Infrared and acoustic imaging...our future?

Been reading some amazing stuff about infrared imaging…
Looks like HomeSafe practically has a monopoly/lock on the market for the technology (?)
Was told today about someone suffering from mold probs…had mold samples taken…occupant was told by medical doctor: “Get outa there!”
Took sheetrock off wall…found small plumbing leak…no stains or outward signs whatsoever…
Sooo…since it appears that an infrared imager would likely have detected the otherwise invisible plumbing leak…
Not to mention that HomeSafe’s very pricey device can also detect otherwise invisible termites (with infrared coupled with acoustic detection)…
What’s your opinion?
Is infrared/acoustic going to be in all all of our bag of tools?

There is one gentleman who I feel could give us his openion that I have found exceptional educational . With a little luck he just might give us some thoughts .
Caoimhín P. Connell I and others would love for you to give us your thoughts . Thanks Roy Cooke

While the vendors will certainly spin the new wave of the future to include their expensive technology, other realties need to be observed and certain other questions need to be asked and answered.

Such as…is an IR photo of “behind the sheetrock” considered “intrusive”? In the illustration provided in the first post…with no outward signs of leaking or damage, to what extent can a home inspector stand behind a report to the contrary because of a blue spot in a photograph? What is his liability if he is wrong?..or if he misses a “blue spot”?

Is he still a “generalist”?

Operating these devices…properly (skill #1) and interpretting the photos…properly (skill #2)and reporting the results…properly (skill #3), will probably result in statements such as these:

“Infrared technology indicates what appears to be a cooler area than what would normally be expected at or near the water service line in shower. Recommend that it be evaluated and repaired, if necessary, by a qualified plumbing specialist.”

I fear that the home inspectors who rely upon real estate salesmen for referrals will find them less than thrilled over this new method of creating doubt, with no real definitive answers in a report, that could kill their deals.

When (and it is when not if, just waiting for the $$ timing to be right) I start doing IR work, I’ll make it a separate add on service with it’s own agreement that the customer signs. The agreement will clearly indicate that it will be a “best effort” basis with no guarantee of finding every hidden defect. As useful as it is, IR is not Superman’s X-ray vision and the client needs to be aware of it. That should also cover the “you had a tool that could have found the defect but did not use it” argument with a “Yes but the customer turned down that extra service and opted for a visual only inspection.”

Lots of HI’s are considering IR, let me set the record in perspective a little. I have had friends that purchased equipment that never made a return on their initial investment 3 yrs later.

For those of you that spin cartwheels over HVAC age, grounding and bonding on the same buss bar in a 100 yr. old house…

Keep away from IR for a while!
This thing is sooooo sensitive you can “see” the heat from a can light on the first floor through a tile floor on the second floor! Every GFCI is over 100 degrees F (is this a problem? No.). It looks like a nuclear melt down through an IR Camera! The biggest problem I am seeing is “where do you draw the line”? When is something too hot? There is no standard or standard of measurement that determines an “action level”.

Someone can touch a wall for .5 seconds and you can see it minutes later. You will see footprints on the floor where your client walked before you.

If you don’t know your stuff as a HI, the camera will not help you, it will HURT YOU.

You must change your way of thinking. You must see “IR”!
Just like in Black & White photography that sees only different amounts of “blue”, you must learn to see “heat”.

Today, IR is an investment in the future.
When you can tell a client that there is a covered can light that may shut off on thermal overload, and you saw this through your IR Camera, they will remember you when their best friend or family member buys their next house. These things don’t have to be fixed, but you can tell your client what to expect if it should!

You should be well established as a HI before looking into this field of work. You should be able to shell out $6k without blinking an eye. If you don’t get a return on the investment right now, it shouldn’t matter.

If you think you are going to find all those “moisture issues”, your not! This is probably the least effective scan you can use locate and evaluate. The IR camera is going to show you all kinds of things you never thought possible. But, you must be able to evaluate what you see with what is actually happening.

You are not going to be able to buy a camera and just jack up your prices and make the camera pay for it self and earn you a profit. You are going to have to “market through exposure”, which will “educate” your client base.

Plan carefully.

Great post think I will wait for a while .
I expect there will soon be lots on Ebay from What I read .
Just think a $8,00:00 camera for $2,500:00 sounds good to me

Sounds good…how does one make sure of the condition before puchase?

I know that infrared inspection and diagnostic services is a way of the future for home and building inspection, I’ve been doing it for 3 years. All of you made good points in your posts. For starters, I do not perform HI’s for real estate agents, they think of IR as a potential deal killer. I only work for sellers and buyers. I personally wouldn’t buy a house without having an IR scan performed now that I know it exists. I have found a multitude of problems that would have gone undetected and have gone in a routine visual inspection. HI’s account for only 10% of my business. I usually refer them out to someone if the home is older than 15 yrs. It just takes too long to perform both, and I feel that the less I perform home inspections b/c I’m busy doing IR scans, I’m not going to be as good a HI as someone who does 5-10/week. A true whole house IR scan takes 4-5 hours. You don’t just document colors and temp. differences. You need to verify w/ moisture meters, trips to attics possibly, assessing air infiltration points with a flow meter, and numerous other methods to answer findings. I still perform HI’s on homes that I feel I can perform both within a fair amount of time, but IR has taken me into so many other areas such as inspections of flat roofs, interior moisture scans, blower door energy audits, yearly,bi-yearly and quarterly contracts for IR scans of buildings and flat roofs for preventive maintenance, scans for restoration companies and insurance claims, and equine and livestock scans to detect injuries or ischemic areas on farm animals. The limits are endless, but you need to invest time and $$ into education, certification, and equipment. Buying someone elses camera used is tricky too. I bought one on ebay when I 1st started, I still have it. I bought another a year ago, and it died in 3 weeks. The repair cost was more than buying new.
I believe one day that an IR camera will be cheap enough NOT to have in your toolbox and the guys who have them will be getting the jobs. Homebuyers will not be limited by a visual inspection that could possibly miss something that the seller effectively hid. I lost count on the amounts of hidden damages that IR picked up that was not visible by the naked eye and a proficient inspector. That being said, I’ve also found things that IR was not able to detect. I always include a disclaimer and ROL statement in my reports, as mentioned by RDawes. Whichever route you choose, you have to decide where you want to go in your career and each opportunity opens you to ups and downs. -Len Melso

Thanks Len, good post.


I’am also looking into IR I don’t think there is much of this in NH, but I find interesting your statement on moisture detection, even after proper education on evaluation IR is not a good moisture detection device


I was scanning through the threads and I thought I’d chime in.

I purchased the FLIR B-CAM SD in May and I have been very impressed with it. I am an enviornmental inspector who also does residential home inspections so that was my main reason for doing so. I offer this service for residential inspections as part of my standard inspection and premium inspection, which are a step above my basic inspection. I have put up a few pictures on my website and am working on getting the text straightned out.


Here are fees from a local NACHI inspector’s website:
[FONT=Helvetica]Single family homes $250.00 [/FONT]
[FONT=Helvetica]Townhomes $200.00[/FONT]
[FONT=Helvetica]Condos $175.00[/FONT]
[FONT=Helvetica]Manufactured homes $250.00 [/FONT]
[FONT=Helvetica]Apartment buildings $300.00 for two units add’l units $100.00 ea.[/FONT]
Re-inspections $100.00
Home warranty inspections $175.00 [size=2]Mechanical systems only[/size]
203b Certifications $65.00 per certification
Pre-lease inspection $100.00
Thermal Imaging $150.00 [size=2]Heat loss scan, report and photos.[/size]
The home inspection fee includes a computer generated report that is printed on site, digital photos when requested, and **use of the INFRARED THERMAL IMAGING CAMERA. **Also the inspector will accompany the client on the final walk thru if a repair request was made to the seller, this is only done if repairs have been made to insure that the completed work was done correctly. If the inspector has to return to the property due to the utilities being off at the time of the initial inspection, a $100.00 re-inspection fee will be charged.

So, $450.00 for an inspection and imaging. Sounds kinda low for that amount of work.

Linas, whats your take on the locals?


It is a good device, but the testing must be under the right conditions, which are not always available during the time frame we do inspections. It is not always easy to determine what the anomaly is when it can not be accessed. Is it moisture, air infiltration/exfiltration, thermal bridging, a reflection?..

It seems that the majority of the intended uses have to do with moisture detection. There are so many more uses, and IR is more effective in many of these areas.

For example; how do you test an electric water heater to determine if both elements are working (Seeing only one element is on at any given time)? There is no question about it with an IR camera. A 1 second test as you walk by!
I have detected detached a/c air ducts in the crawlspace through the soil and foundation from the outside of the house!
Do the bathroom vents discharge to the outdoors? Just look for them.

Couldn’t agree more w/ Dave Anderson. I do a lot of my business as per weather reports and waiting for rain to perform a moisture scan. But with HI’s, this is where IR can get tricky. You perform an insp. on a certain date and all conditions for drying have been provided for the past 5 days, you may not see that hidden moisture spot b/c it’s now dry. Gotta put in those ROL (release of liability) statements and disclaimers in your agreement and report. When performing an IR scan during a HI, I thoroughly scan and moisture meter check all freshly painted areas, new wallpaper, and any araes that look suspicious or signs point to possible intrusion (clogged gutters, musty finished basement, etc.) I always explain to clients that possible moisture problems could show up at a later date and I offer a full re-scan of a home within one year for $100-150 depending on size. HI’s are more schedule sensitive d/t RE agents, sellers availability, etc. You cant tell them we need to schedule right after or during rain.

First off I know jack about acoustic so this only pertains to IR.

Become educated before you leap!

IR is not the end-all it is just another diagnostic tool that requires extensive training for proper end results.

Be sure you are willing to invest the time, money and this is the direction you want to take your business model.

ASNT Recommended Training for Level I Thermal / Infrared Testing
The following recommended course outline is from the ASNT (The American Society for Nondestructive Testing, Inc.) publication “Recommended Practice No. SNT-TC-1A”. This document is intended as a guideline for employers to establish their own written practice for the qualification and certification of nondestructive testing personal. It is not intended to be use as a strict specification. For more information as to SNT-TC-1A please contact the ASNT, 1711 Arlingate Lane, PO Box 28518 Columbus, Ohio 43228-0518.

Basic Thermal / Infrared Physics Course (10 / 8* Hours)

  1. The nature of heat - what is it and how is it measured / expressed?
  2. Instrumentation
  3. Scales and Conversions
  4. Temperature - what is it and how is it measured / expressed?
  5. Instrumentation
  6. Scales and conversions
  7. Heat Transfer Mode Familiarization
  8. Heat conduction fundamentals
  9. Fourier’s Law of heat conduction (concept)
  10. Conductivity / resistance basics
  11. Heat convection fundamentals
  12. Newton’s law of cooling (concept)
  13. Film coefficient / film resistance basics
  14. Heat radiation fundamentals
  15. Stefan - Boltzmann Law (concept)
  16. Emissivity / Absorptivity / Reflectivity / Transmissivity basics (Kirchhoff’s Law)
  17. Radiosity Concepts Familiarization
  18. Reflectivity
  19. Transmissivity
  20. Absorptivity
  21. Emissivity
  22. Infrared radiometry and imaging
  23. Spatial resolution concepts
  24. Field of view (FOV)
  25. Instantaneous field of view (IFOV) ref. ASTM E-1149
  26. Minimum resolvable temperature difference (MRTD) ref. ASTM E-1149, E-1213
  27. Spatial resolution for temperature measurement - the Split Response Function (SRF)
  28. Error potential in radiant measurements (and overview)

Basic Thermal / Infrared Operating Course (10 / 10* Hours)

  1. Introduction
  2. Thermography defined
  3. How Infrared imagers work
  4. Differences among imagers and alternative equipment
  5. Operation of infrared thermal imager
  6. selecting the best perspective
  7. Image area and lens selection for required details
  8. Optimizing the image
  9. Operation of support equipment for infrared surveys
  10. Checking Equipment Calibration with Blackbody References
  11. Infrared Image and Documentation Quality
  12. Elements of a good infrared Image
  13. Clarity (focus)
  14. Dynamic range of the image
  15. Recognizing and dealing with reflections
  16. Recognizing and dealing with spurious convection
  17. Recording
  18. Videotape
  19. Photographic images
  20. Video Photo cameras
  21. Digital recording
  22. Video printers
  23. Support Data Collection
  24. Environmental data
  25. Emissivity
  26. Measurement
  27. Estimation
  28. Surface modification
  29. Surface reference temperatures
  30. Identification and other

Basic Thermal / Infrared Applications Course (20 / 18* Hours)

  1. Detecting Thermal Anomalies Resulting from Differences in Thermal Resistance (Quasi Steady-State Heat Flow)
  2. Larger surface-to-ambient temperature differences
  3. Small surface-to-ambient temperature difference
  4. Detecting Thermal Anomalies Resulting From Differences in Thermal Capacitance, Using System or Environmental Heat Cycles.
  5. Detecting Thermal Anomalies Resulting from Differences in Physical state.
  6. Detecting Thermal Anomalies Resulting from Fluid Flow Problems
  7. Detecting Thermal Anomalies Resulting from Friction
  8. Detecting Thermal Anomalies Resulting from Non-homogeneous Exothermic or Endothermic Conditions
  9. Field Quantification of Point Temperatures
  10. Simple techniques for emissivity
  11. Typical (high emissivity) applications
  12. Special problems of low emissivity applications.

just wanted to thank David,Leonard & Barry for your advice and examples of use of this device, clearly the expense of the tool warrents proper education I think in the end it would be a good tool to add to the tool bag.I first seen one on this old house and they were useing it for heat loss detection.

And many thanks to all for all your replies and valuable comments/recommendations !!!
While it rather appears that IR and/or acoustic imaging might be inevitably be in our future…I think I shall do considerable more lookin’ before leapin’ !
Thanks to all !

Larry I did not mean to slight anyone, in my opinion there is great info here I was thanking these individuals for responding to a specific question, on a specific post, my apologies if I offended you

Larry I did not mean to slight anyone, in my opinion there is great info here I was thanking these individuals for responding to a specific question, on a specific post, my apologies if I offended you.