Over 35 years one thing I’ve observed about home inspections and buyers and Realtors. That blaring fact, like it OR don’t is that in at least 75% of the time the lowest priced inspector (especially if they’re softer) gets more work than the higher priced more picky (more thorough) inspectors.
Rolox and Timex both sell watches … Who sells more?
You pick a niche or slot and go for it.
In my area we have at least 160-170 home inspectors BUT only 5 certified trained EIFS or Stucco Moisture Inspectors.
We often make twice as much looking at one main component (the stucco) on someones house than the home inspector does looking at over 400 items in the house (with a butt load more liability). I figured early on I’m lazy AND I’d rather do less work BUT charge more money.
What do you want for your niche?
(Stephen W. Stanczyk, WA License #221)
And this statement is why you won’t get the big IR money. It is NOT like a screwdriver or moisture meter. And it is not a normal tool. It is a specialized tool that takes specialized training. Part of the training needed to utilize this tool is the ability to sell the service. If you don’t have a professional sales pitch for your specializations, then of course you won’t get the work, and you will end up using an expensive tool like a screwdriver. You won’t have much choice.
But here goes anyway. Thermal imaging is not just another tool, it’s a complete different profession.
What does a thermal camera tell you?
It cannot identify water.
Is not a thermometer.
It does not see termites.
It does not see air leakage.
It doesn’t tell you how hot is too hot.
It doesn’t measure the R-value of insulation.
Regardless how you’re currently using your camera, the camera tells you nothing about these issues. A tool completes a task. A thermal camera does not complete the task it only provides information that you, the thermographer must calculate to determine what is actually there. “You” must understand when to use the camera, how to use the camera, interpret with the camera is recording, in some cases conduct intensive calculations to determine; the difference between water and air, the difference between apparent temperature and actual temperature, to determine the difference between termite tunnels and mouse tunnels, the actual source of the high moisture source, the source of the electrical circuit temperature rise and how hot it is going to get under a full load, determine the total R-value of insulated wall without looking inside.
Contrary to belief, thermal imaging is not going to become a norm for all home inspectors to provide under state laws. It is simply too much to ask from a home inspector who is a generalist.
The majority of home inspectors that use thermal imaging to identify issues do not require thermal imaging to complete task. They admit it themselves, i.e. Charlie’s recent post of a high amperage fuse that visually looks like a chunk of charcoal. Yes, it’s very impressive to put such pretty pictures and a report but they are often not necessary, and thermography was not required to identify the problem. However, proper use of an infrared camera can tell you what is actually causing the problem (besides the fuse is hot).
A home inspectors inability to perform the required tasks of a thermographer will subject them to significant litigation over time, when the public actually begins to understand thermography. I cannot count the number of times I have been on a project where someone had been there before me with an IR camera, challenging my findings based upon initial inadequate assessment by a camera owner. I cannot keep track of the thousands of “look what I found with thermal imaging” posted across the Internet that are improperly assessed.
You may find a blue spot with your camera, stick the spot with a moisture meter and call it a roof leak, I have done hundreds of these projects where a contractor or engineer is insistent that a TPO roof is leaking, when it was not. To begin with, a TPO roof is difficult to scan with IR and you’re probably using the wrong camera to do the job. Just because moisture shows up when it rains doesn’t mean the roof is leaking. Just because the blue spot has high levels of moisture concentration identified by a moisture meter does not mean it’s source is a water leak. There are three sources of moisture in a building and you must account for all three. In order to do this you must understand the laws of psychrometric’s. So here is one more level of education, training and experience that is required beyond pushing the power button on the thermal camera and spitting out a pretty picture. So on top of owning an expensive camera, investing time and money in thermography training, you require additional tools beyond your moisture meter (such as a hygrometer, data loggers, psychrometric chart (and how to use it), a micro manometer, and possibly a blower door. I never read about anyone talking about this equipment!?
If you want to spend five grand on a glorified flashlight to assist you in your home inspection, go for it. Because that is all an IR camera is, without adequate training and experience.
If you are going to market the use of IR in your home inspection, I recommend you keep it within your area of expertise and ability, and in perspective of which you are actually capable of doing or you may face litigation for false advertisement/claims and could lose your home inspection license.
There are home inspectors with thermal cameras and there are thermographer’s. It is important that you stay on the right side of the fence. If you do home inspections with IR for free, you’re a home inspector with a thermal camera (be careful how you advertise). If you are advertising that you have x-ray vision and can solve someone’s building science problem (and are not qualified) beware.
For you new guys; a few years ago a home inspector here got a new thermal camera, went across the street and took a picture of his house to use as a banner/header on his website (there was no intent to diagnose buildings). Because he posted a radiometric JPEG, I decided to analyze it. In the process I found three problems with his house and two problems with his neighbors house next door. This is an example of the surprise you may get in a courtroom if your thermography call is challenged.
I did an inspection report yesterday where the master suite was excessively hot compared to adjacent rooms. Thermal imaging of the ceiling indicated a much higher temperature in the master suite than in other rooms. There was no access to the attic space above the ceiling. How would you justify calling for an intrusive inspection of the insulation and ventilation in this inaccessible space? Base your recommendations on a pretty colored thermogram showing a warm ceiling?
Even though I didn’t have access, I was able to extrapolate measurements from other attic areas and calculate an estimated R-value above the ceiling to be R-2.5. Not even close to building Code!
Mathematical calculation or pretty picture? Which do you prefer as a client?
I have encountered this situation numerous times, even in Energy Star rated homes! In one case a general contractor tried to take administrative action against me for reporting that there was no insulation anywhere above the ceiling on the second floor of a two-year-old model home that was being sold. I conducted the mathematical calculations in front of his lawyers and representatives at which time insulation contractor got fed up, took out a hammer and knocked a hole in the ceiling, stuck his head up there and said “yup there’s nothing up here!”. Sheetrock was installed before the insulation contractor, with no access left available to them.
Can’t say it will never happen to you, because it happened to me.
I learned I had a long way to go to call myself an IR expert. I may or may not do my level 2 based on whether I continue to work but if I do continue a Level 2 is my minimum goal. At that point I may get a C2 and give it to the buyer and let them do the average residential IR service.
(John Paul de Oliveira, GB-2 #86934 / AB #44580)
Energy. All objects absorb, reflect and sometimes transmit energy, at different levels. Different materials will give off a heat or cold energy signature, at different rates. It’s is this energy that can be detected by ‘infrared equipment’ and displayed as visual images.
It is my understanding; Thermal imaging is a ‘method’ of/for/to improv/ing the visibility of an object’s energy, in an environment, by detecting the ‘objects’ infrared radiation temperature signature, provided by conduction, convection or radiation, creating an visually based image based on that information.
The equipment being used varies immensely.
Using Fluke terms, there are Performance, Professional, Expert series cameras.
That depends upon the series of camera you use.
I have to go to work. I will finish my reply later.