There is a lot of BUZZ regarding infrared (IR) inspections. There are a number of inspectors that started offering IR technology around 2010. Since then IR cameras have improved and more inspections have included this tool. Some Inspectors charge an additional fee for this service, while others lump this service into the General Home Inspection fee. Inspectors have learned that this tool is not nearly as amazing as the developers of this equipment lead prospective buyers to believe. Some inspection firms advertise this as an advanced technology tool that sets them apart from other firms that do not offer this service, as a means of landing more work. Most inspectors have put the tool away and rarely pull it out due to its limitations.
The Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) has set the inspection guidelines which are considered the minimum Texas standards. The TREC guidelines are considered the best in the US. The inspector can offer additional inspection services beyond the TREC Guidelines but by doing so is not protected on anything beyond the standard TREC guidelines. IR reporting may be a can of worms for an inspector that does not know how to use this tool.
SOME THINGS TO KNOW
The IR camera definitely has limitations and may provide a false positive.
The camera measures temperature variances and captures images that can be saved as a jpeg.
From indoors, if measuring for moisture penetration or energy loss the temperature needs to be at least ten degrees warmer outside. The subject surface temperature needs be at least a ten degree variance or greater to actually capture anything at all.
If looking for water penetration the camera will not recognize moisture if the wall and water temperature are the same or the moisture spot is dry. Water penetrating the envelope of the property needs to be examined within 36 hours of recent rain. It is better to conduct water penetration inspection in the morning when the indoor temperature is around i.e. 72-77 degrees and the outside temperature is 82-97 degrees or greater. Water penetration will or likely be cooler than the inside temperature exposing the moisture pattern in the IR camera LCD screen.
WHAT MIGHT THE CAMERA HELP IDENTIFY (when temperature conditions are right)
Moisture in the home
- Water penetrating the envelope of the home: walls, roof, foundation, moisture wicking into perimeter wall from downspouts, high grade levels and water wicking into perimeter wall, planter boxes against the home and wicking moisture, high moisture content in the concrete slab, exterior faucet leak and more.
- Water leaks within the home: plumbing in walls, shower pans, air conditioning condensate drain line issues, first floor ceilings beneath second floor bathrooms, obvious water presence & the extent to which the water has traveled across the floor or ceiling.
- In the attic the roof decking was moist. These measurements were on a cold day. The 59 degree dark blue area is the cold (wet) spot and the 75 degree temperature is the warm sun radiating through the roof decking.
Floor areas that are wet beneath the surface. Blue is moisture and orange are the warmer dry areas.
The Delmhorst moisture meter is used to confirm if there is moisture in the suspect surface. The needle is in the red indicating excessive moisture in this location.
Electrical items overheating
Overheating outlets, light switches & dimmer switches. Hot wires or components behind the wall plate.
Electrical panel hot circuit breakers. Hot spots in the electrical panel a high of 139 degrees.
Heating & Air systems
Air loss at the air duct connections to the air supply plenum, ducts or the supply air boot connections. Running the air conditioning shows cold air leaks at the duct connections to the air supply plenum.
Ceilings for shortage of insulation. Below the ceiling has been patched and the insulation was not replaced.
Interior walls for shortage of insulation. Below missing insulation batting from the attic walls.
Exterior doors and window seals.
Attic Hatch. Energy loss at the thin door and weather seal.
I MORE OFTEN THAN NOT DISCOVER ITEMS THAT THE CAMERA MAY OR MAY NOT CATCH. THE IR CAMERA IS USED SOMETIMES TO HELP CAPTURE AN IMAGE (one found) & BACK UP MY CLAIM.
I often visually see evidence of past or present moisture
I always use a Delmhorst moisture meter to back up any moisture suspect area I may locate with the IR camera.
Electrical switches and overheating electrical panels I physically touch these items firsthand.
I can see ceiling insulation shortages when entering the attic.