There is not a more powerful tool available to a home inspector than a professional grade Infrared Camera. That is, IF an inspector has had proper training on camera operation, and has a good understanding of building construction and the science of heat transfer. Inspecting buildings can be a very challenging task as it’s mostly visual and non-invasive/destructive. The bulk of the structure and its systems are concealed behind building materials and finishes. It never ceases to amaze us how much we stumble upon when utilizing thermal imaging that would not have been visible to the naked eye at that moment. While conditions may not always be conducive to the discovery of thermal anomalies, when they are, an infrared camera is invaluable. We’ll go a lot more in depth about the science, theory and real world application of thermography in future blog posts, but thought we’d take a minute to show some recent examples of unexpected discoveries.

Infrared Camera View of Yellow Jackets inside a wall

During the interior portion of a home inspection, using an infrared camera, a ‘warm’ spot was observed in an area of wall where there shouldn’t have been one. After going to the exterior of the house for further inspection, the same thermal anomaly was present (and slightly larger). After watching for several minutes, we saw a single yellow jacket emerge from a break in the caulk between the siding and cinder block. This led us to suspect there was a decent size nest inside the wall cavity. The third photo was supplied to us by the contractor after an exterminator had visited and they opened the wall up.

Interior Thermal Imaging Home Inspection

The bright spot in the center of the screen indicates the area of highest heat. The darker lines that form the trapezoid shape around it is the wood framing.

infrared camera image from Home Inspection

From the outside, the dark colored dots are the nails attaching the siding to the studs, the large warm (white/yellow) spot was the nest. Note the heat signature goes almost across the full wall cavity from the outside.

yellow jacket nest discovered during home inspection

This photo of the yellow jacket nest was sent to us after an exterminator had treated the nest and a contractor opened the wall to remove and check for further damage.

Infrared Camera View of Hot Water Line Slab Leak

We were conducting an inspection of a home after a substantial renovation project was completed and before the homeowners moved back in. The second floor of this home had several bathrooms that had been gutted and refinished and after operating the bath fixtures for an extended period of time, we grabbed the infrared camera and made our way downstairs with the intention of scanning the ceiling for possible plumbing leaks from above. To our surprise when we came off the staircase we noticed a warm spot on the floor which we realized was actually a slab leak from the hot water line below.

infrared camera image, Tallahassee home inspector

Due to the large warm area in the middle of a tiled room, a hot water slab leak was evident/suspected upon first glance.

Thermal imager inspection of home

By manually adjusting the span, the area in which the leak is most likely located ‘shrinks’ and is easier to pinpoint.

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