Thermal Imaging

This month’s topic is Thermal Imaging. You may have seen us at an inspection with a funny-looking camera and wondered what it is we are doing, or maybe we have explained it a bit to you already. Below are some details of what this is all about. For us, it is exciting to offer you and your clients an exciting new tool to help us see things we otherwise can’t see during a typical home inspection, making our services better for you.

Thermal Imaging

What is it? Thermal imaging is the process of taking an image (in this case, a photo) that shows the temperature (thermal) differences between objects in the photo. At right is our thermal imaging camera, made by Fluke.

Why would it be used for a home inspection?

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Thermal imaging technology is relatively new to home inspections. The tool is primarily used during an energy audit to visualize areas of greatest energy loss within a home. However, as more home inspectors such as us review energy use as a part of an inspection, this is becoming a valuable tool. Thermal imaging can provide us with a way to see heat loss in a home and focus on those areas where improved insulation may provide energy savings. Other uses include finding spots of water leaks or damage and viewing radiant heating in floors.

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The picture at right shows the heat loss around a window (darker shades are cold areas of the window versus light areas are the walls.

How much does it cost?

If used by our inspectors as a tool to enhance the inspection process, there is no additional cost. If the client requests either a standalone energy analysis or requests thermal imaging of the house in addition to the normal home inspection, we typically charge for this service. The charge varies depending on the house’s size, etc., but expect it to be approximately $145.00.

Common Sense

In the “real world” of home inspections, we have had very few client requests for thermal imaging. All clients find it a fascinating tool when we use it, but few appear willing (at least at the time of purchase) to pay extra for a full house energy audit to be done. However, we have found it to be a huge advantage when analyzing radiant heat systems.

During a typical inspection, we will usually try all heat zones in a home to ensure they all work. This cannot be easy to do with radiant heat. Radiant heat warms up very slowly. It isn’t easy in the time of a normal inspection to turn it on and be sure that it is warming a room as it should unless you have a thermal imaging camera. So, when we know we will inspect a home with radiant heat, we will almost always use our thermal camera for verification.

Real-World Example

We recently inspected a home that had several zones of radiant heat. We found one zone not operating and one zone in the living room. Only half of the room was heated. Wouldn’t you want to know if the home you or your client was purchasing only had heat in ½ of the living room?

That is what we can do for you with a thermal imaging camera. The picture on the left below is of the middle of the living room, thermal image. You can clearly see the in-floor radiant heat (light-colored stripes on the left and none on the right. The picture on the right is in the same area.

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 KEY POINT TO REMEMBER

Thermal imaging is not necessary for a good home inspection but is a great new tool to help us serve your clients even better. Ask us to show you how it works next time we inspect one of your clients.

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