I received an email today (TIPS FOR SUCCESS) from George Wells (www.BestInspectors.net) who claims that gadgets and Thermal imagers can hurt inspectors more than they can help them.
Hmmm…In the past year, I’ve made more money from IR inspections than I did in home inspections. So, I’m still trying to figure out where my purchase of my IR camera has hurt me more than it has helped me.
It said "Your customers won’t be impressed"
Now I don’t have a thermal imager, but just using a moisture meter and showing my clients how it works by just putting it up to my hand and seeing the meter spike always gets big eyes:shock:. I could just imagine what the thermal imager does. People like technology and feel more confident in their choices with someone who comes to the house with the right equipment, not just a flashlight and a paper checklist.
I remember many home inspectors thinking that adding digital pictures were not allowed legally plus those home inspectors were exposing them to higher liability since there might be something in that picture they didn’t report. How times have changed.
At this time, the IR camera has been a big help and hasn’t hurt me in anyway I can tell.
I can agree that it is the workmen who determines quality, not the tools. An untrained (or just don’t give a hoot) inspector isn’t going to be improved by high tech tools. In fact they may very well harm themselves from not using and interpreting the results accurately.
But my clients are generally impressed by my use of technology on their behalf. I see no reason why this will not be true with a thermal camera (it should be here Monday whoppee).
Of course it isn’t the tools that get their attention. It’s my use and explanation that helps them understand how these tools make me a better inspector. I suppose if I wanted to just grump along and not communicate the tools would not be very impressive.
In terms of the Thermal Imaging Technology I suppose I am voting with my wallet. Even in a down economy I’ve invested (and will continue to invest) in what I see as technology that will change the face of home inspection.
Its all about marketing in my mind. We sell two very large water remidiation companies their infrared cameras. They are now getting tons of calls for energy audits and other infrared applications just because of the word of mouth.
My guess is this guy did not market it right, or just included it as part of his normal inspection without charging for it. If that was the case I would agree it would hurt the business. It would take longer to do the inspection with no reward in the process other than just having something that another inspector didn’t. Customers generally do not know about infrared, so the odds of someone calling up and asking if they did infrared vs another inspector not using infrared is probably not that common…yet.
If you market it right and figure out how to not give it away for free, you will be fine. I have always had the policy with any customer that if they feel infrared was a waist of their time I will consign the camera at no charge for them. I have yet to have anyone take me up on that offer, with the exception of upgrading and selling off their previous camera.
And as Peter mentioned, infrared is a good starting block to a full on energy auditor. I know of several engineering firms that are doing exceptionally well in a very down market by doing energy audits and the likes.
I am debating on taking money from my personal savings to purchase a thermal imager. How much do you charge for an inspection? I am wondering how long it will take me to recover my expenses. I am going to talk to some realtors in the area and find out what kind of demand there is in my area for this service.
While your doing some chatting with guys out there also talk to roofers, hvac guys, window and door companies, insulation, sprayfoam. Pretty much anyone that can benefit from energy upgrades to customers. Many of those types of companies get grouped in to the car mechanic, roofing company type of “its a scam” catagory. With infrared they can prove their before and after work and what benefit it is to the customer.
Also, figure out who will benefit from insurance type of work with infrared. I know a lot of water remediation companies that do insurance jobs then the insurance company wants to argue how much damage there was before the work was done. With infrared they can either take pictures and submit then to the insurance company, or take before and after pictures showing the work so the insurance company cannot come back later on and try to adjust the claim to their benefit.
Another nifty one that most people do not think about is trucking companies. They often need to check their “refer” units for cold air loss. In addition you can use infrared on their mechanical systems like hydraulic hoses for leaks, injectors, engine cylinders and even tire wear. I have never heard of anyone doing the tire wear or have personal experience, but I know of a trucking company that does it. They use the cameras after a truck comes in to see if the heat signature is the same across the entire tire, if not it is not making 100% contact all the way across the surface which increases tire wear, where it is contacting vs where it is not.
Its the split applications like the truckers why I like to recommend the Flir B200 - B400 for customers, because you can upgrade the temp at a later point if you need to, along with the lenses if the need arises.
I was once told by an instructor not to buy too many gadgets because if you are sued, it makes you look like an expert. (MORE LIABILITY) I thought you are to be an expert in your field. That is why education is the key. I am going slowly into the thermal imaging. The gadget may make me look like an expert but I need the knowledge to back it up.
I tend to agree with this. I know many older, more experienced, inspectors around here who slam TI saying that it is not part of a real home inspection or that it is just a toy and other such things. I have ansl heard them slamming me because I do it and teach it.
But, you know what? They appear to be losing market share. In these tough times (home sale contracts down 27% from last year) and only 38% of our state’s inspectors renewing their licenses, every advantage helps.
Sure, the camera is all flashy and impressive, but it also gives me more information. It has also save my butt a few times (non-visual water leaks that the camera found) and in covering my butt, I am also covering the client’s butt. And is that not what our job is all about, protecting our client’s interests?