Thermal imaging uses infrared radiation and thermal energy to get information about objects and then creates images of them. Some people use it for night-vision , military tactics, and other uses such as in homes. In homes, it is used to see if there are possible leaks or missing insulation. Pest control companies might use it to find termite activity. Can thermal imaging see through walls? No, it can detect heat from the wall near the surface that there is an issue, but not what is behind the wall. However, if there is something that is causing a difference in temperature in the wall, it will pick it up.
Let’s take a look at why you need to know if thermal imaging can see through walls, the cost, why you want to hire an inspector who uses thermal imaging, areas it is used for, the cost of IR camera, areas the camera can and can’t see through, what to keep an eye on and when to call a professional.
Why You Need to Know If Thermal Imaging Can See Through Walls
Thermal imaging is the way to go for many home inspection companies. This is because they can use an Infrared or IR camera to find where there are temperature differentiation and possible issues without tearing apart all the drywall. It helps the home inspector zero in the area where there is a problem lurking and then requires additional investigating. This in the end saves the home inspector time and saves money for the homeowner. These cameras are also known as FLIR as that is the brand of many of them.
As mentioned above, thermal imaging can’t see through walls. They are too thick. However, if there is a water leak and it is near the surface, the camera can pick up a colder surface temperature from water evaporation. Essentially, this will tell the inspector to investigate more. You won’t be able to see the leaks with the naked eye so you need this service and you will save yourself a lot of money
Cost of a Home Inspection Using Thermal Imaging
A home inspection using thermal imaging can cost about $350 and up, depending on the company, size of the home, and the location. This can be an extra expense in addition to the visual home inspection. However, knowing that issues cannot always be seen with the naked eye may help you to understand how important this service is.
Homes that don’t have this type of service done often may miss out on potential issues. Rather, the home inspectors will need to use specialized devices like a moisture meter or their eyes to find the same types of problems. In the end, thermal imaging can save an inspector time and help the homeowner have peace of mind.
Why You Want to Hire an Inspector That Uses Thermal Imaging
Hiring an inspector that uses thermal imaging will be very helpful. Whether you are having issues in the home with a leak somewhere or you are in the process of buying a home or selling a home, this is a good idea. Being able to find an area with a possible leak or issue is important so the problem can be narrowed down. The last thing you want is your walls, yard, ceiling, or concrete tore apart looking for the issue. Thermal imaging will help with this. Unfortunately, not every company uses this type of camera. One reason is training is needed for using it and another reason is the expense. Be sure to check with your home inspection company to see if they use thermal imaging.
Areas That the Camera is Used For In a Home
- Plumbing – to find leaks and breaks in the line and in the walls.
- Insulation – this camera will find where there is insulation missing in a home.
- HVAC– to look for leaks in the unit.
- Electrical – to find electrical issues such as overloaded circuit breakers, electrical faults, open circuits, and loose connections. It can also be used to find wiring issues. Unfortunately, issues in these areas can lead to an electrical fire.
- Pest Control – this camera can find termites and other wood-destroying pests due to the heat that radiates from their bodies.
Here is a good video about using a thermal imaging camera to find pests:
The Colors on the Camera
Colors such as white, red, yellow, and light colors for warmer to hot areas. The blue to black and darker areas are cooler. However, it will depend on the settings on the camera as to what these colors stand for.
Cost of the IR Camera
An IR camera is not cheap, thus why many home inspectors don’t use it. IR camera can cost about $300 and up. Quality cameras can cost a few thousand. Also, the person who is using the camera needs training on what the different colors signify. Some inspection companies charge more for this service because of the cost of the camera and the value it brings to the inspection.
Areas That a Thermal Imaging Camera Can See Through
Fog– these cameras can look into the fog as well. Some car manufacturers use these on the cars to navigate them through fog.
Smoke – firefighters use these cameras to detect heat through smoke. This helps them find people or pets that may be in a building, due to the heat that radiates from the bodies.
Rain/Snow – the camera can see through rain and snow at a specific range, but it depends on the severity.
Metal – this can be tricky as the camera can pick up the shiny metal and reflect radiation, even if there are no issues. Additionally, thermal cameras can never see “through” metal objects, but some metals might show hot or cold spots or something inside a container made of metal.
Forests or woods– the camera won’t pick up the trees in the forest or woods but will pick up a person because of the heat that radiates off the body. Search and rescue teams, along with the police use this to find someone missing or a “person of interest” in the woods.
The biggest thing to note is a thermal camera looks at surface temperature differentials. In most cases, users have to use other tools to find out exactly what the “thermal anomaly” is.
Areas That a Thermal Image Cameras Cannot See Through
Plastic – thin plastic, like plastic wrap, can allow heat radiation to come through from a warm object. However, thicker plastic does not allow it to go through and will block the infrared radiation.
Glass – Unfortunately, a thermal image camera cannot see through glass. Instead, it is highly reflective and will reflect the image back that is on the other side of the glass. For example, if you stand on one side of the glass and point the infrared camera at the glass. It will reflect back your body instead of what is on the other side of the glass.
Areas to Keep An Eye On
Pipes in winter– we know it gets cold here in Colorado in the winter. It is important to make sure that the pipes don’t freeze. If they do, they can burst and this will cause a leak. Making sure that the faucets drip, pipes are insulated, and the garage door is closed are a few ways to keep this from happening.
Water Heater – maintenance of the water heater is important. You don’t want to have cold showers, even though it will wake you up really quick! If the hot water isn’t coming out of the water heater, try pressing the reset button to fix it. If this doesn’t work then you will need to call a professional.
Fireplace – maintenance of the fireplace is important as well. Cleaning the soot, chimney, chimney cap are maintenance ideas in the spring or summer before the cold temperatures roll in.
When to Call a Professional
Call a professional if you suspect there is a leak in the home, missing insulation, or high temperatures in the electrical areas of the home. An inspection using thermal imaging will give you peace of mind. You want to be safe than sorry. If you find there are areas in which you have concerns, reach out to a professional for help.
Thermal imaging can’t see through walls but can detect the heat near the surface. Then, this signals to the home inspector that there may be an issue that needs investigating a little bit more. As mentioned earlier, thermal imaging will allow the inspector to see where in a pipe line or attic or the front of the home where there is an issue. This is great because you are saving time from digging up an entire yard or combing an entire attic to see where the issue is. It is worth the money to have this inspection done. Colorado Inspection Services conducts home inspections using thermal imaging in the Castle Rock, CO. areas.