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Infrared thermal imaging is an awesome tool in electrical inspections. Best of all, it is safe for the inspector as we do not touch any electrical equipment during the inspection.
As we know, good infrared cameras are good at detecting heat differences in high precision. This means that the camera can identify and produce thermograms to show materials with very small temperature differences. This is great for detecting moisture damage around the house.
This is also a helpful and important feature when we inspection the electrical components of the house. The infrared camera is particularly good at detecting overloaded circuits and breakers. An overloaded circuit is protected by breakers that trip or fuses the blow when the current drawn is in excess of the rated breaker or fuse. What if the current is incorrectly protected with a higher amperage then what the wires are rated for? A common mistakes home owners make is using a 14 AGW with 20 A or 30A breakers. The breakers would not trip until the current drawn reached 20 A or 30 A depending on the breakers used. In the mean time, the 14 AGW copper wire is being heated as more current is being drawn then what the wire thickness can handle. The hazard here is the wire can melt the sheathing and worst, a potential electrical fire hazard.
If current was being drawn during the inspection, the infrared camera would pickup the heated wire. If left on long enough, the wire behind drywall can also be detected by the infrared camera. The infrared camera can also sense breakers working close to their rated limit. If detected, the breaker should be examined closer for possible causes. Some breakers with built in GFCI are warmer compared to regular breakers, in this case, if the built-in GFCI breaker was the same temperature as other breakers, then there would be a problem with the GFCI breaker.
Superman has the super power of “X-ray” vision which allows him to see behind walls or inside houses. Imagine if you have that power before you buy your next house? Read more about infrared thermal imaging and seeing behind walls.
What other defects and damages can infrared thermal imaging detect that is not visible to the human eye? Moisture! How is that possible you ask? Remember that infrared thermal images display temperature difference. The image produced is a thermogram displaying surface temperatures relative to one another.
So why does the drywall under the window clearly show a cooler temperature? Recall that blue is cooler compared to red or orange. If the temperature was not significantly different, we would not look further into this. The mostly like two reasons include missing insulation behind the drywall or the drywall is moist. We use a moisture meter to eliminate the moisture issue, leaving the missing insulation the most likely explanation. However, if the moisture meter indicates moisture, we inspect the window well and window still closer for signs of moisture damage. We always confirm with a moisture meter reading before concluding moisture damage.
If the moisture meter comes up positive and the window still shows moisture damage, depending on how long this condition has gone on for and whether the immediate area has good ventilation or not, this could be good conditions for mold growth if left unchecked. Also, behind the drywall would definitely be subject to mold conditions as ventilation is nil plus the ample moisture supply.
A quick scan with the Flir B-250 gives the home inspector an idea of where to investigate further. The scan is non-invasive and does not damage the walls or any other part of the house. This makes the inspection fast, accurate and provides clients with proof of defect or damage.
Infrared Thermography used in a home inspection can show the client defects around the house that no other home inspection method can. The technology is used in a variety of inspections around the house. The infrared camera can detect moisture damage around the house, these are environments ideal for mold growth. it can also detect cold spots or missing insulation in the attic, exterior walls or ceilings. Infrared thermography is also used to detect water leaks around the house, in the roof, and in the basement whether it is from a plumbing leak or from the exterior through the foundation walls. It is also used in electrical inspection and is used to detect overloaded circuits or defective breakers.