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What is Thermal Imaging?


What is thermal imaging?

Heat gives off infrared light, which is on the part of the electromagnetic spectrum that isn’t visible to the naked eye. A thermal (or infrared) imaging device translates thermal energy — that is, heat — into visible light. 

Thermal cameras take pictures of heat in the same way that your smartphone or camera takes pictures of visible light. Since thermal cameras ignore the visible light portion of the spectrum, their results aren’t hindered by solid obstacles like walls, roof beams, or bulky furniture. 

 The relative results appear on photos as colors:

  • Purple for cool temperatures

  • Red for medium temperatures

  • Yellow for hot temperatures

What thermal imaging is NOT

You’ll notice that the above section didn’t mention that thermal imaging allows you to “see through walls.” That’s because even though thermal imaging technology feels like something out of a futuristic sci-fi movie, it’s important to remember that thermal imaging is not the same as x-ray vision. It’s a visual, surface-level inspection that simply translates heat into the visible spectrum. 

That isn’t to say thermal imaging won’t help you get an idea of unseen issues; however, the only issues that will show up are ones that relate to heat discrepancies

Why do we use Thermal Imaging at Bravura Inspection Services?

Although not every home inspector chooses to invest in infrared imaging equipment, we at Bravura Inspection Services felt there were many benefits to adding this service to every home inspection.

Using a thermal imaging scan can help us detect small anomalies related to heat, whether they be too hot or too cold, such as:

  • Plumbing leaks — Using infrared imaging, we might be able to spot the location of a leak before the homeowner or plumber knocks holes in walls to find it.

  • Water damage — The thermal imaging scan should reveal a temperature difference between wet and dry areas in a home’s walls, ceilings, and floors. This is because moisture adds thermal mass to an area, causing it to hold onto heat longer than its drier surroundings.

  • Hidden roof leaks — Thermal imaging cameras can create a detailed image of the roof, indicating the areas where moisture is trapped. This is a sign of the source of a leak or where there may be compromised insulation. These infrared images can quickly narrow the search for roof leaks without having to damage or puncture the roof.

  • Electrical issues — An infrared scan can locate hotspots indicating overloaded circuits, old circuit breakers, electrical faults, and overheated electrical equipment.

  • Missing or damaged insulation — Since insulation’s role is to insulate heat in the home, a thermal scan should show any spots where the material is missing or no longer doing its job.

  • Pest infestations —  Significant, active infestations of termites, rodents, and other pests produce visible heat that a thermal imaging device should capture.

  • Energy loss — A thermal imaging scan will detect and pinpoint losses of energy caused by a leaking air conditioning or heating system, structural defects, or broken window seals.

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