Infrared Cameras and Other Home Inspection Gadgets

By
Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

Home inspectors are known for using all manner of tools and nifty gadgets.  I myself have a few.  Tools are a great addition to your main arsenal of tools, your five senses.  Most everyone is blessed with these basic senses and they are fantastic for doing most anything we need to accomplish. But sometimes we need to supplement or aid our natural gifts. That's where tools and gadgets come in. They can enhance our ability to perform a job but with one stipulation; they must be understood and used correctly.

As a home inspector I see the results of poor tool use constantly. When I see inferior workmanship I often say, "That guy should have his hammer taken away".

But what about bad tool use by the home inspector?  Misinterpreting information derived from tools such as infrared cameras, CO and moisture meters can be just as problematic as contractor deficiencies. Just as anyone can buy a power drill the same is true of an infrared camera or anemometer.

The newest tool in the home inspector arsenal is no doubt the infrared camera. Infrared cameras are by no means new technology having been around for about 50 years. Up until rather recently they have not been practical for inspection work mostly due to cost and size. The issue with these devices is they require a fair degree of training and experience in order to operate them in a manner that will yield usable information. Further that information needs to be correctly interpreted.

In the example at the right are two infrared images of a common dimmer switch found in many homes. Both these images show the switch to be "hot". But only one of these switches should be shut off immediately and a call made to an electrician.

Which switch is the bad switch?  The top or first image is cause for concern. Looking at the temperature scale along the right side shows that the range peaks at just over a 150 º F. meaning that the white areas in the image are around that temperature. The other switch is about 115 º F very warm which is expected with a dimmer, but not dangerously hot.

What this illustrates is that identical images can both appear to be serious problems, but in fact one or maybe both components are fine. The camera alerts the inspector to a potential problem, but other tools need to be used (including the five senses) to gather more information to make an informed recommendation.

With the two switches it was determined that the bottom switches circuit was well below the rated maximum while the top switch was above its maximum.

Yet there are instances where infrared cameras are used and red flags raised without further quantification. Many images found on the internet proclaim "serious issue" with for instance a wall or wire when in fact to a trained eye no problem would seem to exist. It then becomes apparent that not only must the thermographer understand his instrument, but also the object at which it is pointed. Without knowledge of electrical a switch may be misdiagnosed as in need of repair or a wall said to be missing insulation when in fact the image is showing solid wood framing.

Thus the most vital instrument becomes one not found in a store, but between the inspectors' ears.

James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

To find out more about our high tech services click on the links below:

Learn more about our Infrared Thermal Imaging & Diagnostics services. Learn more about our energy audits, the Home Energy Tune uP®.

Posted by

James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
Former SNEC-ASHI President
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

 ASHI Certified Inspector

To find out more about our other high tech services we offer in Connecticut click on the links below:

Learn more about our Infrared Thermal Imaging & Diagnostics services.

Serving the Connecticut Counties of Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, New Haven, Southern Litchfield and Western New London.

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Rainer
38,417
Raylene Lewis
Century 21 Beal, Inc. - College Station, TX

We just had a meeting with our local home inspector and man a lot of things are changing!

Nov 12, 2008 06:53 AM #1
Rainmaker
683,580
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Raylene,

What would be changing? I would assume that you are referring to infrared cameras. Even if an inspector has an IR camera the inspection should not be radically different.

Nov 12, 2008 07:10 AM #2
Rainmaker
595,211
Lisa Hill
Florida Property Experts - Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Beach Real Estate

That's pretty cool. I often wonder how we ever survived without technology. LOL. But the flip side is, when it breaks, my business is completely disabled!  o.O

Nov 12, 2008 07:40 AM #3
Rainmaker
683,580
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Lisa, I think we maybe rely too much on technology. You're right when it goes down business is crippled.

Nov 12, 2008 08:08 AM #4
Rainmaker
366,332
Ilyce Glink
Think Glink Media - Chicago, IL
Best-selling author, award-winning TV/radio host.

James- Cool stuff! You explained this really well in terms that even I could understand. Great photos, too. Thanks for posting!

Nov 12, 2008 09:02 AM #5
Rainmaker
1,242,875
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Interesting post James. You are right about some people getting invalid readings from tools. That can even happen with a simple moisture meter.

Nov 12, 2008 12:36 PM #6
Rainmaker
683,580
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Ilyce, Glad you found it comprehensible and informative.

Steven, Absolutely some of my point. The other being that information derived from instuments should to be  temper.

Nov 12, 2008 09:46 PM #7
Rainmaker
1,242,875
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Mr James,

Any chance that thing could help me find my fermenting nuts that seem to have been buried but misplaced? Your fan Nutsy.

Nov 13, 2008 08:52 AM #8
Rainmaker
683,580
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Mr. Nutsy, The camera is a tech tool used for locating building deficiencies. I think your nose would be a better tool to locate your stinky nuts. Good luck!

Nov 13, 2008 09:47 PM #9
Rainmaker
67,128
Kevin Corsa
H.I.S. Home Inspections (Summit, Stark Counties) - Canton, OH
H.I.S. Home Inspections, Stark & Summit County, OH Home Inspector

Squirrel nuts....ewwww! I actually found a bunch of them in a wall cavity once when I was remodeling.

Nov 14, 2008 01:47 AM #10
Rainmaker
1,242,875
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Mr James,

A good boy scout learns to share his toys with others.

Your etiquette adviser,

Nutsy

Nov 14, 2008 02:05 AM #11
Rainer
10,933
Bruce Thomas
A-Z Tech Home Inspections, Inc. - Greensburg, PA

Yes it can find roting nuts because they a warmer that their surroundig. LOL

Nov 14, 2008 03:22 AM #12
Rainmaker
683,580
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Mr. Manners..er Nutsy, I much appreciate your concern for my social skills, but I find it hard to take etiquette advice from a creature who can't find his own nuts.

Nov 14, 2008 04:47 AM #13
Rainmaker
179,791
Jack Gilleland
Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton - Clayton, OH

It seems every month there is another more advanced, more technical tool on the market for a more advanced price.  I personally would like to become an expert with each and everyone, but my prices would skyrocket just to pay for the gadgets.  I think your right about technology, the greatest technological tool we have is located between the HI's ears.

Nov 14, 2008 05:23 AM #14
Rainmaker
683,580
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Jack, I think you can have too many tools and come to rely on them to a fault. Our brains are our best tool.

Nov 14, 2008 09:40 AM #15
Anonymous
Marty

I have been looking at several cameras and have pretty narrowed it down to a few.  I am having a hard time making the final decision due to the price.  I obviously want to get the lowest expense camera I can get, but at the same time do not want to go too low and not get one that does not do what I need it to do.  I am doing energy audits.  We currently use a blower door.  Here are some sites of cameras I have looked at.

www.fluke-ti25.com


www.flir-b60.com


www.fluketir1.com

http://www.aikencolon.com/FLIR-Infrared-Imaging-b50-b-50-IR-Thermal-Imager-Camera_p_0-1563.html

 

http://www.aikencolon.com/FLIR-Infrared-Imaging-b40-b-40-IR-Thermal-Imager-Camera_p_0-1562.html

 

The ti25 is the only one I have found that has a higher temp range but lower thermal sensitivity than the B60 and TiR1, but how important is thermal sensitivity in real world applications?

Thanks in advance

Feb 01, 2009 02:37 PM #16
Rainmaker
683,580
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Marty, I have owneda FLIR B-2 for three years. I choose the  because of features and the company has been making IR cameras for about as long as there have been IR cameras (over 50 years). When I bought the camera there were cheaper models, but I was looking at versatility and the potential to "grow" into the device.

I look at a purchase such as this as an investment in my business. If I own the camera I now have another way to make money. Purchase what makes the most business sense while giving you the features you require now and later.

Feb 01, 2009 09:48 PM #17
Rainer
10,933
Bruce Thomas
A-Z Tech Home Inspections, Inc. - Greensburg, PA

Marty,

Thermal sensitivity is extremely important.  Without good sensitivity everything tends to blend together. For example my camera is .08C which is about .14F, so it can define the edges of a leak very well.  It addition it can "see" things the lessor cameras can't.  .05C is much more common today and less expensive than it used to be.  I'd get the most sensitive you can afford.

Bruce

 

Feb 02, 2009 04:27 AM #18
Anonymous
Marty

After some more research today I think I am going to go with one either the FLIR B200 and FLIR B250.  I like the idea of being able to expand optics at a later point if need be.  Although, I cannot figure out the difference between the two.

http://www.aikencolon.com/FLIR-Infrared-Imaging-B200-B-200-IR-Thermal-Imager-Camera_p_1806.html

http://www.aikencolon.com/FLIR-Infrared-Imaging-B250-B-250-IR-Thermal-Imager-Camera_p_1807.html

thanks again

Feb 02, 2009 07:29 AM #19
Rainer
10,933
Bruce Thomas
A-Z Tech Home Inspections, Inc. - Greensburg, PA

Marty,

The 250B is more sensitive.  I would ask the sales person because it is also more expensive.

Bruce

Feb 03, 2009 12:33 AM #20
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James Quarello

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