Is FLIR infared imaging the future wave of Home Inspections?

What do you guys think?

Will FLIR be used by most inspectors in a few years, decade? when…
The capability of this equipment is great…Can you imagine how many more defects will be seen and reported on, can you imagine the look on realtors faces when they know you are using a FLIR type system…

I really think every inspector in the future will have one, and I think that the cost of the equipment will come down a few thousand… eventually, once there are more competing manufacturers and higher demand…

Anyone use FLIR right now? What changes and impacts has it made to your inspection business?

Share with us…


I don’t think this will ever be a big hit with inspectors. I’m assuming the use of this equipment will take our current level of liability as an inspector to the extreme.

Erol Kartal

I see this train of thought a lot. How does one come to this perception?

Granted, my state home inspection law says that I’m not required to report on anything that I can not see during daylight conditions or with a flashlight. I guess that pretty much covers it. However, every complaint and potential lawsuit which I have encountered was the result of latent deficiencies which could not be seen in the day light or with a flashlight. Over the years, I have added test equipment to my entourage as I am a gadget guru! :-). I must report that with all these gadgets that I currently use, I have received no complaints of any type for quite a long while. When a client complained about the damage below a loose toilet which I reported, which I could not observe from the crawlspace below due to air duct clearance issues, I purchased a moisture meter. Loose toilets are no longer a problem. Through the use of infrared thermometers, I have detected hundreds of potential electric fires on a yearly basis.

Infrared thermometers and moisture meters are what infrared photography replaces as an initial scan device. They should be utilized after detection as a follow-up, so the camera does not delete the need for these test devices.

Some people don’t like using digital cameras because there might be some deficiency in the digital picture and increases their liability! If you are not competent enough as an inspector to identify deficiencies that might be in a photograph, it is not recommended that you extend your endeavors into the thermal imaging field.

I guess some people feel if you have thermal imaging equipment you are then going to be expected to find everything deficient in the home. This is an unsubstantiated point of view. The use of highly advanced equipment in criminal investigations requires a competent investigator to explain the procedure and use of this equipment, however once accepted highly specialized fields such as DNA identification becomes an accepted (and has become an “expected”) norm by the court.

Using more than a flashlight (as required by state law) would appear to me that the home inspector is attempting to identify latent defects more diligently in an inspector that sits back and says I only need a flashlight to do my job and you can’t do anything to me because I’m limiting myself. As time passes on , home inspectors are going to be considered more professional and experts in their fields. You don’t have a choice in this matter. Just like licensing, you’re going to be forced to become a professional, to use tools available to you to perform your job. You’ll be expected in the future to locate latent defects. Today in our socialist state home inspection laws, the state is only scratching the surface. The state says you are not required to do any testing beyond the use of a flashlight. If you use a bigger flashlight rather than a smaller flashlight are you expected to find more?

You do increase your liability when you improperly utilized the test equipment available to you. I’ve read a post the other day about someone using a suretest which was identifying a false ground. It is obvious that the inspector did not read the very small instruction booklet that accompanies the suretest. This is the liability that you will encounter, not knowing how to use your test equipment.

Nick posted a thermal imaging thread which had numerous photographs attached. They were good explanations as to how the camera worked, however there were photographs where reflective radiant heat from an adjacent water heater was being detected. Pictures of AFCI breakers in an electric panel are always going to show as hot spots. Interpretation of the collected data is crucial and reporting a false ground with a sure test or improperly recommending further evaluation of hot AFCI breakers may fall upon the liability of the home inspector when it is found that the devices are operating as intended. As in any aspect of home inspection, the home inspector must understand what he is looking at. Regardless of what you are looking through, you must understand what you’re looking at and should report the conditions accurately.

As we have discussed in great detail, taking temperature splits on HVAC equipment is inconclusive and you are just as liable here as in any other circumstance. Before you start taking temp readings, you must understand what you are testing.

I have never received a complaint from a client for the use of equipment, more than a flashlight. I have received complaints where Thermal Imaging would have saved my a$$. I unfortunately do not have one yet.

New high technology is not for everyone.
It is probably not a good thing for all inspectors to be required to use.
Not too many years ago, it was very difficult for some people to sit down in front of a computer. Now everyone uses computers whether they like it or not. They have no choice. You can’t get money out of the ATM without knowing computers. Our kids can operate computers better than we can! Is that an indication that the future home inspectors will be running around with thermal imaging equipment to do home inspections? Most likely! You can be in front of the wave taking a ride or just sit on your surfboard and watch the view.

For me, its not so much a liability question as a question of ecomonics.

I have yet to see anyone of the few I know who use them who are able to market them effectively.

It is an expensive toy at this stage. One I would love to try, but can’t justify the outlay for when I can’t find any evidence that anyone is marketing this single aspect with any verifiable success.

No facts to base my liability theory on. But if you have a tool that is suppose to detect moisture in interior walls and you miss some what happens next? I don’t see how an inspection agreement protects you with this. It either detects all the hidden moisture or it doesn’t. You can’t say it detects most of it. Personally I think it’s a fine tool, just a preference not to use one.

Erol Kartal :wink:

Someone has got to prove that you missed it.

An inspection agreement doesn’t protect you from much of anything anyway!

It is able to detect a whole lot more than your capable of with your flashlight! So, what’s the point? Nothing is perfect. Deciphering the information provided by the instrument is up to the inspector and there is always room for error. There is no positive in anything (to include your pre-inspection agreement).

If you think that a pre-inspection agreement protects you very much you are grossly mistaken and will be awoken abruptly someday in the near future by a court summons.

Currently the cost of this technology is way above the amount of money that we make from a home inspection. However, a few home inspectors will evolve in time.

The primary cause of mold is moisture. I would venture to say that thermal imaging is capable of producing more results in the mediation of mold than any other testing procedure available. It doesn’t really matter if mold is present or not because it is in every house out there. It doesn’t really matter what type of mold it is because if there are conditions conducive to the spreading of mold, it doesn’t matter what type of testing you to or what type of remediation occurs, if you don’t get rid of the moisture you won’t get rid of the mold.

To slam the cost of thermal imaging, just because you can’t afford it does not justify saying that the technology will not take hold. Remaining in the dark ages with your flashlight will only keep home inspectors one step above bankruptcy. Mark my words, those young kids will pass you by!

I have only been in this business for a couple of months but I have an infrared camera. So what were my reasons for buying one?

  • It allows me to differentiate myself from others who do not have such a device.
  • It is a tool that allows me to see what would otherwise be invisible. I believe that tools are a key to success in any business.
  • I have an engineering background and I am comfortable with instrumentation, having used it all my working life.

The question of ROI played on my mind before I bought the camera but in the end I decided that it was not so much how I got money back but more how I could differentiate my working practices to potential clients. I am not sure it will not be possible to charge more just because I have one but I can find more with it.

I completed my first paid inspection the other day on a 2860 sq ft home with a pool and spa. Scanning the breakers I found one to be hot. The breaker fed the pool pump and on checking it out, I found it had a broken gasket and leaked water. Now it is true I would have found the leaky pump anyway but there are many other faults that occur in pumps that it would not be so easy to see with a visual inspection.

Finally, I do not think you need such a device to be effective and many experienced inspectors prove that on a daily basis. I just feel it helps me use previous knowledge more effectively for my client.

Excuse me? Where did I slam the cost of a thermal inspection? If you want to promote the he** out of thermal inspecting then just do so!! I can’t afford the camera? Come see my new home some day.

I have been using mine for over 6 months now. I even wrote a course for it that will, shortly, be submitted for Illinois State CE approval.

I use it on almost every inspection, mostly to cover my tender end.

  1. I have seen water intrusion behind walls, usually below badly flashed windows. NOTE: Whenever I see something like that I ALWAYS re-test with a TRAMEX so as to have 2 different and independent measurements. But it is great for doing a quick survey to find trouble areas.
  2. I have found attic HVAC vents that are not insulated properly and the humid attic air is condensing onto the ceiling.
  3. I have seen electrical problems (hot breakers, improper connections in junction boxes, etc).
  4. I ALWAYS use it to scan a crawlspace, looking for critters.
  5. EIFS inspection, wooden siding inspection.
  6. Helps to identify areas where mold may be present.
  7. Scan an attic looking for areas of heightened moisture in the decking or for areas that are leaking.
    I have found that, rather than increasing my liability, it actually lowers it because I find things that I would not (maybe) have found otherwise AND that my missing these could lead to litigation. Sure, our inspections are supposed to be visual only, but a smart lawyer can always find a way. I would rather avoid problems early.

Just my two cents.

I Think It Is A Necessary Evil For Our Business

You Can Find Problems And Notify Owners To Look Further
And Build Clients Where They Do Not Exist Now

Thank you Will. I did not realize they were gaining in popularity. I had a very well known inspector tell me that he never takes his TIFF gas detector out of his bag unless he smells gas. When I asked why he just didn’t test all the gas lines and appliances, he said that if he did and missed a leak then something happened he would be liable. If he didn’t test the lines and appliances he would not be liable.

That’s the analogy I was trying to use with the FLIR. Couldn’t care less who uses them. :twisted: :wink:

Erol Kartal

If we miss a leak , we are liable anyway!
If you use the equipment as it is designed, you have a better chance of detecting the deficiency than if you didn’t use the equipment. I don’t know where this liability concern comes from.
If you miss a deficiency you are liable. If you use special equipment and miss the deficiency, you are more liable?

Great feedback and posts from everyone… all feedback is great! Here’s another avenue…

Yes, the FLIR tool could be used for scanning for problem areas… however relating back to the GAS SNIFFER… I recommend that the GAS UTILITY COMPANY perform a gas safety inspection before the close of escrow on all my properties I inspect that are served with GAS.

Since our profession does not claim responsibility for latent defects… It may be an option in our Reports to state that we recommend a house be “SCANNED” by a specialist with FLIR TECHNOLOGY to find additional defects that could not be seen during the inspection… It is passing on the responsibility, but it is definitley a technology that is highly specialized…

I would not have a problem buying the FLIR, if customers were willing to help PAY FOR IT… the average home inspection fee does not warrant the cost of the tool… If I was being paid an average of $1,000 for an average home, and expected more liability for not finding latent defects… then I would buy one today! But people always want MORE SERVICE for LESS PAY… and can you imagine the AGENTS, and the PRICE SHOPPERS… they sure would be squealing… ha!

I agree that they are useful.

I rate all equipment on their relative practicailty, necessity, and cost then compare it to the potential for return on investment. For this reason, I did not buy a stinger flashlight, I got a rechargable $20 1M candlepower spotlight. For this same reason, I have specific model digital cameras I buy.

Instances where the usefulness or necessity mandated the purchase include inspection software. It was just much faster to adapt someone else’s program to my needs than it was to write my own.

The tablet PC was expensive but the time and convenience it provides (plus expanded use vs a Pocket PC) was worth the expense.

In this instance, while I have heard that they have helped inspectors identify problems, and can expose potenitally hidden issues(which are excluded in non-ionvasive inspections),plus they are very cool - I do not see where the use of one will justify the cost at this time.

That’s not me crying poorhouse - it’s a simple cost-benefit analysis for a business in growth stages. This is a time frame where resources are better spent on marketing. Ancillary services that can be effectively marketed to generate money (like mold, etc) are something I value right now. This has the potneital to be one of those services/features, but I am curious as to why (if it is so great) no one has any evidence of being able to successfully market it as such.

I totally agree!
Marketing part of this technology remains to be seen.
However, after looking at $14,000 lawsuit in comparison to thermal imaging, you may get a positive return on your investment!

A thread on marketing attempts for thermal imaging may be helpful here by those who have the equipment.

I had considered that if I had the thermal imaging option during my inspection, that locating certain deficiencies which would greatly benefit from thermal imaging be presented to the client at that time for a further investigation type inspection. For example, if you have a loose toilet and you are doing a basic home inspection for $195, I will not pull out my moisture meter , (which cost more than the inspection fee!) Unless the client is willing to add this service. I just mention that it’s loose and recommend further evaluation by a plumber for $75 an hour. Or they can pay me $35 to do a moisture scan ($195 plus $35 equals $230, hummm now we’re starting to get back where we belong).

I frequently use additional test equipment for my own personal information but I refuse to place the information in a written report. I am not going to carry the liability for that diagnostic for free.

The services we provide a relevant to what the client wants to know.
When the client asks how much the home inspection will be (which is occurring more often recently for some reason) I ask them how much they want to know about their house. State regulations say that home inspections only need to report on items which can be visually seen in the daylight or with the use of a flashlight. Inspection prices increase as the technology increases. If they can’t understand that, I’ll pass on the liability of inspection to someone else.

I would also consider adding to the report that thermal imaging (or any other ancillary testing service) was available but declined by the client in the event of any moisture staining or indication of overheated electrical service etc. Instead of having the court say that you should have inspected further, you have in writing that the service was offered but declined by the client. One way of putting that $14,000 to use, reducing your liability without even taking the device out of your truck!


I stand corrected. It is pretty cool.

Erol K.

Good info.

A good idea. I had attempted to start this thread a few months back, but the few guys who responded seemed to indicate that, while they got the sense that clients loved it, no one was sure it had resulted in significantly more inspections. I don’t think those guys were charging an up-fee for the IR as an add on, they simply include it in standard inspections.

I am fairly certain that no one (at least no one who has posted here) has met with any sucess at all in marketing it as a stand alone inspection.

Compared to a major lawsuit, yes it is a good ROI. However, that is what the E&O is all about.

It is tremendously cool, but I am just puzzled as to why people are having such a hard time selling it…

I recently received my certification from NACHI. My primary business is thermal imaging and ground penetrating radar inspection. While I intend to do real estate inspections both residential and comercial, I also want to market my thermal imaging services to other inspectors. They could recommend my services as an add on, add my services to their bill +10% or 15% of course for the phone call. This frees them up from some liability, training, years of experience, and the expense of a thermal imaging camera which for a good one is exceptional. Does this sound like something anyone would use?

I have toyed with the idea of investing in a Thermal Camera, like most inspectors I am worried that I will not be able to add a enough money to the inspection fee to warrant buying one.
This said I think I go for it in the new year and purchase one, problem is the wife will kill me when she finds it