03 Jun How Infrared Cameras Are Changing Attic Inspections
Infrared cameras detect heat and convert it into an electronic signal. Once the electronic signal is processed, it produces a thermal image on the camera’s monitor. By looking at the monitor, one is able to see the precise measurement of the heat wherever the camera is pointed.
While the function of an infrared camera seems simple enough, it has become a huge game changer for home inspectors.
The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors considers infrared cameras to be indispensable. This is due to their ability to quickly and accurately identify defects that may not be apparent to the naked eye. Infrared cameras can help a home inspector locate air leaks, defects in the insulation, and pests.
Infrared cameras improve attic inspections
Most home inspectors consider infrared cameras to be the most accurate tool during their inspections. By just holding the camera up, an inspector is able to clearly tell apart hotter areas from cooler areas in the home. The photos ranging in colors — from purple to blue and orange to red — can tell an inspector a great deal about the home envelope.
Infrared cameras help home inspectors see the bigger picture. A thermal imaging camera allows for easy scanning of the entire building, including not only the home envelope, but sealing, insulation, and ventilation systems as well. Using an infrared camera to assess your home makes it easier to identify problem areas and to make recommendations regarding energy savings solutions specific within a given home.
The area of the home in which infrared cameras make the most impact is the attic. Attics are highly susceptible to air leaks, poor ventilation, and defective insulation. Infrared cameras can detect these issues to determine if a home’s sealing, insulation, and ventilation are adequate. If they are not, the camera’s thermal image reveals areas to address and ensures a more thorough diagnosis and plan of action.
How do infrared cameras work?
As previously mentioned, infrared cameras detect heat and produce thermal images on their monitors. Typically, warmer colors like reds, yellows, and oranges depict warmer temperatures. On the other end, cooler colors like blues and purples depict cooler temperatures.
For example, a properly insulated attic would appear blue and purple on an infrared camera’s monitor. If there is a spot of red, yellow, or orange along one of the attic walls – there is heat, and therefore a concern to look into further.
The problems that an infrared camera can detect are usually invisible to the naked eye. This is one of the main reasons why more home inspectors are turning to use these thermal imaging devices. Infrared cameras detect areas that can benefit from improved air sealing, insulation, and ventilation leading to solutions to improve comfort and save energy.
Different types of infrared cameras
The Department of Energy explains that healthy home professionals have a variety of infrared camera devices to choose from during your home’s inspection.
A spot radiometer. Spot radiometers are also called a point radiometer, and they measure radiation one spot at a time. The spot radiometer shows a simple reading of a temperature at a given spot. Home inspectors use spot radiometers to sweep an area and take note of temperature changes.
A thermal line scanner. Thermal line scanners show temperature variations along a line. Home inspectors simply pan the line scanner in a specific area. As a result, temperature changes are able to be viewed over a picture of the scanned area.
A thermal imaging camera. The Department of Energy acknowledges that a thermal imaging camera is the most accurate thermographic inspection device. A thermal imaging camera displays a two-dimensional thermal image of an area. Color variations in the thermal image show heat leakage.
Both Spot radiometers and thermal line scanners, according to the Department of Energy, do not provide the necessary detail for an adequate home energy assessment. Even infrared film in conventional cameras is not sensitive enough to detect heat loss.
Preparing for a thermographic attic inspection
Thermographic inspections are typically performed when there is a large difference (the Department of Energy suggests a difference of about 20°F) between indoor and outdoor temperatures. For example, the best time for thermographic inspections in the northern states is in the winter, while the best time for southern states is during the summer.
To further ensure the thermal imaging inspection is accurate, it is important to close all windows and doors, and if necessary, move furniture away from walls and open or remove window dressings. These simple steps increase the likelihood of an accurate reading, especially since windows and baseboards are typical areas for air leakage.
What exactly can infrared cameras detect?
With the help of the thermal images, professionals and homeowners can learn about heat loss, energy conservation, and best practices to keep homes comfortable. As previously mentioned, thermal images are helpful in identifying air leaks, HVAC duct leaks, insulation defects, and pests.
Infrared cameras and air leaks
To locate air leaks, consider thermal imaging your best friend. If there is a spot of warm red or orange in an otherwise cool-toned room on your infrared camera’s monitor, you can safely assume that you have located an air leak. The same applies if you locate a blue or purple spot in a warmer-toned room.
Infrared cameras and defective insulation
Similar to looking for air leaks with thermal imaging, searching for defective insulation also involves looking for hot or cold spots on the camera’s monitor. When you come across a hot or cold spot, it is advisable to check the area for inadequate or missing insulation. There are a number of different reasons for problem spots with insulation. Sometimes insulation is moved for a project and is not put back afterward; sometimes insulation is not the correct R-value for its specific application; or insulation has compressed or degraded due to moisture.
Infrared cameras and poor ventilation
Heat and moisture build up can be shown on an infrared camera. Identifying ventilation issues is key to save energy, control indoor temperatures, and prevent issues like roof degradation and moisture buildup that results in mold.
How do I make sure I get a comprehensive attic inspection?
Attic Inspector is powered by yellowblue™. Each one of our inspectors is a yellowblue™ independently authorized dealer backed by yellowblue™ Eco Tech and upholds “The Yellowblue Standard.” Our healthy home professionals have gone through standardized training and are equipped with the best tools – like thermal imaging cameras – to make sure results are consistent and reliable for each and every homeowner.
Yellowblue™ attic inspectors offer top-of-the-industry service and advice no matter where you are in the country. Click here to schedule a free attic inspection with an authorized attic professional, so you can begin saving money and living more comfortably.