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Looking for Commercial & Industrial thermal imaging services? Please Click here!
WE•IRD is pleased to offer the following information and residential applications of our diagnostic thermal imaging services!
What is thermal imaging?
All objects emit infrared energy (heat) as a function of their temperature. The infrared energy emitted by an object is known as its heat signature. In general, the hotter an object is, the more radiation it emits. A thermal imager (also known as a thermal or “IR” camera) is essentially a heat sensor that is capable of detecting tiny differences in temperature and converts the information into an electronic signal, which is then processed to produce a thermal image in the viewable spectrum.
Why use infrared thermal imaging?
Thermal imaging is a hands off, non invasive, non destructive method of quickly and accurately identifying structural defects and abnormalities. It is equally effective in identifying potentially hazardous conditions prior to failure. This technology has almost eliminated the need for Destructive testing. Destructive testing is a process whereas building components are removed in an effort to search for defects that are causing a dangerous or damaging condition within the structural components. In some instances, destructive testing can involve removal of entire walls, roof sections, siding, window frames, etc before a source of the defect is discovered. Sometimes the origin of the problem is never clearly defined. Destructive testing is an extremely expensive and terribly invasive process. It is not uncommon to displace the structures occupants for the duration of the investigation.
Can anyone use an IR camera?
Possessing an IR Camera does not make one a thermographer any more than possessing a pen makes one a writer. The IR camera is one of the most powerful diagnostic tools available in today’s market. IR cameras are complicated and expensive pieces of equipment that require extensive training for accurate image acquisition and interpretation. In the hands of a trained thermographer the IR camera is an incredibly accurate tool providing a unique insight into your home or business’s energy performance or potentially hazardous conditions. Intervention as the result of a misinterpreted or inaccurate image can be financially devastating. Always make sure that any service provided to you is done so by a qualified industry professional.
What are some common uses for IR technology in my home?
IR Camera’s are most commonly utilized in the execution of home energy assessment and inspection in the residential sector. The IR camera has become an indispensable asset in diagnosing existing or potentially hazardous conditions before they develop. Here are a few of the more common diagnostic applications,
1. Faulty circuits/wiring
By revealing the elevated temperatures associated with electrical resistance, we are able to identify inoperative as well as faulty electrical circuits and their components prior to failure. Here are just a few examples of potentially dangerous conditions,
- Electrical faults
- Incorrectly sized/overloaded circuits
- Breakers in need of replacement
- Faulty switches, outlets, and fixtures
Early detection of any hazardous conditions will help to avoid system failure as well as the resulting inconvenience of loss of function and/or power. More importantly, it mitigates the possibility of a serious incident occurrence such as fire or electrocution.
*In the photo below you can see that one of the lights in the trac is operating at a substantially higher temperature (roughly 50 degrees hotter) than the other. As we cannot tell how long the light has been functioning in this manner, we would recommend immediate replacement.
2. Water leakage
The IR camera is an incredibly powerful tool when assessing the presence of moisture. Not only will it detect the presence of moisture, it provides a visual representation of the path it has traveled. This is particularly useful when dealing with leaks who’s origins differ from that of the point of discovery. i.e., a leak in the roof may travel down wall framing, across the top of a heating duct, down the framing yet again and pool in the bottom of the wall in a room at the opposite side of the home.
*The image below is a classic example of how water leakage presents in a thermographic scan. Very often the source of these leaks are repaired but the extent of the water damage may go undetected promoting mold growth. Having an exact idea of the extent and reach of the damage will help to keep repair costs to a minimum while avoiding any hazardous health conditions associated with mold spores.
3. Mold detection
We previously discussed the IR cameras ability to affectively locate and trace water leaks and moisture in your home. The key factor in mold mediation is to identify the source of moisture it requires and eliminate it. Once the source has been identified and addressed a follow up scan must then be performed in order to ensure that the prescribed interventions were affective. Mold, and the dangerous health conditions associated with it can be life threating. If you suspect that you have mold in your home, do not attempt to assess the situation yourself. Call a professional immediately!
*Below is a thermographic image depicting mold growth beneath the carpet. The homeowner was unaware of any issue at the time of discovery but had recently been suffering respiratory issues. Once mediation had been completed, the homeowners symptoms abated.
4. Insect & rodent infestation
Both the body heat radiating from the intruder(s) and the resulting moisture of their urine and fecal matter will give the thermographer a clear picture of the affected area and it’s surroundings. Thermographers have exposed everything from rat and raccoon nests to 8’ beehives within the walls of a structure. Pinpointing their exact location gives the information required to choose the most cost effective and least invasive method of mediation possible.
*Below is a thermographic image of a beehive located in the ceiling of the home.
5. Construction defects
IR cameras cannot see through walls but they can see the energy radiated by supporting structure identifying such conditions as,
- Insufficient or absent window/door headers
- Incorrect framing installation
- Absent blocking material
- Insulation voids
- Incorrect or absent metal hangers
All of these conditions can potentially create leaks, excessive or uneven settling, void spaces creating air infiltration/exfiltration, and even structural failure.
*The image below is a classic representation of a contractors failure to insulate properly. The dark blue and black areas are void spaces where the insulation is missing or insufficient in volume.
6. Window seal failure
When the seal of a double or triple paned window fails, the supporting gases escape and air is not allowed back into the space. As a result the panes collapse in toward one another. It is extremely difficult to see this condition with the eye unless it has been compromised for a considerable amount of time and the windows begin to “cloud” between the panes resulting in an unclean-able condition. The IR camera can see the increased energy transference as a result of the proximity of the two panes in relation to one another indicating seal failure.
*The image below is a classic representation of a failed window seal. The dark or cool area in the center of the window is the point at which the panes have begun to collapse in toward one another.
7. Chimney Flue
The IR camera is the perfect instrument for identifying weak or damaged areas of your chimney and its internal liner (should it have one). Maintaining a maintenance regimen of regular sweeping will help keep the creosote buildup under control but it will not give you an idea of the overall health and condition of your chimney.
*The white area in the center of the chimney is indicative of an internal failure of the chimney flue creating an immediate fire danger.