Thermal Imaging or IR or Infrared are different titles for the same process. The Infrared spectrum of light is just outside of human range and paradoxically provides more "sight" than any human could hope for. Utilizing the density and reflectiveness of materials, IR combines temperature differences with standards for heat transfer to calculate and the visually represent the thermal heat images of most materials.
Wow that sounds neat! But what does that mean for the realtor and consumer? If knowledge is power than thermal imaging is currently the most important tool in the industry. I talk a lot about disclosure and the fact that knowledge of a property far exceeds the condition of the property. You can fix a roof, or a leak, but repairing a relationship is much more difficult and many times more costly.
Thermal imaging saves everyone time and money. One scan of a house gives the realtor the knowledge of what needs to be disclosed. In the lucky event that no defects are found, the confidence in that property is much higher than the one that has been looked at by a dozen inspectors without the benefit of an IR camera. In the event that you find multiple defects, you now have the power of disclosure. Force the homeowner to make the repairs or quit wasting you and your client's time. There is plenty of supply out there. Worried about how that foreclosure has decayed while sitting for more than 12 months? If you combine an InterNACHI inspection agreement with the accuracy and insight that IR provides, then you have almost eliminated your liability all together.
Ultimately the person that benefits the most is the client. Never before have inspectors been able to examine and identify potential problems with this kind of accuracy. The piece of mind and surety that comes with an infrared inspection is second to none. It's not "X-ray" vision but it certainly allows me to "see" through walls. Identifying water intrusion and leaks, finding electrical hot spots, scanning condenser units for irregular fluid flow, and discovering energy leaks and deficiencies are just a few of the advantages. A great video on the advantages to the consumer can be found here.
If you are looking for the most comprehensive inspection possible, then make sure that your inspector is certified and carries an infrared camera.
Can you see what I see?