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Infrared Thermal Imaging & Your Home Inspection

Erich Kelter - Thursday, July 11, 2013

Infrared Thermal Imaging is a fantastic tool that can be utilized to your advantage if you are purchasing a home and plan on having a home inspection performed. It can also be used to help current home owners detect or solve certain problems, many of which are not visible to the naked eye. However like any service it does have some limitations that home buyers should be aware of.  

Why go for Thermal Imaging Home Inspection?

With the recent surge in popularity of specific cameras manufactured for use in residential housing, it has been no surprise that many home inspectors now offer Thermal Imaging as a service for home buyers & home owners alike. This fantastic technology with its roots being traced back to military applications has trickled down into many industries including the residential home inspection industry.

Several issues including but not limited to, missing insulation, plumbing leaks, heating and cooling losses, overheating electrical components and foundation leakage can be detected with the use of a Thermal Imaging camera during a residential home inspection. However with the recent pricing decrease of certain cameras intended for use in the home inspection industry, we have noticed an alarming trend regarding this service.

Choosing the right Thermal Imaging service provider

Many inspectors (mostly newbie’s from our experience) appear to be offering a Thermal Imaging service included with their standard home inspection. It comes as no surprise that these same inspectors do not appear to carry the minimum level one thermography certification conforming to the ASNT SNT-TC-1A guidelines. Anyone offering any type of service employing the use of an infrared camera should have at least a level one thermography certificate, and not just any certificate, a certificate that references the guidelines referenced above. Beware of so called “Infrared Certified” Inspectors that take a weekend course and claim to have all of the knowledge and expertise required to fully utilize their IR camera in a professional manner.

In recent times it has also been brought to our attention that many inspectors are giving their clients a false sense of security by offering this service during periods where Thermal Imaging may not be effective at all. An example here would be using the Thermal Imaging camera to scan the exterior walls looking for missing insulation when the indoor temperature of the home is 21 degrees Celsius and the outside temperature is 23 degrees Celsius. In general a delta T (differential) of approximately 10 degrees Celsius is the norm that is required if perform an effective scan on a home (a few other key items come into play here as well depending on the desired type or scope of inspection to be performed).

We have had several people shocked to hear that we were not willing to offer our service during certain periods because we felt the conditions were not correct or optimal for conducting a Thermal Imaging scan, meanwhile they just got off the phone with a competitor that claimed Thermal Imaging (included in their inspection) would allow them to “see through walls” and find any hidden defect! Bottom line regarding Thermal Imaging and your Home Inspection is a little education can go a long way and save you trouble in the long run.

Above Grade Home Inspections Inc. has employed the use of Thermal Imaging in Home Inspections for several years now. We have the training, education and practical experience to know how to effectively use the Infrared Thermal Imaging camera in real world situations and how to protect our clients from a false sense of security that other inexperienced inspectors may try to use as a marketing gimmick.

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