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Infrared: A New Versatile Diagnostic Tool


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Infrared (IR) inspection is a powerful new non-invasive means for home inspectors to monitor and diagnose the condition of buildings and identify problems behind finished surfaces in areas that previously were impossible to inspect.

Inspectors can immediately document those problems with full color thermal pictures that are downloaded into an easily understood thermal inspection report.

Clients and customers immediately understand the value this adds to the report, so the IR camera is a great new tool that not only saves time and money, but elevates the inspector in the eyes of his customers from simple technician to a true technology professional.

How It Works

Thermography enables us to see and measure heat. All materials on earth emit heat energy in the infrared portion of the spectrum. Unfortunately, the unaided human eye cannot see in the infrared, so a thermal imaging device (camera) is necessary.

Infrared images allow the camera user to see thermally, revealing temperature anomalies that indicate problems in buildings and components of electrical, mechanical, plumbing, and waterproofing systems.

With today’s lightweight and rugged infrared cameras one not only sees in real-time, but can also record infrared images and measure the temperatures of target objects quite accurately — to within +/-25°F or better. Points of possible concern show up clearly as either hot or cold in relation to their surroundings.

Recorded thermal images can be easily inserted into reports, and e-mailed, greatly facilitating communications among trades, attorneys, and other professionals. These images can also serve as invaluable, rational, evidential data in controversial cases.

How It's Being Used


Missing or damaged insulation - An IR camera can quickly and non-destructively detect areas of missing, moisture-laden or otherwise damaged insulation in walls, crawlspaces and attics or around doors, windows, electrical outlets and other access plates. All of these problems can increase a building’s energy costs by facilitating a home's heat loss in the winter, and the reverse in the summer. IR can also identify poorly or uninsulated pipes, another source of costly heat loss.


Faulty electrical mechanical systems- Infrared

cameras are very effective at detecting overloaded circuits, faulty wiring, and loose electrical connections. These generate heat and can pose serious fire hazards. IR can detect thin spots in furnace heat exchangers and flues and mechanical problems such as worn, under-lubricated pumps, motors, and bearings in fans, compressors, and furnaces, as well as electrical faults, refrigerant leaks and blockages in HVAC components.


Leaking roofs - Roof leaks can cause costly damage to a building’s contents and discomfort to its inhabitants. An infrared inspection can quickly identify missing or moisture-soaked insulation under a flat roof membrane roof where the insulation needs replacement, permitting the surgical repair of failed areas rather than the much more costly replacement of the entire roof.


Construction defects - The increased use of EIFS (Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems) and stone, stucco, brick veneers and siding as facades on residential as well as commercial buildings invites the possibility of water intrusion if they are not properly installed. IR can detect or verify moisture infiltration in these weatherproofing ‘barrier’ systems, usually the result of insufficient detailing such as inadequate or improperly applied flashing or sealants.


Post-fire inspections - After fires, IR can quickly locate remnant hot spots, assuring the fire is completely extinguished and provide invaluable data for insurance companies’ Cause and Origin investigations. The clear IR images of normally invisible diagnostic evidence can assist in the planning and execution of the restoration effort and in the settlement process.


Even termites - Although considered cold-blooded creatures, termites are hosts to bacteria, which help break down and digest cellulose, the main ingredient of the wood they digest. The digestion process generates heat, and when large numbers of termites in nests congregate, a substantial amount of heat is concentrated in one area. As this heat moves through the walls or floor of a building, an IR camera can detect it on the surface.

The Need For Training

Regardless of how an IR camera is used, its effectiveness depends on the contractor’s skill in operating the camera, knowledge and understanding of the components being inspected and the science involved in the assessment of the thermal evidence.

A properly trained and experienced thermographer knows that not every hot or cold spot represents a problem. In fact, many may reflect a component’s normal operation, performance or location in a structure.

A thermal image may show heat from sources other than the target that is reflected from or transmitted through the target material. That’s why it’s often said in the thermal imaging profession, “There are IR camera operators, and then there are thermographers.â€

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The official price for the Thermoscan Series B2 has dropped to $11,250 from $12,750. This model is the bare minimum for our work; the other models do not have adequate resolution for accurate analysis.

I'm going to be getting one of these on a demo in 2 weeks; I'll have it for 5 days. I plan on a very rigorous testing schedule. I will report my findings here in TIJ.

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One thing that has become increasingly clear to me in talking to Flir reps; none of them know very much.

There isn't anything "specially designed for home inspection", but they are glomming onto that idea because they realize it is a potentially large market. There is a "roof" camera that is relatively crude but effective for finding roof leaks. The B1 is a decent camera, but.......

One must make the distinction between someone who operates an infrared camera and someone who is a trained thermographer. There is a BIG difference. Little things like time of day can effect the outcome of the images and profoundly effect the analysis of said images. If late afternoon sun has been baking a piece of siding for example, it may not detect the water underneath the siding. You can probably extrapolate out from that and imagine all manner of variables. These things don't find water; they find heat differentials.

The resolution on the screen is critical; small anomalies in resolution can mean the difference between finding something, or not. Resolution costs money. I have it on pretty good authority from a number of sources that the B2 is the barest minimum resolution we can accept; it may not even be enough.

These things are not magic beans; one cannot just show up & start shooting walls & expect to find anything. I don't think it is like a Protimeter where one can pretty much just pull it out, use it, & know something. Lots of variables have to be considered, & from my research, use of the camera should probably be as a completely seperate activity, apart from the home inspection.

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I think it should be a seperate inspection, seperate contract, & probably be scheduled at a seperate time to accomodate weather and temperature variables.

Folks that take it out as part of the regular inspection that's scheduled between 9am & 12pm and just shoot walls aren't being thermographers; they're just playing w/an expensive toy.

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That's the HomeSafe gig. They're just another franchise operation put together by folks w/no related background, w/a business plan that is using fancy gadgetry to masquerade as a home inspection business.

Their IR equipment is humorously cumbersome, the resolution is inadequate, and most importantly, they are making the extremely large mistake of trying to tie it all together into a package where the eqipment takes center stage. It's not about thermography; it's about taking pictures w/ expensive equipment. They stress training, which is nice, but my research is coming up @ odds w/their approach. And, the price they're asking for their crappy equipment is comically out of line w/ much better equipment @ lower pricing.

I also spent a day w/the folks in charge of the Sentricon development @ Dow Elanco in Indianapolis researching their acoustic approach to termite detection. (My brother works there & hooked me up.) Dow Elanco isn't some HI start up; this is a multi-billion dollar multi-national corporation. They gave up on acoustical termite detection technologies about 10 years ago as they just couldn't find applicable markets and couldn't quantify the testing results in a manner that would justify investment.

IOW, it's a sideshow that will probably get a portion of the market, just like all the other franchise operations. Personally, I think it is an affront to the profession; just another johnny come lately group looking to cash in on the booming HI "industry" w/a business plan geared around fancy equipment.

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  • 4 weeks later...


With all do respect, you have no idea what you are talking about.

I realize that you have no idea who I am, so I will give you some of my background. I have been a professional home inspector for over 15 years, with home inspections as my only business for that time. I am not a Johnie-come-lately. I am also the secretary of our local ASHI chapter.

I have been using the Homesafe system for almost one year now, and it has more than doubled my sales and income.

You say that the equipment is combersome and comical. I think that shows how little you actually know of the equipment. The harness improved the picture and helps to eliminate the necessity of resetting the equipment. Allowing the inspector to perform a scan without stopping. Greatly increasing the speed of the inspection.

As for the resolution, you are again mistaken. The most important factor in an IR scanner is to be able to tell the difference between items thermally. This requires the ability of the camera to read to a very small temp. difference. The homesafe equipment can read to a difference of .08 degrees. The flir can read to around 1-2 degrees. That difference allows an experienced and trained individual to differenciate between an active and inactive water leak.

Also the Flir system uses color coding that is not necessary to performing an inspection. The colors are so close that they muddy the picture and do not allow an inspector to identify what they see.

I understand that technology may not be your thing, but do some research prior to spouting off. It will help you in the future.

Aaron Flook

A-Z Tech Home Inspections

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Well, Aaron, you're committed to it because you paid the money & now you have to believe it's good. The HomeSafe party line is at odds w/Flir's because it has to be; if it wasn't, it's tacit admission that there are other excellent & better options available.

No spouting off here; it's all based on solid research w/field testing of many different cameras, in addition to consultations w/thermographers involved @ all levels of building analysis. I've yet to find anyone who thinks HomeSafe has it "goin' on"; in fact, none of these folks have ever heard of HomeSafe.

The fact that you refer to the extensive range of Flir equipment in a single statement indicates you are unaware that they have a remarkable array of equipment w/ all manner of options. The fact that you at odds w/Flir puts you at odds w/ the largest company w/ the longest track record in the industry, and the equipment that is the accepted standard of quality, and a company that's listed on the NYSE. I'm mildly surprised that you would take a shot @ a respected company to tout the newcomers on the block that no one outside the HI profession has ever heard of.

Understand, I firmly believe that thermography is going to be embraced by the HI profession; it's just a matter of when & what equipment.

Good luck w/ the gadgetry, & time will tell who's on the right track.

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For all research, you still fall short of the truth.

First let me tell you that we are not a Homesafe franchise. We have a license to use their equipment. We have approximately the same amount of money tied up in Homesafe as I do in fuel for my car a month. And we have done the feild tests and investigation of the other equipment, just as you have, and found that Homesafe gives us the best value for our money.

My problem with your posts are that you offhandedly dismiss Homesafe equipment as "Gadgets"

The cameras that I use are manufactured by Raytheon(the company that make the Patriot Missle Defense Systems. The are one of the largest and most respected high tech firms in the world. Not realy known for manufacturing gadgets.

Also, Kurt, I can use the same argument with Flir and many other Infrared companies that you use. They disparage Homesafe, because Homesafe has made the one discovery that makes infrared usuable for home inspectors. Home inspections are better performed by home inspectors using infrared scanners they are trained to use. You can become a level three thermographer and still not be skilled enough to perform a home inspection.

You have strong opinions regarding your perferred manufacture, that is great. So do I. Just remember, that my opinion is from using this equipment for an entire year,in the field every day, not a brief test period.

The benefits of the Homesafe equipment to my operation has by far outweighed the cost.

Aaron Flook

A-Z Tech Home Inspections.

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I was able to use the Home Safe and Flir equipment side by side at InspectionWorld. As a person who knows squat about IR cameras, I was impressed by the Flir units more so than the Home Safe. Home Safe and Flir were just about across the isle from each other so it was easy to compare. One feature that I liked on the Flir was the temperature reading on the screen.

If and when they get down to the $5,000 range (like laptops/notebook computers have come down), I might add one to my tool bag. Until then I am happy with my moisture meters and knowledge of how and why water enters structures.

I think that the IR imaging device is made by Raytheon and the cameras are Sony, each with their own battery supply. The two have been married together into a device(harness) that is worn on your shoulders.

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Scott said it all w/ his statement of "...I'll work w/ knowledge of how water enters buildings". In the amount of time it takes someone to get rigged & ready w/ infrared, a competent inspector can know what needs to be known quite readily.

The cameras are cool gadgets, I'll own one someday, and, as I said previously, I firmly believe the technology will be embraced by the HI profession. BUT, @ this point, for typical home inspections, it's as much (or more) marketing & client "wow" factor as it is useful tooling.

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  • 1 year later...

These have been around for sometime however, the only time I've seen them used is in commercial/industrial applications where their checking the main breaker boxes etc for hot spots. Not sure if insurance companies were requiring them or not.

I'm not sure how you would ever recoup the cost, let alone turn a profit, in the HI business.

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Forget the Ford/Chevy argument and please answer a question. What impact do these have on an inspectors liability? I am very interested in this equipment. Like others, I am convinced technology will both make our lives easier and make us more accurate in our reporting.

If I may play the devils advocate (aka a lawyer) for a minute, I think that I could sue your butt of if you did an IR scan on a house and failed to find a leak that occured 6 months later. If I use this thing, I have to scan EVERTHING (walls, floors & ceilings), ever time or I am toast.

Like Kurt, my only answer to my own concerns is to package it as a seperate "above and beyond" service, seperate contract, sperate fee. I would only scan what the buyer specifies or areas that I have a concern about based on the visual inspection. If they want the whole house done add 150% to my fee. If they specified a portion of the house and I found no special concern areas during my regular inspection and a leak shows up 6 months later in another area that I could not predict, I aught to be covered.

Am I off base? I would appreciate the opinion of those that have used the gear.


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I'm a neophyte at this and my knowledge is pretty much limited to what I've read on Flir's website. I did recently, however, have a client who worked for an environmental company show up at the end of an inspection with the $20,000 Flir thermo-imaging camera. I was pretty much finished, and one of the flubs I discovered was a section of mildy water-damaged sub-floor beneath a rear exterior door. I discovered the damage because I always do a strange little tiptoe near the inside portion of exterior-door thresholds since there's oftentimes water damage caused by seepage beneath the threshold. Anyhow, after I convinced the client to let me play with the Flir for a few minutes, I pointed it at the threshold and, sure enough, the water damaged area showed up cool blue on the camera just like a trained pig. I was pretty amazed, and of course immediately tried to convince myself to fork over some cash to Flir, but haven't yet. I'm sure I'd end up damaging the thing, and repairs likely would cost a fortune.

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  • 1 month later...

Yeah OK, good points for technology, we all use it to some degree.

One could categorize their inspections as….

• Here’s my basic inspection for $_____

• This is the upgraded inspection (which includes further testing using, subs, etc.) for $______

• And the top of the line with the latest technology (for those simply expecting more from an inspection) $_____

good reading,


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Hi Kurt –

We had a great summer for Windsurfing/Kitesurfing; don’t think I had to drive outta da Gorge for wind much.

You might get a kick out of this; I recently did a home inspection for a Windsurfing sail designer. Some really innovative stuff happening in the formula dept. right now. which will probably spin off into the recreational end. Here’s a link to keep informed of progress.


Back to topic:

I embrace technology just as much as anyone; however this type of testing equipment is hard to justify in our region. I will certainly be on the fence at this time and wait until the pricing of the testing equipment is “reasonableâ€

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Hausdok –

No worries……..sorry about the wind skipp’in talk.[;)]

In regards to the Infrared technology, I like the idea but not the cost. $99.00 per month for leasing the equipment seems steep.

What kind of infrared tools do the HVAC guys use?[:-bigeyes

good reading,


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