What is an Infrared Inspection?
An infrared inspection uses a sophisticated (code for expensive) camera to detect, measure, and take pictures of heat radiating from objects. An infrared image can detect problems that cannot be seen by the naked eye. Interpreting an infrared images requires an inspector who is trained to weed out false images.
An infrared inspection can reduce the need for contact with components that are dangerous to touch, or that are in areas that are difficult or dangerous to reach. These inspections can reduce the need for costly invasive or destructive testing. They can locate problems so that corrective measures can be effectively targeted.
An infrared inspection is not like an X-ray. An infrared camera cannot see into or through objects. The camera sees heat radiating from an object, and sees the heat differences between nearby objects. The infrared camera may also see heat from other objects that may be reflected off the target object. Reflected heat, and other thermal anomalies, can produce false readings. That is one reason why training is required to properly capture and interpret infrared images.
Should I Have an Infrared Inspection?
The answer is: it depends. There are lots of reasons to have an infrared inspection. The most common reasons involve detecting moisture intrusion, detecting improperly installed or absent insulation, and detecting air leaks.
Moisture intrusion detection relies on the fact that the wet area is cooler than the surrounding dry area. Concealed wet areas must be sufficiently wet, and must have been sufficiently wet for long enough, so that the cooler temperature can be detected at the surface of the concealed area.
For example, if a water leak is suspected around a window, the water leak must be frequent enough, and must allow enough water to enter the area around the window, so that the wet area around the window is several degrees cooler than nearby dry area. This cooler temperature must be detectable at the surface around the window, otherwise, the infrared camera will not detect the water leak.
Insulation and Air Leaks
Detecting improperly installed insulation, absent insulation, and air leaks is usually straightforward. There must be several degrees of temperature difference between the house interior and the area on the other side of the insulation in order for the infrared camera to detect a meaningful temperature difference.
The question when dealing with insulation and air leak defects is determining when it is cost-effective to deal with the defects. Most homes have insulation and air leak defects. These defects must be significant before it becomes cost effective to deal with them. Insulation and air leak defects that are significant enough to warrant dealing with them are uncommon, especially in newer houses.
An infrared camera can be a useful tool for detecting some suspected defects found during a home inspection, if the conditions are right. We are happy to perform an infrared inspection for you, but we want you to be fully informed about the limitations of this tool.