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.