The advent of affordable thermal infrared cameras has had the single greatest impact on the home inspection industry since the invention of the flashlight. No other technology has expanded the depth of the inspection and allowed the inspector to review a greater number of issues than infrared cameras.
A home inspection that incorporates the use of infrared thermal imaging offers value far beyond an inspection that does not use thermal imaging. With thermal imaging a much more meaningful inspection can be performed.
What’s the big deal? What is so great about infrared thermal imaging? It’s really quite simple; infrared thermal imaging allows the inspector to see things that cannot be seen by the naked eye.
By law, a home inspection is a visual, non-invasive, non-intrusive inspection. In Nevada a home inspector is not allowed to open walls, poke and probe or even damage any surface in the course of his (or her) inspection. The scope of the inspection is limited to what the inspector can visually review. Infrared allows the inspector to review systems and components in a different spectrum of light. These devices physically expand the scope of a visual inspection service and allow the inspector to see issues that are not visible to the naked eye. It is a remarkable technology!
With a thermal infrared camera an inspector can see water leaks under cabinets and around showers, tubs, and toilets. The inspector inside the wall behind the clothes washer and at the refrigerator water connection. An infrared camera can find areas of missing ceiling and wall insulation. They can demonstrate proper Low-E window orientation. An infrared camera allows the inspector to spot overheating breakers, receptacles, and switches. The inspector can easily see HVAC system ducting leaks in the attic. Sometimes infrared cameras can spot broken water pipes in slabs. My company is one of the few companies that reviews irrigation systems. Do you have any idea how much easier it is to verify whether a drip head emitter is producing water when using an infrared thermal imaging camera?
Heretofore thermal imaging equipment was very costly and out of the financial reach for many professionals in the Inspector of Structures (home inspection) industry. The technology used to be so expensive that most inspectors who took the financial leap of owning the technology would charge an additional fee just for breaking out their thermal infrared equipment. There are still some inspectors charge an additional fee to provide a thermal review within the scope of their inspections
But recently the cost of owning an infrared thermal imaging camera came down. Way down. Now an inspector can
own the technology for less than $300, download an app on their cell phone or tablet, and turn their cell phone or tablet into an infrared thermal imaging camera!
It’s important that you understand how the technology is used within the scope of a home inspection. Many people have the misconception that the inspector is performing a variation of an efficiency review within the home inspection. The inspector is not reviewing the efficiency of the doors, windows, nor verifying the energy leak points in the home. For a home inspector the thermal imager is but a tool that allows the inspector to perform a more in-depth inspection.
I recently performed a home inspection and the last procedure in my inspection was to perform a thermal review. During this procedure I gave the kitchen ceiling a sweep with my thermal imager and a large dark blue spot about the size of a basketball appeared in the middle of the ceiling. I lowered the thermal imager and absolutely nothing was visible. I then set up a ladder and put my moisture meter on the ceiling in the suspect area and the meter pegged to 100%. Further investigation revealed that the shower valves in the master bathroom above were leaking within the wall. Without the thermal imaging equipment this issue would have gone undetected until significant damage occurred. And- my client, the home buyer who hired me, would have inherited the problem. The Selling Agent was able to have the seller correct the issue before title transfer occurred sparing the home buyer a significant amount of expense.
Because thermal infrared equipment is now so incredibly affordable no home inspector should be without it. I know of a couple of home inspectors here in Las Vegas who charge an additional fee for using their thermal equipment in the scope of their inspections. I think this is ludacris. Thermal imaging equipment is a tool that allow the inspector to perform a better inspection. There should never be a charge to the consumer for the inspector to be using equipment needed to perform the best possible inspection he (or she) is capable of performing.