A certified home inspector checking a basement window at a home in Greeley, Colorado.

What is an IR test?

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What is an IR test?
by: Joshua Luttmer

IR testing or an infrared inspection involves using an advanced camera that can pick up infrared energy. To the untrained eye, the images might appear to let you see through walls, but that is not what it happening. An infrared camera is not equivalent to x-ray vision. That being said, the advantages to this technology over a traditional visual inspection are numerous.

How is infrared used for home inspections?

The primary benefit of the technology for a home inspector is to spot areas that have a temperature differential compared to the rest of the room. You might be asking yourself how that could be useful.

Temperature differentials or Delta-T occur for a few different reasons and not all of them are nefarious. Some of the reasons an inspector might spot a difference in temperature include:

  1. Air conditioning or heating vents inside of a wall or ceiling
  2. Fuel fired appliance exhaust pipes inside of walls
  3. Thermal reflections from metallic objects or smooth surfaces
  4. Overloaded electrical wiring in walls or at the outlets and panels
  5. Poor sealing around a window or door
  6. Lack of insulation in a ceiling or wall
  7. Thermal bridging between studs in a wall
  8. Hidden moisture intrusion from leaky roofs, pipes or toilet seals

While this wasn't a conclusive list, it goes to show that both normal conditions and serious defects can be found using thermal imaging. Infrared certified home inspectors are normally able to spot the differences between a thermal reflection and something more concerning. And being able to properly interpret the images is just as important as owning the expensive equipment and being able to take take the pictures. An untrained user of a thermal camera might misinterpret a normal condition for something highly serious and take unnecessary action based upon the flawed interpretation of the data. Either way, the thermal imaging gives a properly trained and certified inspector additional insight into every home home inspection they perform.

Cost and benefit of an infrared inspection

It is not uncommon for home inspectors to charge extra to include infrared imaging in their home inspection reports. And while it would make sense to pay for the added benefits because they are so numerous, you might be better off finding an inspector that includes infrared imaging on all of their home inspections without the additional fee. Caliber Inspections believes that the added benefit for the client is worth the extra time and effort of conducting an infrared inspection of all common problem areas as part of our standard inspection practices.

Now to the important part that we must explain. Even a highly advanced home inspection using thermal imaging isn't going to necessarily spot every defect that a home may currently have. The technology has its limits and infrared is still a non-invasive, visual only method of conducting an inspection. No home inspector is infallible and you must always remember that a home inspection is just a snapshot in time. While the infrared camera may be able to spot a roof leak if it has rained recently and there is still moisture present, if the moisture has already dried up the camera is not going to be able see it.

Overall, the the added benefit of infrared technology used by your certified home inspector will provide you with a more useful and actionable report that can put your mind just a little bit more at ease.

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