Thermal Imaging in Home Inspections

Purchasing a home is one of the most significant investments most people will make in their lifetime. Getting a thorough home inspection allows buyers to get a clearer picture of the condition of the property they plan to buy. Using a thermal imaging home inspection can help reveal several potential issues. While thermal imaging is not required nor always necessary, it’s still a good idea to use it in certain circumstances. The thermal imaging process involves using a piece of equipment called a forward-looking infrared camera, or FLIR. This tool allows home inspectors to detect issues that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Whether you are a professional home inspector or a potential homebuyer, read on to learn more about the importance of a thermal home inspection and what it could mean for you.

What is Thermal Imaging in a Home Inspection?

A thermal inspection or infrared inspection involves using a special infrared camera. This camera captures images and/or videos that can detect a wide range of potential issues with a home. While many inspections are completed using an inspector’s skill, experience, and eye alone, thermal imaging allows the inspector to look deeper at possible problems. There are no specific rules or guidelines in place regarding thermal inspections. However, some potential homebuyers may request it, or a home inspector may recommend it if they’re concerned about the condition of a home. The process is non-invasive and allows inspectors to locate and identify issues with a home that they would not usually recognize through traditional means. Inspectors can offer this service at no charge, or they may charge an additional fee, depending on their business model. If a home inspector uses thermal imaging, they must include specific information about what was found in their report.

What Can an Infrared Home Inspection Tell You?

An infrared home inspection can provide insight into a wide range of issues. The FLIR camera produces various colors that indicate something is unusual in terms of heat loss, water and moisture, or even the presence of pests. Common colors include white, red, yellow, and other light colors for warm areas and black, purple, or blue for cool areas. Here is some more information about what a thermal home inspection can tell your clients about a particular property:

  • Wood-destroying insects: Pests such as termites can wreak havoc on the structure of a home. The FLIR camera can pick up heat that emits from an active nest. If a home inspector suspects that termites might be present through thermal imaging results, it’s recommended that you hire a pest control company to perform further investigation.
  • Leaking roofs: Water holds onto thermal energy longer than other things, making it reasonably easy to identify using a thermal imaging tool. During the summer, the presence of water may appear as warm spots since the water stays warmer for longer periods of time during months with high temperatures. The water will appear as a cold spot in the wintertime since it contrasts against the warmth of a heated roof. These differentiations in color indicate that there may be a leaking roof or small leaks in the attic area of the home.
  • Possible mold: A thermal imaging camera cannot spot mold alone, but it can indicate the presence of moisture in walls, baseboards, or between floors. If the possibility of moisture is present, there is likely condensation in these areas which means that mold or mildew is likely there, too.
  • Structural issues: Infrared images can identify a variety of structural problems. Through thermal imaging, the inspector may identify issues like damaged or missing insulation, damaged framing, cracks in the foundation, and other issues that can’t be seen with the naked eye.
  • Electrical concerns: The color yellow may indicate that there is electrical damage present. One example includes problems with an overloaded circuit breaker. The imaging makes it easy for inspectors to locate electrical problems and add more detail to their inspection reports.
  • Stucco and insulation issues: It’s almost impossible to find problems with stucco or insulation behind exterior siding without a thermal imaging camera. The infrared images can detect rot behind stucco or insulation that would typically never be noticed otherwise.
  • HVAC and ductwork: Dark colors on an infrared camera indicate cool areas of a home, which could indicate heat loss or air leaks. This is important when inspecting HVAC systems since it can identify possible problems with vents or areas in ductwork where heat is escaping. The thermal imaging camera can also find leaks in air conditioner compressors.

Can you Choose to Have A Thermal Inspection?

Yes, homebuyers may choose to have a thermal inspection if the home inspector offers it as part of their services. It’s up to the inspector whether or not they want to invest in the equipment and include it as part of their inspection process. In some cases, the customer may need to contact another inspector specializing in thermal image inspections to perform the work separately. There will be an additional fee for these inspections, but getting one can be worth it to provide peace of mind. It’s important to note that thermal imaging does not give an x-ray image, and the camera cannot see through walls. There are also no guarantees that using infrared imaging will find every single issue with a home. However, it’s still an excellent way to learn more about a piece of property so you can determine if it’s the right home for you.

Bottom Line

A thermal imaging home inspection is an excellent way to gain more insight into the condition of a home. While it’s not required, these highly specialized inspections can provide potential buyers with the information they need to make a wise decision. If you’re a home inspector, you need reliable software to help your business grow. Visit our features page to find out how our software can make running your business easier.