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We offer infrared inspections as part of our standard home inspection, as well as for single-item troubleshooting inspections. All of our home inspectors come equipped with an infrared camera which can be used to help discover problems that wouldn’t normally be identified with the naked eye. Infrared cameras show surface temperature differences, which can give clues to a host of different problems with houses. Included below are items that we’ve used infrared cameras for.

Verifying heat or lack thereof

The quickest way to verify airflow at heat registers throughout a home is to turn on the heat or AC and then run around the house with an IR camera about 10 minutes later. The image below shows a non-functional kitchen toe-kick heat register at a new construction inspection.

Infrared no heat at register

It’s a snap to inspect radiators with infrared cameras. When a radiator doesn’t heat up properly, part of the radiator stays cool.

Infrared radiator heating improperly

Infrared radiator heating improperly 2

Ceiling stains

Infrared cameras can be used to quickly determine whether ceiling stains are active or not. This isn’t a definitive test for moisture, but when a ceiling is all the same temperature, it’s highly unlikely that the ceiling is wet. In the image below, the stained portion of the ceiling was dry at the time of the inspection.

Infrared ceiling stain

Collapsed glass

Collapsed glass is actually a new one for us. It’s a condition caused by the gas between two panes of glass escaping, which pulls the two panes of glass toward each other. In extreme cases, the glass panes can actually touch each other. This is not the same thing as a failed seal. When viewed with an infrared camera, collapsed glass appears as dark blue circles or ovals in the center of the glass. We’ll have a blog post about this in the near future.

Infrared collapsed glass 3

Heated floors

There is no other great way to inspect heated floors.

Infrared image of heated floor 1

Infrared image of heated floor 2

Infrared image of heated floor 3

Infrared image of heated floor 4

Tiled shower leaks

We use a shower dam to test tiled showers for leaks, and we use an infrared camera below to identify the leaks before water leaks out of the ceiling… most of the time. That doesn’t always happen, as some leaks are so severe that water starts pouring out before anything becomes visible with our camera, but we catch most of them first.

Infrared tiled shower leak

Infrared Leaking Shower

Insulation problems

Insulation problems are probably the most obvious use for an infrared camera. When insulation is missing or not installed properly, it’s quite obvious. This first image shows missing or improperly installed insulation at an attic access panel.

Infrared missing insulation at attic access panel

If a wall is not insulated, the studs will be the warmest part of the wall. The image below shows a nice comparison between an insulated and uninsulated wall.

Infrared insulated vs uninsulated walls

Insulation that is missing or improperly installed is also quite easy to spot.

Infrared insulation problem

Hot spots in attics

During the winter, infrared cameras make it extremely easy to spot places where excessive heat is transferred to attic spaces. In cold climates like ours, this can lead to ice dams, which is a big deal here. One of the worst offenders is recessed lights; especially those that aren’t supposed to be in contact with insulation.

Infrared recessed light hot

Missing exhaust ducts on bath fans are quite obvious with an infrared camera; they appear to be a big heat explosion.

Infrared missing bath fan duct2

Infrared missing bath fan duct

Mouse holes in insulation are also quite obvious. They turn the insulation into swiss cheese.

Infrared mouse holes in insulation

Attic bypasses are especially easy to find with an infrared camera. This is the first really useful “find” that we discovered with an infrared camera, and it changed the way that we talked about ice dams and attic problems. This first image below shows an attic air leak, or bypass, covered with insulation. It’s pretty obvious that something is happening under the insulation, right?

Infrared attic bypass covered

After pulling the insulation away, we found that the top plate of a wall wasn’t air sealed. This is just one of about a dozen common places for air to leak into the attic.

Infrared attic bypass exposed

Electrical Problems

We don’t find a ton of electrical issues with infrared cameras, but we do find them. The image below shows a very hot main breaker; over 350 degrees! This was unquestionably a problem.

Hot-main-breaker

When breakers are simply warm, sometimes it’s no big deal, sometimes it is. To know the difference, one must also use an amp meter to determine whether or not the circuit is overloaded. I blogged about that topic here: http://structuretech1.com/using-an-infrared-camera-to-find-an-overloaded-circuit/

Hot-Circuit-Breaker

Random

One of my favorite infrared images ever is this hot toilet. I stumbled across this by accident while scanning the room for a heat source. I may have given the toilet an extra flush or two just to make sure the heat showed up nicely on my camera. Maybe.

Hot Flush

Finally, here’s a basement window that covered over when the basement was finished.

Infrared covered basement window