Home Inspecting and Thermal Image Camera’s
WHAT IS IT
A thermal image camera is capable of detecting very small differences in temperature by capturing infrared radiation from the surface of objects to create an image illustrating the temperature differences.
WHAT IT ISN’T
There are some common misconceptions that I want to clear up now. Thermal image cameras cannot see through or into walls, they cannot detect moisture or missing insulation. We wish it was that simple but it is not.
DOES YOUR HOME INSPECTOR USE A THERMAL IMAGE CAMERA?
Over the years the price of these camera’s has come down considerably while the features and quality has improved. This has allowed more and more home inspectors to acquire one, get certified, and start using it. This is a good thing as it allows us to spot things that we couldn’t in the past. Below are some examples.
Remember, a thermal image camera does not detect water, it detects temperature variations. Given the right conditions water will typically show up as a cold spot or area. If the water temp has equalized with the wall or ceiling temperature then it will not show up at all. In the past we would visually inspect the walls and ceilings for water damage. Water will eventually leave a water stain indicating a past or present leak, unfortunately it takes a while for a stain to develop. I could be looking at ceiling that looks perfect and have no idea its wet. Since its impractical to go over every square inch of wall, floor, and ceilings with a moisture meter, this would have been missed. Both pictures below are of the same area. As you can see the ceiling in the picture on the right looks perfect. The blue area on the picture on the left illustrates the cold area of that same ceiling. That area was cold because it was wet from a leak from the shower in the bathroom above.
Below are some more picture of that same leak. This is looking at the bathroom ceiling below the upstairs bathroom shower that was leaking. As you can see from the picture on the right the ceiling looks perfect, the blue/purple area from the thermal picture shows otherwise. This wet area was confirmed with the use of a moisture meter.
While doing a home inspection in Minneapolis Minnesota I found this. Its very common for older homes to have wall insulation blown in through holes that are drilled from the outside. In this home all the walls had insulation added but they skipped the area above all the windows. The blue/black area shows that wall is cold. This is something a typical home inspection would not have found without the use of a thermal image camera.
As you can see from the examples above a thermal image camera can point out issues that are not normally found during a typical home inspection. A thermal image camera scan can quickly point out area’s of concern. This results in a more thorough home inspection. When hiring your next home inspector I advise you to inquire if they use a thermal image camera or not and if they’ve been trained or certified to use it.
Pete Busch Minnesota Home Inspector