Infrared Electric Inspections

I’m will be attending an infrared workshop put on by a supplier of infrared equipment next month. Do you have any advice on what I should be looking for and what questions to ask them?

Who is the supplier? Although every supplier has their “school” Flir does keep theirs separate under the name of ITC. I took my original certification with ITC and liked it very much. I have also attended courses with Snell Infrared and like their style and community a whole lot. Beware of 1 day seminars they are really not a good idea. Short refresher courses are ok.

In my humble opinion Fluke with IR-Fusion and Flir are my favorites.

How much training do you think an inspector should get before actually using this technology in the field. (liability question I guess) I bet there is a huge learning curve as to interpreting the images. Like you mentioned before, test panels under load, not on exterior walls, etc. Your thoughts?

Has anyone seen/used the Fluke Ti20?

Not to change the subject or anything, but while we’re talking about service panel temps, what would be an average temperature using a Fluke infrared laser spot thermometer?

There is a huge learning curve like you said. My initial training was a three day course. After the first month of use you actually have more questions than answers and I will say that after the first year you know which questions to ask (or at least how to ask). It is a different language with many variable depending on what you are doing, where and why.

Having said this and of course we are all different you may be able to get over the initial learning curve sooner than I did there is only one way to get over it and that is camera in hand and your commitment. As you play with the camera you will understand many of the things that you initially sort of heard in class but because it was a new language you could not quite get it.

My recommendations are taking a course on building thermography and approximately one year later follow that course with Thermography Level 1. Then taking a few short courses after that such as electric, mechanical etc. There are a few one day courses which I do not recommend unless and until you have a good foundation. There is just too much ground to cover.

I just completed a medium size job at the St Pete / Clearwater Airport and let me tell you so many things became apparent that I had learned in class but that I had not had the opportunity to get my hands on. On the other hand this opportunity allows me to put one more thing in my bag of tricks to become even more successful at it.

Personally I am not partial with Fluke. They sub their cameras out, their camera resolution is very low (important), their quality is somewhat questionable and at least in the past they were quick to offer factory seconds.

Having said this I have had the Ti20 in my hand and it felt very good. Compare features and resolution and what ever you do stay away from the “Drill Cam” by Fluke.

By the way is there not a saying that goes “it was just a
? :slight_smile:

A couple of other things I recommend on a camera is
1- Instant viewer (play back your images on site)
2- Radiometric capabilities, which means the information that gets stored with the image and you can access later. This is a good idea because once you have it you will use it and besides expands the possibilities to do other type of work.

Steven, It is not the temp you are looking for, it is the differential.

An outdoor panel may be 110 degrees in AZ. -40 in AK.
Just look for substantial changes throughout the panel.

What do you like?

Me too.

Retraction- I said this without given it much thought however I need to clarify something. Early this year I met with the engineer responsible for the design of Fluke’s IR Fusion and was very impressed with him and some of the technology that they are employing.

I have never been partial to their “drill” cam which looks like a drill but I like their Flexcam series and in particular their IR Fusion. It has some great features and the ergonomics are very good. Resolution could be better but so will the price and they are no less than FLIR.

This doesn’t pertain to electrical but does pertain to thermal imaging and its use (benefits) during home inspections. Attached is a picture of a ceiling stain in a living room of a ‘furnished’ home.

What would your report say on this picture based on the following information;

  1. House is completely furnished
  2. Sofa and coffee table located directly below the stain at an exterior wall. You would have to move the furniture or climb on it to test it with a moisture meter.
  3. Owner states that the stain was old caused from a water pipe leak within the attic.
  4. Other stains visible throughout the home some were painted over but still visible if you looked hard enough and again owner states all the stains were from an old water pipe leak. Owner stated none of the leaks were active.

I’ll post additional photos and findings after everyone has had a chance to reply/think about this one.


Joe, I carry what I call a lazy stick. It is an expandable stick (I purcahsed it at a boat store and it is use to reach the boat lines when you are docking) at the end I clamp my moisture detector and I am able to reach about 20 feet away. It sure beats walking out of the house not knowing. I really think you have to do your best to corroborate the homweoner’s “story” but if there is nothing else you can do flag it and let them know all the information you have and give them options. Personally one I give them is “move the furniture and I will come back to check that spot with my ladder at no additional cost” but that is me.

Interesting Jose…I would like to see a picture of this stick and particularly, how the meter is attached to it.

that little vee groove makes me think this is a homosote structural roof panel, spiked to the beam top? Yes, NO, maybe? Ok, lets see the infrared view!

Doesn’t seem to be much interest in this but for those that responded, here’s the scoop.

There was no attic in this home, which I immediately became suspicious when the owner told me the leaks were from a pipe burst in the attic. The home had a low sloped tar & gravel roof, with an open beam ceiling.

After the inspection was completed, I pulled out the infrared camera. The owner asked me what the camera was for and when I explained to him what it was and what it could do, he replied with “that’s cheating”. The look on the homeowners face was priceless.

I started at the back of the home and hit all the painted over stains on the ceiling. All were dry except for the one in the picture above. Below is the infrared picture. One thing nice about infrared, is that you scan an entire home quickly. With a moisture meter it would take you hours and hours if not days to complete. Moisture can remain in insulation for years and never show its head on the surface, yet thermal imaging can detect it.

In this case, I did not have to waste anyone’s time. I didn’t have to ask the owner to move furniture nor did I have to go back after it was moved to test it. An active leak was reported which I contributed to improperly flashed chimney. I was able to inform my client that no other stains were actively leaking or found.

This past weekend I was called to a 2.5 million custom home to find the source of a leak, which was noticed during an open house. The couple touring the home had removed their shoes and noticed the carpet was wet. it took me about 30 minutes to find the cause, a leaking toilet from a wax ring. I was able to show the builder the thermal patterns under the floor tile and the direction the water had traveled into the media room. The plumber was there on site and swore that the toilet was not leaking. Thermal imaging proved otherwise. The builder was stressed, having recently installed a mirror above the vanity and suspected that the screws used may have hit a water line within the wall. Saved the builder time and money. The owner of the plumbing company called me and asked for business cards. He scheduled an appointment this evening to try and find a leak in an irrigation system that their tick tracer could not locate. The possibilities are out there for infrared technology.




I have looked at the IR cams, and I must say I am interested. I do, however, feel that while thay do give an inspector an advantage to see moisture areas within walls and the like, at what point in time do we ‘revert’ to our work being both generalist, and visual only?

Another concern, say you just happen to miss one spot that creates a lawsuit/claim… I feel that it would be rather easy to shoot yourself in the foot.

Thanks Joe great Info gives us food for thought .
I wonder how you charge extra for the camera on an inspection .
Do you use it on all inspections .
Having the camera when you do an would be hard to leave it in the car.
Roy Cooke

I have several options/packages that I offer clients with different fees for each. I offer interior walls floors and ceiling scans, wet rooms scans (kitchen, laundry, bathrooms), Insulation scans on new homes, whole house scans and specific location scans. My minimum is $99.00 for a specific location scan and must be done during the original home inspection. Separately for a specific location scan such as the earlier post where I went to track down the plumbing leak, my fee was $225.00 (without producing a report) $350.00 with a report.

" I have looked at the IR cams, and I must say I am interested. I do, however, feel that while they do give an inspector an advantage to see moisture areas within walls and the like, at what point in time do we ‘revert’ to our work being both generalist, and visual only?"

This is a personal and business decision that each of us have to make. From a liability stand point, I feel much more protected when I use the camera.

To clarify, the camera does not see moisture inside walls. The camera detects thermal anomolies or temperature differences on the surface. When you see an anomolie with the camera, you must investigate it further to find out what is causing the temperature difference. Is there missing insulation in the wall at that location? is there shade on the outside of the home that is causing the temperature difference? Is there a leak? Is there a void in the exterior wall that is allowing the wind to enter the wall cavity and alter the temperature? It could be any number of things.

“Another concern, say you just happen to miss one spot that creates a lawsuit/claim… I feel that it would be rather easy to shoot yourself in the foot.”

Here’s a hypothetical situation. Let’s say for example during the course of a standard home inspection in the middle of winter, the inside of the home has been freshly painted. No visible signs of moisture or staining. You might make a note in your report that the home has been freshly painted (I always do). Two months later, buyers move in and calls you complaining of a ceiling stain that you didn’t document. Now it’s your word against theirs. Roofer comes out, finds a roof leak and says your inspector should of caught that. Buyer wants you to pay for $3500.00 in repairs. So you fall back on “Limited visual inspection” or “Standard inspection”, to keep you from paying. You may win, you may lose, you may settle, either way it cost you money and time. A chance we all take.

To protect myself further, in my contract, the client has an option of having a thermal imaging inspection. If they refuse the option they must initial saying they refuse it. The clients were explained to the benefits of thermal imaging and they refused the service. They had the option and knew the capabilities. It was their decision NOT to have the inspection. It’s sort of like buying a used car and they offer you the extended warranty and you initial saying you don’t want it. Pretty tough to go back after the warranty has expired and ask for repairs or damages. I don’t think any judge is going to find in your favor.

If the client hires me for instance to perform a wet rooms scan (Bathrooms, laundry, kitchen), I take pictures with the digital camera and thermal imaging camera of every wall ceiling and floor of every room contracted for, whether I find anything or not. A year from now, I can open up the pictures and tell you the temperatures at every location. Should the client/attorney then say I should of saw that moisture, I can reply with “what moisture? it wasn’t wet when I scanned it, here’s my proof… Prove me wrong”.

Roy, I take it with me on all inspections. Never leave it in the car, it might not be there when you come out! Good luck trying to find insurance for the camera, one of the drawbacks to owning one.