We need first to understand what is Infrared Thermography (IRT) and its limitations. While IRT does not give inspectors X-Ray vision or capability to see through walls, it is a handy tool in detecting anomalies through infrared energy.
Many environmental factors can affect infrared energy and the use of thermal imaging. Thermal imaging is not bulletproof, however under many circumstances may assist in uncovering anomalies such as moisture trapped in a wall due to a roof leak, pipe leak, siding issue, flashing problem, or many other reasons typically not readily visible to the naked eye.
Infrared cameras detect thermal infrared emissions. The infrared thermal emission from sheetrock which is wet, may look much different using IRT than sheetrock which is not wet.
The image below on the left depicts a corner and ceiling of a room using normal photography. In contrast, the image on the right is the same room utilizing IRT. In the image to the left, the naked eye sees the ceiling and walls free of any defects; however, the IRT image shows a drastically different view which warrants further investigation.
In this particular instance, there was a leak in the roof of this home above the corner.
The naked eye typically sees this as a perfectly normal room with clean and dry sheetrock on both the walls and the ceiling. However, the darker purple areas indicate a possible moisture intrusion through the infrared camera since the ceiling above has a much different infrared energy emission.
Infrared Thermography can potentially reveal many other issues, including:
• Moisture intrusion into walls, floors, insulation, and many other systems. Many consumers don’t realize water and moisture are a home’s number 1 enemy. Moisture can lead to wood rot, mold, termites, foundation issues, and costly repairs, to name a few. • Overloaded electrical systems could potentially overheat and lead to fires. • Potential defects with the HVAC system. IRT, under some conditions, may spot leaks around vents, ducts, moisture build-up, drastic temperature variations in the home, and more. • Air-leaks or abnormalities in heat flowing out of a building, including failed window seals, leaky doors, or many other areas which may have air-leakage. • Possible leaks or defects with the roof causing water penetration issues. • Insulation missing or deficient in sheet rocked walls and other areas which the naked eye cannot see.
Images compliments of InterNACHI.