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Thermal Imaging and your Home Inspection

Why is Thermal Imaging important?

So, you're buying a home and have enlisted the help of a trusted Home Inspector. They tell you that a free thermal imaging scan is included with your home inspection. That sounds like great value doesn't it? But what exactly is a thermal imaging scan?

There is a lot of information to digest when it comes to home inspections, not just thermal imaging. I thought I should compile a simple overview of what it's all about.

So here are the basics:

The use of Thermal Imaging (Thermography), in building sciences and home inspections, increases the inspector’s ability to perform a home inspection. Some of the issues a thermal imaging camera can help detect are, moisture presence in building materials, overheating electrical circuits, locating damaged in-floor heating, locating missing or loose insulation and identifying air leaks around windows, doors or attic hatches.

Now let's get to the interesting stuff!

How does it work?

Thermography is the science of “seeing” temperatures by use of an infrared camera.​ A thermal imaging camera measures infrared radiation, which is simply invisible light. Infrared exists in a different frequency range of the electromagnetic spectrum, than visible light does.

Heat energy emitted as infrared light from an object's surface is detected by the thermal imaging camera. The data is then reconstructed into an image that can be viewed by the human eye. Thermal imaging cameras measure the apparent surface temperature of objects.

The image is displayed on the camera's viewing screen and interpreted by the Home Inspector. The image can be captured in digital format to be stored and used later in an inspection report, or for further analysis using specialized software.

Fun Facts:

-Infrared radiation is emitted by all objects.

-The amount of radiation increases with temperature.

-You don't need any visible light to use an infrared camera. You can be in a pitch black room and still detect infrared radiation.

So, Thermal Imaging is basically X-Ray technology, right?

Not at all.

Thermal imaging is not X-Ray technology and cannot allow us to see through walls or any other building materials.

Thermal imaging cameras measure the apparent surface temperature of objects only. They cannot confirm the presence of moisture or any other issue we might be looking for.

A great Home Inspector will follow up on suspected problem areas identified by the infrared camera. In the case of suspected water penetration for example, the Inspector might use a moisture meter to confirm the presence of moisture.​

The effectiveness of thermal imaging depends on a number of conditions, including the temperature of the building materials, and the air. For this reason, thermal imaging may not always be used.

This is a simplified explanation of thermal imaging as it relates to Home Inspections, and should help provide an overview for those that are new to the technology.

A thermal imaging camera is a very important tool in the Home Inspectors bag and in the right hands can help find issues that might otherwise go undetected.

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Best regards,

Phil Goldsmith - Owner - Home Inspector

Cardinal & Keys Home Inspections

Ontario Association of Home Inspectors

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