Infrared Thermal Vision

A home inspector must be a jack of all trades. An electrician only needs to know about electricity, a plumber only needs to know about plumbing, and a roofer only needs to know about roofing. A home inspector needs to know about all of these things and more. Because of this, our knowledge of an individual trade will never be as great as that of the professional tradesman. But there is far more to a home inspection than just the areas listed above. And finding insulation and moisture issues is probably near the top of the list. To do this requires good training and the right tools.

Superman has x-ray vision. I’m not real clear on how he developed this talent because x-ray vision would require taking high speed electrons and shooting them at a metal surface producing x-rays. The shorter wavelength allows these to pass through some objects but not others. For example, the x-rays don’t pass through bone as much as flesh so the outline of the bone is visible. This means that Superman can see through objects. A home inspector can’t see through anything but if he is well equipped he can see in another spectrum, just like Superman. Good home inspectors use infrared (IR) cameras. Thermal IR is the heat that every object, all the way down to absolute zero, gives off; even ice cubes give off thermal IR.

How does that help a home inspector? Because the infrared camera assigns different temperatures different colors. This means that if part of an exterior wall is missing insulation and the interior wall in that area has increased in temperature by a fraction of a degree because of this, the sharp outline of this temperature difference (a thermal anomaly) will be very clear. The camera can then take a combination digital and IR photo to clearly show the problem area. That’s what heat anomalies can indicate but what about cold anomalies? When the thermal IR camera shows an area that is cooler than it should be under a window or on the ceiling it typically indicates a water leak or condensation problem that needs to be addressed. In both of these situations a contractor or inspector without this technology would never have seen these problems that could cause serious and costly damage. Most inspectors also won’t see this until it’s too late, and neither will you.

If you are hiring a home inspector (or an electrician, or a plumber, or a roofer) do some research. Find out what tools they use. Advances in technology aren’t limited to your cell phone and although you may pay a little more, the cost of a well done job will fade much quicker than the aggravation of a poorly done one.

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