What does my IR Camera see?
First, here is an electrically heated ceiling. This was taken just seconds after turning it on. The camera shows the white ceiling as a blue color and the hotter wires as yellow proving that the heating wires are working perfectly.
Below is a picture of a dining room ceiling – click on it for a larger view and you will see a small dot at the upper right that is the spot at which the IR camera is pointed. You can see in the IR camera’s display there is a large white border and red rectangle. That is a hot spot in the ceiling where insulation is either missing or is disturbed. The seller of the home said he had an electrician wire a light near that spot.
InterNACHI (National Association of Certified Home Inspectors) stresses the importance of infrared cameras used in your home or business property inspection here.
INFRARED CAMERAS SHOW US HIDDEN PROBLEMS
InfraRed cameras are becoming more popular with home inspectors because they add so much more capability to any inspection.
CHECK CEILINGS UNDER 2ND FLOOR BATHROOMS
Look for moisture on the bottom floor ceiling under upper floor bathrooms. Many times there can be a small amount of water on top of the ceiling that has not yet soaked into the material to show on the underside surface. This is a perfect example of the value of the IR camera. Since the water on top is likely to change the temperature of the ceiling where water is puddling, the temperature of the underside of the puddle on the ceiling may be a different temperature than the rest of the ceiling. Note that this may not always be the case. If the water has warmed or cooled to the same temperature as the ceiling then it will not show up as a different temperature. But having the camera there is very important just in case.
CHECK FLOORS FOR SLAB LEAKS
Homes were built in the 70s and 80s with copper water pipe buried in the concrete slabs. I has been very common for those pipes to start leaking. If they leak a lot the water usually comes up and dampens the floor above. But if the leak is small it is possible that the only sign of a leak might be a small difference in temperature above the leak. An IR camera is perfect for showing that small temperature difference in bright colors.
CHECK WALLS FOR DRIPPING WATER
I inspected a home in Murrieta that had water stains on the walls in the garage. There is a service room above with a clothes washer drain in the wall. It appeared that the stains might have been from water running inside the wall from above. A scan of the wall did NOT show a temperature difference because the home had been vacant for some time and any water that might have been in the wall had evaporated. But this is a good example of a situation where the wet wall would have shown up if wet for some time.
CHECK AIR CONDITIONING AIR TEMPERATURE AT ALL OUTLETS
This is a perfect application for an IR camera. I can see the temperature of the cooled air with pinpoint accuracy so I know if one air outlet temperature is significantly different than others possibly indicating a pinched air duct in a wall or ceiling or attic. And, of course, I can tell in an instant if the duct is missing. I inspected a 15 year old condo that had never had the air coming out of one duct in a bathroom.
CHECK INSULATION IN WALLS AND ATTICS
IR cameras tell us incredible details about how effective builder insulation is in our walls and ceilings. I live in a 2 story 2800 SF home in Temecula on Red Hawk. I have been plagued by hot ceilings upstairs in the summer. In fact, the picture below shows the ceiling in one west facing bedroom at 91 degrees at 4 PM in July!
CHECK FOR MOISTURE IN EXTERIOR STUCCO
It is very common for stucco to absorb moisture that cannot be easily seen. That moisture may penetrate the stucco and cause problems inside the wall. An IR camera is ideal for detecting wet stucco.
CHECK AC POWER BREAKERS FOR OVERHEATING
It is almost impossible for an inspector to detect an overheating breaker by feeling the surface of all the breakers in a panel. But an IR scan of the panel and back plates shows instantly if there is an issue or not.
CHECK WATER TEMPERATURE AT THE KITCHEN SINK
IR cameras are perfect for checking the water temperature to be sure it is below scalding temperature (The American Journal of Public Health prefers a maximum temperature of 120°F)
There are many more great applications for an IR camera in a home inspection. Be sure to ask your inspector if he brings one to every inspection. You can be sure that I do.