Thermal imaging home inspection
Thermal cameras are excellent tools for thermal imaging home inspection. Among many tests, they are great for verifying a house’s insulation status. The infrared camera reveals hidden problems that other technologies can’t detect and are not visible to the naked eye.
We checked the house regarding moisture, water leaks, heat/cold infiltration, and pests.
Nevertheless, it’s essential to understand that thermal imaging isn’t always easy to interpret. Therefore, getting someone like us with subject matter expertise in building inspection, HVAC, or electrical systems is essential. Let us present heat/cold infiltration with insulation and emphasize how important it is to insulate the house.
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How to insulate an old house
This has been a prevalent question since 2022. The war in Ukraine negatively influenced the markets, increasing house costs.
We bought the house before COVID, and lately, one of our neighbors asked me: “Did you know that the heating costs will go so high?”
Now, let me explain the reason for that question. I explained the level of insulation and the whole process of creating an efficient house. Neighbors thought that the market situation caused all we did to make the house passive as much as possible, but it wasn’t the reason.
I explained that this was almost impossible for us to foresee in 2020 what would happen in 2022. Luckily we constantly improve houses wherever we move because that approach helps us save money in the long run. Therefore, since the beginning of the old house renovation, we have focused on making it highly insulated and equipped better than newly built houses.
Our main goal was to create a dream house out of a bad-condition house. We achieved it 100%.
Let me present how proper insulation with properly installed windows can save you heating/cooling costs. Remember that insulation not only helps to keep the house warm in the winter but at the same time keeps it cool during extreme heat in the summer. The temperature will stay consistent throughout the whole year.
We performed the thermal imaging house inspection before putting the last pieces of insulation around the windows. This is the best moment and place to present the effectiveness of good insulation.
In houses, the windows are critical elements introducing heat bridges and causing major losses. As we planned to have a house with the highest quality, we had to take care of the details. In the thermal images, you can see the protective effect of the insulation. There are multiple points of temperature measurements to compare the difference.
Brief description of implemented solutions: we used high-quality insulation that is dedicated to interiors. There is an air gap between the old brick wall of the house and the new wall. This gap allows for proper air circulation to prevent any air moisture from staying between the internal walls.
We performed a thermal inspection during cold days to have a difference between the temperature outside and inside. I have to add that there was no heating turned on inside the house since the previous winter, and the temperature stayed at a level of 16 degrees while outside, it dropped to 5 degrees of Celsius. This is important to make this type of measurement when the temperature outside and inside differs by at least 10 degrees.
In images #1 and #2, we wanted to show how big the difference is between insulated and non-insulated walls. In those pictures, it’s easy to notice how huge a difference it makes. It’s around 3 degrees of Celsius.
Now you can imagine if all walls have 3 degrees lower temperature. They start working as a fridge, which is not good during cold winter days. Moreover, the old brick walls heat up during warm summer days and start working as heating radiators. As you can see, without proper insulation, you achieve the opposite effect than expected.
The second image gives a good overview of how it looks from inside the house when there is an insulated and non-insulated wall. Even if the temperature outside is not so low, it’s clear how big a difference it makes to have walls insulated.
As seen in those three thermal images, the 3 degrees Celsius difference between the old brick wall and the new insulated one was very optimistic. In one place, we measured as low as 11 degrees, which gave us 5 degrees difference. So now it should be clear how important insulation is to lower the heating/cooling costs. Using 16 degrees as a reference point, we can calculate the difference as a percentage, and the loss is around 31.25%. Therefore, your current expenses can be lowered by 31.25% if you insulate your walls properly.
It’s important to remind that the walls are not independent, and complete insulation of the house is required. Insulation of only walls or roof, or changing only windows, will not bring huge improvements, but a complete system will lower costs even for 43%.
A properly insulated house lowers your bills. We prepared an efficient house for long and problem-free living with 25cm of high-quality insulation on the roof and 5cm of insulation with a 10cm air gap in the walls.
For the whole year, we didn’t use heating and we waited for the temperature outside to drop to 5 degrees of Celsius. This gave us confirmation of how efficient is the insulation and solution that we used in this house.
Thermal imaging home inspection – common mistakes
#1 Mistake: Misinterpretation of the thermal images
FLIR camera is used for thermal inspection of a house to find cold or hot spots and patterns. Based on the temperature differences located very close to each other, it’s possible to identify wet areas, air leaks, potential mold problems, termites, missing insulation, or other problems. Unfortunately, sometimes thermal images can confuse because not all cold or hot spots show issues. Misinterpretation might impose costly, unneeded actions just to prove that the thermal image was incorrectly analyzed. For example, some ceiling spots might look like a severe water leak from this house’s roof or second floor. Might it be as well a cold air? Or is it a leaking HVAC vent?
#2 Mistake: temperature measurement errors while performing thermal imaging home inspection
While performing different inspections, we observed that FLIR products, specifically designed for a home inspection, usually have the +/- 2% accuracy range. This might be tricky with certain materials like shiny surfaces, for example, metals, because they have different emissivity, which changes their temperature reading. Moreover, the distance and some other factors can affect the camera. Therefore, the emissivity has to be adjusted accordingly. In addition, the cameras with a wide field of view are optimized for short-distance measurements. Finally, it’s important to mention that most electrical equipment under load will get hot and shouldn’t be recognized as a problem.
#3 Mistake: FLIR camera limitations
FLIR cameras, like any other tool, have their technological limits. That is why thermal camera expertise requires time, and some applications may require a high-performance camera, such as detecting moisture issues with thermal imaging. Therefore, the camera will have to be capable of detecting subtle temperature differences.
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