Home owners & buyers are hearing more and more about thermal imaging or infrared scans, in particular when doing a home inspection. The use of these non-invasive thermographic cameras detects radiation which is emitted by all objects day or night, with or without visible illumination, and allows surface temperature variations to be captured on camera. It may reveal issues not visible to the naked eye as a result. For example, it can show warm bodies against cooler backgrounds, missing insulation or energy loss, electrical overheating, or spots where water is present and not expected. So here are some pros and cons of carrying out thermal imaging / infrared scans on a building:
- Non-invasive test method
- Can find heated deteriorating components prior to failure e.g. electrical, heating
- Good in inaccessible / hazardous areas compared with other methods
- Can detect in dark areas
- Can be costly
- Can yield false negative and false positives
- Inaccurate temperature measurements
- Temperatures measurements hindered by the surfaces being examined e.g. surfaces with condensation, dirt, mould
- Only detects surface temperatures
- Images can be difficult to interpret accurately
- It is not an x-ray and cannot see through walls
- It is site condition restrictive (weather / temperature conditions) e.g. difference in indoor / outdoor temperature, wind, no direct sunlight, no recent rain
- Only detects moisture / wetness if object is in fact wet at the time of the scan
Should You Use Thermal Imaging / Infrared Scans During A Home Inspection?
It depends. Some inspection companies may lead you to believe that infrared scanning is included as part of the inspection…and it maybe, but likely not as a complete scan of the entire home, inside and out, and on each wall, ceiling and floor from both sides. To do this would likely take as long as the home inspection itself and likely double the cost of the home inspection. Inspectors may use it to spot check something, but then again its only doing just that. It also doesn’t work at all times of the year nor does it find leaks or moisture unless the surface is wet at that time.
As a result, we recommend that you carry out our standard home inspection and wait for the inspector to recommend that thermal imaging be carried out and to explain to you the pros and cons of going down that path. Do not be misled that thermal imaging is the be-all and end-all in every application, it simply isn’t. It has its place, and can be a valuable tool when and if used correctly.