in the roof penetrating the subsurface can be spotted by an infrared camera because water tends to hold its thermal energy. It delivers potential situations of cause to an inspector. Was there prior water damage? Is there a prior roof leak? Am I seeing repairs on a previous issue?
An additional example, a licensed home inspector walks through the client’s home annotating any potential problems seen whether it is due to aesthetics/cosmetic defect to a more serious defect. When looking above at an indoor attic door in the ceiling, the inspector annotates the door opening is sized appropriately. She further inspects the ladder and deems it safe and in good working condition. Nothing is out of the ordinary to the naked eye.
Next, she pulls out her infrared camera and aims it at the attic door. Immediately, she notices a temperature discrepancy in the attic door and the ceiling. This prompts her, as the home inspector, to further inspect and evaluate the situation. Having not used an infrared thermal tool, she may have continued inspecting and walking through the house. The infrared captured something that aids her in the inspector to further look into a situation.
In this example, the home inspector annotates that the lack of insulation on the attic door is costing the client money. Depending on the climate, warm or cool air is leaking into the attic because of the minimal layers of insulation allowing the conditioned air to escape the room. Air escaping means money leaving your pocket.
Thermal imaging doesn’t give you the superhuman eyesight of Superman; however, it does deliver several benefits. As a home inspector using thermal imaging as part of your practice, you can deliver quality inspections to your client. It adds another layer of assurance to what has already been inspected.
Several benefits of infrared thermal imaging include being able to capture:
Potential roof leaks
Water spots or previous water damage
Lack of insulation in walls & ceiling
Moisture detection possibly presenting presence of mold growth
Electric surge or damage
Non-Invasive testing on structural problems
Outside of the home inspection or construction business, thermal imaging is used in medical practices as well. Thermal imaging has also been used to capture skin temperatures. Hospitals across the globe have utilized thermal imaging to measure temperatures as a mitigation effort to seek potential COVID-19 patients. It’s a power resource to utilize for your trade.
When used correctly, thermal imaging systems generally have been shown to accurately measure someone’s surface skin temperature without being physically close to the person being evaluated (FDA.gov)
Infrared Imaging: Temperature versus Pattern
For home inspectors, it is important to take note that it is the pattern that is relevant too, not always the temperature. Infrared imaging is a great tool in capturing moisture problems.
While an infrared will capture a temperature difference, it captures patterns that may be clues to a home inspector.
In the picture below, we see a thermal image of an interior wall of a two-story residential home. The thermal image reflects a temperature anomaly, but more importantly, a pattern where the ceiling drywall meets the room interior wall.
Immediately, one shouldn’t assume this is a water intrusion or leak. The next step for the home inspector is to use a secondary device as confirmation of moisture. This secondary device is a quality moisture meter. These two tools can be powerful allies to a home inspector and every home inspector knows that moisture is key to mold. “An infrared or thermal inspection does not directly identify the presence of mold, but it may be used to find moisture where mold may cultivate, including behind walls, rooflines, soffits, and foundations.” (Atlantic Environmental Incorporated)
While infrared thermal imaging isn't a be-all, end-all, or some superpower, it's an additional tool to have in your bag of resources to deliver quality home inspections while delivering that sound of mind service your clients are seeking. An infrared thermal is a powerful tool in capturing potential water damage or leaks, electrical surges or damage, and identifying a trigger for possible mold growth. If you are not currently using infrared thermal, I recommend you get trained and certified today.
Thermal Imaging Systems (Infrared Thermographic Systems / Thermal Imaging Cameras. General Hospital Devices and Supplies. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Retrieved from:
Sheriff, Robert E. Using an Infrared Camera to Detect Moisture and Mold Problems. August 29, 2019. Atlantic Environmental Incorporated. Retrieved from: https://www.atlenv.com/using-an-infrared-camera-to-detect-moisture-and-mold-problems