One of my favorite tools as a home inspector is my infrared camera. At first glance, this high-tech piece of gadgetry simply turns a blank room into a colorful, almost psychedelic collection of blobs and whorls. But those shapes, whether they’re bright yellow or dark blue, can tell incredibly valuable—and otherwise invisible—stories about what’s going on in your home.
Best of all, thermal imaging is a noninvasive technique that allows me to see what’s happening behind walls and inside closed spaces without damaging or even touching the structure. In some cases, that means finding big problems that have been hiding; but in other cases, my infrared camera can demonstrate that a suspected problem is actually no big deal.
Basically, the infrared camera shows me temperature fluctuations throughout a structure. I can then apply my expertise to these images to make an educated hypothesis of what’s happening to cause those temperature variations. Sometimes, this just confirms that everything is as it should be. Appliances and circuit breakers will be somewhat warmer than what’s around them. If a home’s bathroom has a heated floor, I can confirm that it’s working evenly.
Sometimes the camera can detect a leak—whether water or air—well before we see any physical evidence of it in the walls or ceiling. Unusual cool spots prompt further investigation, and warm spots may show heated water going where it shouldn’t. Likewise, an infrared image can reveal insufficient insulation in a snap, like when air-conditioned air is leaking through an attic or window.
Water stains are always a scary discovery inside Florida homes, and they can rightfully cause concern among potential buyers. But with an infrared scan, I can detect whether a stain is fresh or old. An active leak will be revealed via temperature changes around the stain. But if the leak has been properly fixed and the area is dry, a ceiling stain will disappear in an infrared image because the material will all be one temperature.
There are all sorts of other things I might discover doing a thermal imaging investigation of a home, whether it’s covered-up windows or overheating circuitry. Some of the things I find might otherwise never show up until they became major problems—and other things already are major problems that need immediate attention. Fortunately, I’m able to uncover these issues in a flash and report back to my clients what my infrared camera has captured.