Why Thermal Imaging Has No Place in The Home Inspection Industry
It has been asked many times if we use Thermal Imaging – Infrared cameras during our home inspections? The answer is absolutely not, and here’s why.
Home inspectors who use Thermal Imaging – Infrared Cameras are placing a huge amount of liability on themselves and run the risk of being wrong when describing their findings. By definition, a home inspection is an examination of all of the visible and accessible areas of a home. Anything more is NOT within a home inspectors realm.
Do not be fooled by those offering gimmicky “high tech” inspections such as infrared thermal imaging. While the makers of these cameras market heavily to home inspectors, thermal imaging is well known to those in the know in the inspection industry as being inconclusive.
As professional home inspectors, we are always seeking the most sophisticated and reputable tools for all of your home inspection needs. It would however be extremely difficult for us or any other reputable home inspector to rely on thermal imaging cameras in our everyday home inspections. That is why we don’t. The results are inconclusive and many times confusing especially when dealing with areas of moisture or insulation. Home inspectors cannot in all honesty use theses devices and recommend the removal of finished walls, floors, ceilings and etc. when we cannot even be 50% sure that these areas are indeed affected by moisture or insulation defects.
In the past 10 years or so thermal imaging cameras have been highly touted as the magic wand to see moisture behind walls, floors and ceilings, missing or displaced insulation etc. It is important to realize that these claims are coming directly from the manufacturers of these cameras. Although, it is true that these cameras have a very small place in potentially identifying problem areas that cannot be seen with the naked eye, there are some very serious issues with relying on the results from these devices during a home inspection.
It is a fact that thermal imaging – infrared cameras can detect temperature variations behind finished materials. The problem arises when home inspectors come up with “cold” spots in their thermal imaging results. What are they to say about these results? “Found basement low temperature variation between the basement drywall and foundation recommend removing the entire interior basement wall to inspect for moisture and possible mold”? The fact is that no legitimate home inspector can say exactly why there is a temperature variation.
There is no way for a home inspector to 100% positively conclude that there is an issue present in an area scanned by a thermal imaging camera until the finished wall/ceiling/floor materials are completely removed. This puts the inspector using the infrared camera in the precarious position of guess work and ultimately relying on the visible on site conditions to make a determination. If an infrared camera turns up that there are possible issues behind the basement drywall, what can one say when a basement is completely dry, all the walls are sealed tight and there is no visible evidence of any defects? What can a home inspector say if there was evidence of moisture on the basement drywall and the thermal imaging camera came back with “cold” spots in that area? Mr & Mrs Client we recommend that you tear down this wall?
Although, some clients may think it is appealing to receive thermal imaging photos of their house in their home inspection report, they will not be the least bit enthusiastic when they tear down a wall only to find no evidence of any defects.