“One Home Inspection Please, and an Infrared Scan On The Side.”

We've been using an infrared camera at random home inspections for the past several months, and we've decided that this is by far the coolest home inspection tool in the world.  Thankfully, we've also figured out how to add real value to our home inspections with the use of this camera.  Today I'm going to share some of the problems we've been able to identify with this camera that we might not have identified without. 

Roof Leaks

With all of the ice dam inspections we've done in the last month, we've looked at a ton of leaking houses.  For each photo in the series below, I made a duplicate of the original image, then overlaid the thermal image on top of the original.  It's pretty easy to identify the wet areas in the thermal images, but they're not apparent in the original photos.

All of the homes shown below had roof leaks from ice dams.

IR Image - water leak 1

IR Image - water leak 2

IR Image - water leak 3

IR Image - water leak 4

IR Image - water leak 5

IR Image - water leak 6

IR Image - water leak 7

IR Image - water leak 8

IR Image - water leak 9

IR Image - water leak 10

I could go on, but I'm pretty sure I've made my point.  Thermal imaging can be used to find roof leaks, but the conditions have to be right; if it's a hot summer day and there hasn't been any rain for a week, forget it.

Hot Spots In Attics

Warm attics cause snow to melt, which is what causes ice dams.  I've found an infrared camera to be invaluable while troubleshooting the causes of ice dams.

The photo below shows a warm spot in an attic that I never would have identified without an infrared camera.  The culprit was a flush-mounted light fixture with light bulbs that had too high of a wattage.  I don't make a habit of taking apart light fixtures to check the wattage on light bulbs, but I'll do it if something tips me off.

IR Image - warm attic

Uninsulated ductwork in an attic is also a problem; the heat loss is quite obvious with an infrared camera.  The photo below came from an attic with an insulation value of R-60.  Who would have thought it?

IR Image - uninsulated ductwork

Recessed lights are a huge contributor to warm attics, whether they're airtight or not.  I'll be writing a blog about this soon.

IR Image - recessed light2

Improper Insulation

This is one of the most obvious uses for an infrared camera.   The photo below shows an attic access panel that wasn't properly insulated.

IR Image - attic panel

This next image shows an interior wall that was very cold, because there was a missing section of insulation in the attic behind this wall.  

IR Image - cold wall

The photo below shows the same section of wall, as seen from inside the attic.

Attic Insulation 3

In the photo below, there is an obvious cold spot where the insulation was missed or improperly installed.

IR Image - missing insulation

Heating Systems

If a radiator doesn't heat up properly, it will be quite obvious with an infrared camera.  The photo below shows a radiator working properly; while I'm not demonstrating a problem here, I just thought this was a cool image to include 🙂

IR Image - radiator

If there are voids or leaks in heating tubes for in-floor, in-wall, or in-ceiling heat, an infrared camera will probably find them.  The photo below shows an inconsequential gap in the tubing at this heated ceiling.

IR Image - ceiling heat

I'm sure I'll have plenty more interesting photos to share as the months go on, but these photos should help to answer the question everyone asks: "why would I want an infrared scan with my home inspection?"

For the record, one thing we don't offer and never will offer is infrared scans on stucco homes in lieu of invasive testing.  I'll have more on that topic another day.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections - Email - Maple Grove Home Inspections

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Written By

Reuben is a second-generation home inspector with a passion for his work. He grew up remodeling homes and learning about carpentry since he was old enough to hold a hammer. Reuben grew up thinking he was going to be a school teacher because he enjoyed teaching others so much. In a sense, that’s a lot of what home inspections are about, so Reuben truly does what he loves. Sharlene has worked with Structure Tech since 2000 and Reuben has been contributing to her blog since 2008.

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