Infrared Thermal Imaging

What is Thermal Imaging?

Infrared (thermal imaging) is an advanced, non-invasive technology that allows the inspector to show clients things about their homes or buildings that can’t be revealed using conventional inspection methods. 


An infrared inspection can identify and document moisture intrusion, energy loss, and even unexpected hot spots.


In terms of energy loss, an IR camera can detect:

  • heat loss and air infiltration in walls, ceilings, floors, windows and  doors;
  • damaged and/or malfunctioning radiant heating systems;
  • air-conditioner compressor leaks;
  • under-fastening and/or missing framing members, and other structural defects that can lead to energy loss; and
  • broken seals in double-paned windows.

In terms of detecting moisture intrusion, an IR camera can locate:

  • plumbing leaks;
  • hidden roof leaks before they cause serious damage;
  • missing, damaged and/or wet insulation; and
  • water and moisture intrusion around penetrations and at the foundation and building envelope that could lead to structural damage and mold.

IR cameras are equally effective at locating hot spots in the home, including:

  • circuit breakers in need of immediate replacement;
  • overloaded and undersized circuits;
  • overheated electrical equipment and components;  and
  • electrical faults before they cause a fire.

Additionally, based on the color gradients that thermal images provide, an inspector can locate:

  • possible pest infestation, as revealed by energy loss through shelter tubes left by boring wood-destroying insects;
  • the presence of intruders, such as rats, mice and other larger pests hiding within the structure and detected because of their heat signature that the IR camera captures; and
  • dangerous flue leaks, which can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning of the home’s residents.

Standard Images with Infrared Images

The Inspector provides standard digital images side by side with your IR images.  This gives clients an accurate point of reference for the IR data, which is essential for mapping out improvements and repairs.


Thermal Imaging Limitations

  • Thermal imaging only displays surface temperatures of solid objects.
  • IR detects the temperature based upon wavelength of the light emitted by the object (longer wavelength, colder).  IR, therefore, does not show the temperature of objects that reflect light, (glass, shiny metal, light colored objects in direct sunlight).
  • IR, does not “see through walls”, but only displays the very slight differences in surface temperature of the wall.  Images of areas “behind” and not in contact with walls depends upon the temperature difference of the area.  It is easier to see “hot” objects because they will be radiating heat to the not-in-contact surface.  See pictures below for how IR is still incredibly useful.
  • Careful adjustment of the range of temperatures displayed is important to proper imaging and interpretation. 

Interpreting the Data

This is perhaps the most critical aspect of providing a solid IR report, and goes hand in hand with the limitations of thermal imaging, as well as the depth of  training and experience.  Depending on the established baseline IR readings and the locations of the images, the results can either alert the client to a critical repair needed – such as an electrical hot spot – or simply be an item that they need to keep in check – such as adding insulation at an exterior wall.