A little bit about Infrared Cameras and Home Inspection.
Just a few things to clear the air or your mind about Infrared Cameras. First off Infrared camera or Thermal camera are the same thing, it’s taking pictures simply based on temperature. It’s not X-ray vision as some have been led to believe. So we are taking pictures based on temperature, what’s important here is to realize that the camera operates on a reflective principle meaning we are simply creating an image based on the temperature at the surface of the material photographed. The use of infrared in home inspection is valuable but not infallible. We can look for missing insulation, moisture intrusion, air leaks etc. but all these situations have limitations with infrared cameras. Moisture is probably the most misunderstood relationship with infrared. When moisture is on a surface evaporation is taking place which means a lower temperature in that area due to air currents moving around in that localized area. This will give us an image indicating a cooler spot. Great we think we found a problem, but wait an AC duct behind a wall will also give us a cooler spot. So the first part after the image is taken is to interpret what we are seeing. Also there are other issues to be considered. If we are looking at a finished basement wall trying to find moisture and if the vapor barrier is well installed with no holes and well sealed we can have moisture behind the vapor barrier (towards the exterior) with no migration to the interior. Now we have no evaporation taking place therefore no temperature difference and no cold spot on the infrared image. I’m trying to give you a small snapshot of how infrared works in a Home Inspection application. Infrared cameras are valuable tools, I personally love my camera a wouldn’t be with out one. However there are limits to its use and results. This is why in my opinion an infrared camera is a necessary tool to have but not valid to charge more for an inspection just because I use this tool. Some inspectors are charging up to 40% more because they are using an infrared camera. I can’t justify this when although useful infrared is not a guarantee to find hidden defects. Lastly if you choose and inspection and inspector who uses an infrared camera make sure he has the training to use the camera. The interpretation of the images are critical to any value of this tool.