Thermal Imaging

What is an Infrared Thermography?

Infrared thermography detects infrared energy (heat) emitted from an object and converts it into an electronic signal. Signals are then converted to temperature (infrared energy emitted from an object is directly proportional to its temperature), and displays images of temperature distribution, creating visual images of heat. These images are then read by a non-contact camera.

What is an infrared (IR) camera used for?

Infrared sensors are used in a wide variety of applications and can be used in any situation that requires thermal energy detection. An infrared inspection can identify and document moisture intrusion, energy loss, and hot spots. See the pictures below (left): A hot spot was discovered in an electrical panel. On the right: A cold spot due to evaporation revealed a moisture issue.

 

Below: The IR camera identified a cold spot (missing insulation) that the visible eye couldn’t see.

 

In terms of energy loss, an IR camera can detect:

  • heat loss and air infiltration in walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors;
  • damaged and/or malfunctioning radiant heating systems;
  • air-conditioner compressor leaks;
  • broken seals in double-paned windows; and
  • missing or low insulation levels in walls.

In terms of detecting moisture intrusion, an IR camera can locate:

  • plumbing leaks;
  • hidden roof leaks before they cause serious damage;
  • wet insulation; and
  • water and moisture intrusion around penetrations and at the foundation and building envelope that could lead to structural damage and mold.

IR cameras are equally effective at locating hot spots in the home, including:

  • circuit breakers in need of immediate replacement;
  • overloaded and undersized circuits;
  • overheated electrical equipment and components;
  • electrical faults before they cause a fire; and
  • dangerous flue leaks, which can lead to carbon monoxide buildup.

What are the Advantages?

  • Discovery of where heat loss is occurring;
  • Walls and ceilings are examined in a non-invasive and non-destructive testing;
  • It’s time-saving, it allows for larger areas to be examined quickly;
  • It allows examination of areas that are not visible to the naked eye;
  • It allows examination of areas that are difficult to access, such as tall ceilings;
  • It helps locate sources of moisture intrusion;
  • It helps determine the extent of moisture intrusion;
  • It allows the user to trace the moisture intrusion through other affected areas; and
  • It provides visual documentation of moisture intrusion.

What are the Disadvantages & Limitations?

  • They are incapable of distinguishing between objects that expose similar thermal energy levels;
  • Thermal energy can be reflected off shiny surfaces such as polished metal and glass and so many factors can affect the apparent temperature and thermal imaging. Proper setting and knowledge of an IR camera is essential;
  • An IR camera should be operated by a trained thermographer with building science knowledge;
  • IR cameras cannot see through walls. IR cameras are often to be used with other instruments such as a borescope, moisture meter, multimeter or blueprint drawing of the building to confirm what and if a problem exists;
  • Because thermal imaging uses temperature differences as an image, weather can sometimes be a challenge for a variety building problems (i.e. roof leaks and heat loss). It is better suited to be used in colder months when there is a greater difference between inside and outside temperatures. During the warmer season, thermography is more effective at night when temperatures drop. Taking infrared thermal images outside on a hot day or at night when it’s raining is also not recommended.

Thermal Imaging Services:

  • We can offer the service as a standalone or in combination with the energy evaluation service. Prices will vary according to required tests. Contact us for more information.