General home maintenance has been the norm since time immemorial. Home inspectors roam around your house to do a visual inspection on possible areas of concern. However, home inspections can only detect some defective areas of your home through ancillary services such as infrared testing.
Infrared testing, also known as infrared thermography (IR), is a home inspection method. It uses thermal imaging equipment to detect infrared energy in a specific part of the house. Every object emits infrared energy, but its infrared levels vary. This distinction of infrared levels is the foundation of infrared thermography.
Infrared imaging needs an infrared camera in detecting infrared emissions because infrared light has a longer wavelength, thus, invisible to the naked eye.
The said device will then display differences in temperature through a visual color gradient. These visuals will help the inspector pinpoint potential problems.
Applications of infrared testing
Thermal imaging has been around for a while in different industries. It is used in the field of medicine, construction, astronomy, and security and surveillance services. Although various tools are used per scenario, the same principle of infrared thermography is used.
In home inspections utilizing infrared testing, inspectors could already cover a large area of your home very quickly. Also, it will not require much contact, making the inspection non-invasive. Therefore, a more comfortable method, especially for conscious homeowners.
Infrared thermography also helps in detecting issues while they are still new, which leads to prevention measures. Because infrared cameras have visuals that display thermal variations, inspectors can see what is unusual around the house, real-time.
Problems infrared testing help identify
Inspectors are trained to translate the images they see to potential problems. Here are what infrared imagine usually identifies:
Moist areas have lower temperatures compared to dry areas. Because infrared testing shows temperature variations, home inspectors can easily identify spots that have already built up moisture.
Also, roofs are designed to absorb heat during the day. Then when the temperature goes down, it will start to release heat. When moisture intrudes the roof, heat is released slower, making the area of concern very distinct.
However, some factors may affect the results of infrared testing. These factors include:
- Wind speed
- Solar loading
- Interior and exterior temperature differences
- Weather conditions and weather changes before the inspection.
Thus, it is suggested that inspectors do infrared testing when the following conditions are available:
- Clean, sunny day
- Adequate solar loading
- Wind speed running at <15 mph
- Plunging ambient temperature (e.g., dusk)
In addition to the said factors, the inspector should also know the roof’s construction type and its material.
Electrical faults and other electrical issues are usually characterized by intense heat surges of the affected electrical components. When electrical appliances are run, heat is almost always an output. So when there is excessive heat, it may mean that the appliance is working harder than it usually does.
In addition, the flow of current also affects the temperature of some electrical components. For example, when resistors block off a high current, the device may also emit high heat.
Because infrared testing detects high or low temperatures, it can also note heat issues on electrical components early on. In fact, infrared thermography can expose the following (but not limited to) issues such as:
- Loose connections
- Defective insulation
- Faulty terminal wires
- Breaker problems
- Open circuits
- Inductive heating
- Damaged jumper wires
- Defective electrical equipment
Because of the gradient display in an infrared camera, it would be easy for the inspector to determine literal hot spots. This method identifies such problems faster than manual home inspections. In addition, infrared testing would not require you to turn off your power during the course of the home inspection.
Believe it or not, thermal imaging is also helpful with structural inspections. Examples of problems that infrared testing identifies in terms of structural defects include possible water damage and pest infestations.
Living organisms emit more heat than non-living, stationary objects. So, infrared imaging can help identify if there are pests in some areas of your house.
For example, wood-destroying organisms, such as termites, chew on your home’s wood parts. It will take them years of slowly taking over the woody areas. Unfortunately, most homeowners do not see it coming until it is already very apparent when the floor, walls, and frames are highly damaged.
Like the principle of detecting moisture in roofing, thermal imaging may also help spot water damage. Water intrusion may cause structural damage, such as weakening of house components or mold. These issues may determine possible drainage or plumbing issues.
Plumbing leaks could seep into the soil, which will create excessive pressure on your home’s foundation. On the other hand, issues on drainage could cause water to gather around the foundation, enclosing it like an envelope.
Basically, infrared testing could easily detect these problems faster, allowing for immediate repairs. It also does not require you to crawl to hard-to-reach spaces or tear up walls just to check the house’s structural condition.
Infrared testing and preventive home maintenance
Many homeowners undermine the importance of home inspections. Usually, factors such as additional costs, time, and availability influence their decision to do home maintenance.
But based on experience, we often see clients who are just doing a home inspection when there are already numerous problems. There is a reason why they are called preventive measures. It is for you to detect problems while they are still not serious. How about a few bucks once a year that could save you thousands in the future?
Infrared testing can be one of your home inspection methods should you want a non-invasive approach in inspections. It is recommended that you do this once a year to check on your house’s structural and mechanical systems, such as electrical, insulation, and HVAC.
Although infrared cameras can be sold and used by anyone, they will require skilled infrared thermography inspectors to interpret the visual displays on the infrared camera. They can also prepare a comprehensive report based on their findings to give to clients.