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Thermal Imaging and Cost Effectiveness


Jeff Remas
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Please, lets cut to the chase:

For those of you who have thermal imaging cameras I have two questions:

1) Are you making a profit from it (you charge extra for its use and it is being paid off)?

or

2) Is this another toy to make you feel comfortable with your inspection and you justify the cost by saying you found stuff you would not have found otherwise but see no increase in revenue to pay for the expense?

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Please, lets cut to the chase:

For those of you who have thermal imaging cameras I have two questions:

1) Are you making a profit from it (you charge extra for its use and it is being paid off)?

or

2) Is this another toy to make you feel comfortable with your inspection and you justify the cost by saying you found stuff you would not have found otherwise but see no increase in revenue to pay for the expense?

1) YES!

2) NO!

Kevin

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How about a slight increase in rates across the board to cover the cost and add some profit?

That way you just use the equipment whenever it can benefit a client.

I'm not sure how inspectors who use IR handle it but I would feel weird saying, "I'm suspicious of something in this wall. If you pay me extra I'll get my IR cam and have a look"

I think if I decide to get one I'll increase rates overall and use the cam whenever it could be helpful for no extra charge. Then, it could also be used as a marketing tool by saying up front that it is one of the tools in the arsenal.

Of course, this all assumes that I was hired to do a full inspection in the first place. If a person called and specifically wants IR services then those fees would be stand alone for whatever they wanted done.

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Please, lets cut to the chase:

For those of you who have thermal imaging cameras I have two questions:

1) Are you making a profit from it (you charge extra for its use and it is being paid off)?

or

2) Is this another toy to make you feel comfortable with your inspection and you justify the cost by saying you found stuff you would not have found otherwise but see no increase in revenue to pay for the expense?

This is not in response to Kevin, who I find to be very credible, but everyone that I am aware of who has laid out the bucks for an IR camera claims that it has increased their revenue and improved the quality of their inspections (including the three local guys who went out of business this year). It is going to be hard to find a guy to admit that laying out that kind of money was a mistake..

Jess sayin

Tim

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An IR camera will get you exactly what you put into it. Make it an a la carte service and it will make you money every time you turn it on. Charge more for every inspection because you have better tools than the competition and it will make you money whether you use it or not. Tell everyone you meet that you have one but never take it out of the box and bask in the adulation, although a boob job might be a better place to spend the coin if that's what you're after.

Tom

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Couple of points:

1. I had my first IR Camera paid for within the first six months of offering IR services.

2. I have always offered IR as an additional service for residential inspections and have averaged about 10-15 clients a month who get the additional service.

3. I've been able to earn 18-20K p/year in additional revenue just for the additional IR scan with a standard home inspection.

4. I've been able to earn 60-80K p/year in additional revenue from offering IR services in Residential and Commercial Applications.

There is nothing wrong with just wanting to use Thermography in residential inspections, but the real money is in commercial applications. However, it has been my experience that once word got out that I was using the technology, a lot of doors started to open up.

I did a home inspection for one the owners of a local HVAC company in my area. He was so impressed with the technology, I now have an exclusive agreement with him to work with his techs in installing and troubleshooting radiant floor systems throughout my area.

People find you because you have an "expertise" and they need someone to help them find whatever problem they are encountering. I mean, I have been called out on plumbing leak issues, moisture intrusion issues, roof leak issues, etc.

In the beginning, it was just offering my clients an additional service to include during the home inspection. It evolved into a lot of additional residential work and eventually I started a new commercial infrared business.

However, I cannot express enough the importance of getting the proper training.

Kevin

Kevin

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I'm not sure how inspectors who use IR handle it but I would feel weird saying, "I'm suspicious of something in this wall. If you pay me extra I'll get my IR cam and have a look"

John,

There are many different opinions on how an inspector should use or incorporate Thermography into their business. I have always been under the opinion that the use of the technology goes beyond the standard visual inspection. Therefore, I do not include it in my inspections. I charge an additional fee and have the client sign an addendum to my Pre-Inspection Agreement. All of my IR services are extra and under a separate agreement.

Kevin

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There is nothing wrong with just wanting to use Thermography in residential inspections, but the real money is in commercial applications. However, it has been my experience that once word got out that I was using the technology, a lot of doors started to open up.

Kevin

That has been my experience also. Just doing flat roof scans has paid for the equipment.

-Brad

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Are there any downsides? Have you ever misdiagnosed something and taken heat for it?

Or . . . do folks have heightened, unrealistic expectations and climb down your throat if they wind up having a problem they think you should have warned them about?

I have not personally had an issue that I misdiagnosed and took heat for it. However, you bring up a good point. Infrared Thermography is not a "Point-N-Shoot" technology, especially in building applications. Ask any Level III Termographer and they would tend to agree that Building Termography is one of the hardest applications. There are so many variable to take into consideration.

For peoples expectations, I try and manage as best I can. I give a short demo at the beginning of the inspection and explain in detail the limitations of the technology. One of the first things I tell my clients is that the camera cannot see through walls!

For the most part, my clients that get the additional IR scan have been very impressed and satisfied with the level of service. I don't find thermal anomalies on every inspection, but I do most of the time.

I would suggest to anyone who is interested in getting into IR, that they first take a Level I training class or the FLIR Building Thermographer class.

Kevin

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What Kevin's saying are all the things I've been seeing and the reasons I'll be getting a camera before the end of the year. It's silly not to, and it's an inevitability. Honestly, I just didn't want to, as it's one more operating system to integrate, and I've been getting a little burned out on OS's lately. Can't avoid it.

I, of course, go through all the agonized questions as everyone else about cost to value. What rationalizations are folks flogging themselves with when looking at the different cameras? What is, IYO, the useful tool for strictly building science?

Chris, Kevin, anyone else, hit us with your hot picks for the moment, if you have any.....?...Yes, I understand the training, the training, the training....what I'm asking is tightly abbreviated FH tool review, sort of....

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I'll ultimately get one, too. But like buying anything electronic . . .

The Bcam2 seems to be what most HIs gravitate toward, but the low resolution seems to be a universal complaint. Significant improvement doesn't occur, however, without spending a few extra thousand bucks.

I have a Sony television on my wall that cost $3,500.00 a few years ago. The same size--46"--with a much better refresh rate, is about $1,200.00 now if you catch the thing on sale.

I realize that's a common trend with electronics, but I keep thinking, "Maybe I'll wait till the price lurches down to $2,500.00 or so before I buy an IR camera."

I know, I know, I know. Specious.

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I don't mind (too much) about a couple extra grand if it's going to work for me. I think I'll make money with it. Kevin and Chris are making money. Loden and Seidner are making money. I'm just curious what the fellows here think about minimum acceptable resolution and features. What are the gotta have features? What one's don't matter that much?

Actually, since it's an electronic, which software sucks? Why?

My hesitation has largely been on new OS avoidance psychosis; which has a nice OS?

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I currently have a FLIR T400 and I am very pleased with it's performance. I purchased my imager before the big price drops, so I paid just over 20K for mine. That's including software, extra batteries, and a wide angle lens.

I could get into specifics about spatial resolution or thermal sensitivity, but most of the new imagers out now have pretty good specs for building work. The minimum resolution I would purchase is 160x120. That should be good for most residential work. However, if you even think you might be interested in getting in Commercial Thermography, then you want to get 320x240 imager. I would also suggest investing in a wide angle lens, it will help tremendously while conducting interior scans.

I think one of the best cameras on the market today is the new Fluke TiR32 320x240.

http://us.fluke.com/usen/Products/Fluke+TiR32.htm

You can get this camera with the additional lenses for around 10K. Simply amazing!! I will be my next camera unless FLIR comes out with something better.

Kevin

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I have always been under the opinion that the use of the technology goes beyond the standard visual inspection. Therefore, I do not include it in my inspections. I charge an additional fee and have the client sign an addendum to my Pre-Inspection Agreement. All of my IR services are extra and under a separate agreement.

In all of the arbitrations and court case I have reviewed in my area, none have raised the issue that an inspector failed to find something because he didn't use some tool or use it properly in a visual inspection.

I'll use any tool that I can afford if it aids me in performing visual inspections. I use ladders, binoculars, magnifying glasses, powerful flashlights, several different moisture meters, IR camera, probes, hammers, various levels, plumb bob, string, tape measure, etc. to ensure a thorough visual inspection.

I don't perform IR inspections. I use the IR camera as an aid to a visual inspection. I use it in just about every inspection. It has a lot more utility in the winter and rainy season here than in the summer, dry season.

If you can afford the over priced training, go for it. If you are going to use an IR camera in a business model like Kevins, I would recommend you follow what Kevin says.

If you are deeply interested in performing the best visual inspections you can, than use any tool that you deem will aid you in doing that.

Chris, Oregon

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I currently have a FLIR T400 and I am very pleased with it's performance. I purchased my imager before the big price drops, so I paid just over 20K for mine. That's including software, extra batteries, and a wide angle lens.

I could get into specifics about spatial resolution or thermal sensitivity, but most of the new imagers out now have pretty good specs for building work. The minimum resolution I would purchase is 160x120. That should be good for most residential work. However, if you even think you might be interested in getting in Commercial Thermography, then you want to get 320x240 imager. I would also suggest investing in a wide angle lens, it will help tremendously while conducting interior scans.

I think one of the best cameras on the market today is the new Fluke TiR32 320x240.

http://us.fluke.com/usen/Products/Fluke+TiR32.htm

You can get this camera with the additional lenses for around 10K. Simply amazing!! I will be my next camera unless FLIR comes out with something better.

Kevin

This is extremely helpful. The Fluke is the one I keep coming back to when I'm looking. Current trade is around $9k, w/the wide angle for another grand.

I've repeatedly heard from others that an articulating feature (such as the T400) is really nice. Maintaining 90deg orientation is hard to do consistently without the articulating feature; fatigue and body contortions are necessary, yes? Although, that's kind of a moot point with me, as I ain't going over $10,000 initially. The Fluke seems to hanging right around that number. All the articulating jobs seem to be around $13,000.

I think both Chris and Kevin's approach are well articulated (no pun). Not a lot of other venues where there's valid field experience to tap.

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Yes, very helpful, Kevin. Thanks.

Do you actively advertise the stand-alone IR service, or do you rely on your web sites and word of mouth?

Like Kurt--or is it Kerby, now? I'm not really sure I like that--said, the OS has to be efficient or one could spend hours translating the data into a coherent report. The split shots that show the IR image on the left and the standard image on the right--does the camera's software convert the dual image into a stand-alone .jpg, or do you have to monkey around with images from two separate cameras so a client knows what she's looking at?

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I haven't seen much consideration on this thread about the effect of an infrared camera on an inspector's liability on the job. Without the camera, an inspector's liability goes only as far as his naked eye can detect. With the camera in the inspector's arsenal, that liability is extended to whatever the camera can see also. Which means that an infrared equipped inspector needs to make sure on every home inspection he does that he includes any finding that the camera could have disclosed. And he doesn't have to be in immediate possession of it, just own one.

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Yes, very helpful, Kevin. Thanks.

Do you actively advertise the stand-alone IR service, or do you rely on your web sites and word of mouth?

Like Kurt--or is it Kerby, now? I'm not really sure I like that--said, the OS has to be efficient or one could spend hours translating the data into a coherent report. The split shots that show the IR image on the left and the standard image on the right--does the camera's software convert the dual image into a stand-alone .jpg, or do you have to monkey around with images from two separate cameras so a client knows what she's looking at?

I rely heavily on my websites and word of mouth for residential work. On the commercial side, it really take a lot of effort.

Kevin

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I haven't seen much consideration on this thread about the effect of an infrared camera on an inspector's liability on the job. Without the camera, an inspector's liability goes only as far as his naked eye can detect. With the camera in the inspector's arsenal, that liability is extended to whatever the camera can see also. Which means that an infrared equipped inspector needs to make sure on every home inspection he does that he includes any finding that the camera could have disclosed. And he doesn't have to be in immediate possession of it, just own one.

Hmm,

That kind of sounds like some recycled inspectorlore to me. Can you cite a single court case where a judge rendered that as a legal opinion?

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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