Thermal Imaging and Cost Effectiveness

Lets cut to the chase here

For those of you who have thermal imaging cameras I have two questions:

  1. Are you making a profit from it (you charge extra for its use and it is being paid off)?


  1. Is this another toy to make you feel comfortable with your inspection and you justify the cost by saying you found stuff you would not have found otherwise but see no increase in revenue to pay for the expense?

Before the market crashed, many have told me they made lots of extra
money with IR. Now they say it helps them stay busy when others may
be going out of business. IR can create multiple income streams.

It depends on your market and your ability to sell.

I completely agree with John it depends on your market and ability to sell. Personally, I don’t think it necassary to have one but if you can market it and sell chances are you will pay it off and more. I think every person has to weigh it for their market and individual situation and decide whether you think it can ultimately provide you with more profit.

Good post

Jeff -

Depends on your area. I’ve seen NOBODY in my area doing any great business OR increased business with IR. Right now with the market as dead as it is, many RE Agents I talk with figure if anything - using an inspector with an IR camera is just another way to kill a deal / loose a sale.

In fairness they could say the same for a Moisture meter reading.

Fact is…this is from Inspector not using…there are times when I will refer jobs out to Linus Dapkus or Will Decker in my area ,when I suspect a IR scan might uncover possible sources of water intrusion.
Other Inspectors in the Chicago area do the same,so it is logical to assume that there is a market and some profit involved .

As far as some of the other AUX services go they may be more sales ability of the individual related.

Does everyone want a energy audit? Sure,but that does not mean they will get one or be willing to pay for it.

One can assume that prices on IR cameras will continue to drop,but vendors will continue to push educational courses designed to separate money from your pocket book.

Read all the threads about the different levels of courses and how much they cost as it seems to add up to more than the expensive camera already does,so I would say to anyone that it is a good field to get into ,but make sure you are going to stay in this business and have a strong Inspection income before you even consider spending what you have .

Bear in mind who is doing the talking on this subject when reading threads ,as the same guys will brag all day about how it is making them rich.Some are simply trying to create a buzz on IR and many (most ) simply see the need and benefit .

Good tool to have ? Yes

Do you have to have it to be an Inspector ? No

Will it be a basic tool in the future ? Most likely

Personally I would say in the future it will be like a guy operating with no computer in that you can do it, but are at a disadvantage.
No one knows how long before that will happen though.

I have found it completely opposite in Nashville Tennessee. I would say that at least one third of my inspections now come because thermal imaging is sought out by the client.

People looking for home inspectors are looking for more than flyby inspections.

Yes, times are tough. The clientele I work with are becoming more careful in what they purchase and demand a better inspection.

I guess it all depends where you live.

Don’t try to sell your thermal imaging to realtors! You sell it to their clients.
The realtor will see the technology through their clients and you will start getting recommendations from them when their clients start demanding more from a home inspection.

If you want to make money in the residential market, you need to do more than thermal scans on a home inspection. You need to get to the clients that have problems with their homes that need fixing.

Generally clients that demand thermal imaging have had problems in the past or suspect possible problems in the home they are buying. There is not a huge market for this, but then there isn’t a huge supply of adequately trained thermal imaging thermographer’s.

Excellent point David.
My business is up approx 53% since I started offering Thermal Imaging over two years ago. I don’t attribute all of the increase to IR but I find it difficult to argue the hard numbers.

My business is definitely up in the 2.5 years I have had IR. I always use it. I also get a fair amount of IR specific orders. This year I did a trial run of IR work with an Insurance company that made me about 10k. I have not made near the inroads into IR specific work that I hoped for lack of time.

In the down economy, it has helped to keep my business growing and busy. It has paid for itself, even though I made a few poor choices in how I went about acquiring cameras and cost myself money in the beginning.

I have realtors that have sought me out for the IR. I have realtors that stopped using me because of it. Clients in general all like it. Many clients seek me out because of it.

My general level of house for inspection has gone up since acquiring it, ie I don’t work for price shoppers at all anymore. I tell them that there are lots of inspectors that will charge half of what I do and they will get what they pay for. I don’t miss the low hanging fruit clients. Generally now my clients are better educated, buying bigger houses and willing to pay more for a better inspection.

IR is not the be all end all of inspection. It is a very valuable tool, it requires training and experience. Used properly it works well and is a valuable addition to your business. There is no “right” way to implement it as far as making it an option of including it. For me it is a personal and professional choice to include it and try and charge more in general. So far that works for me in my market.

I get callers now (vs a year ago) that tell me they are looking for inspectors who use IR. In our area, it is expected by most high end buyers. Low end buyers want the cheapest inspection and that is all they care about anyways.

Hint… offer your home inspection, thermal scan and energy evaluation (and any other optional services) for one price. The value package will help you get more jobs in these slow times.

Hey good idea John, I have been offering it as an additional cost but didn’t really consider including it for less as a package or bundle deal.

Today was supposed to be slow. Just a Pre-closing walk through, early in the morning. ( I don’t charge for pre-closing walk throughs. Part of the original fee).

Then, and please pardon the religious reference, it seemed like G-d was doing my scheduling.

During the walk through, I got a call from a contractor. He was having some problems with water intrusion in a new condo. It was three blocks away from the walk through. Went over when I was through.

Sure enough, split faced block and no flashing under the parapet wall. Thermal confirmed, along with moisture meter (deep probing). Explained the problem and how to fix (no units sold, yet). $250 for a walk and talk.

Then, driving home, got a call from someone who was searching the web for insulation issues. About 1 mile away. Found defective insulation (settled cellulose) and showed him the problem. Another $250. No report.

Then went and had lunch. During my salad (trying to lose weight) goty a call from a plumber who suspected a leaky radiant floor heating system (older, copper pipe). Went over and scanned and found the leaky area. Stayed around while they broke it up. I found the spot. Another $250 check.

Started to go home again. Was in the drive-up lane to my bank, when a woman called me, only 4 blocks away, who had leakage above an exterior bay window. Went over and found the leak (failed caulk in the counter flashing (it rained last night and today. Yeah :mrgreen: ) Another $250

Finally, on the way home, got a call from a friend. Water in the basement, Went over and scanned and found increased moisture in the basement in one area. He allowed me to “punch the drywall” in the basement and there was a new settling crack (8 month old house). No charge for that one. He shook my hand, and had a $50 it it.

So, on a day that I thought that I would be slow and I would take in $50.00, I deposited $1,050.00, all be cause of my thermal camera, my training, the articles I have written for my web site, on the activerain blog and my working with contractors to better educate them.

Gravy. I have found that Thermal, properly used, with proper training and properly marketed, sharing one’s experience and experiences, publically, does a world of wonder. 3 of these inspections came from the internet. One from my web site, one from the activerain blog and one from the NACHI board. The 4th was from my previous inspection with a builder.

Think about all the Thermal uses, even if they are out of the realm of normal pre-purchase home inspections. Market to those groups, which the internet makes very easy.

When the home market comes back (it is beginning to, in my area) you will be in the cat-bird seat. Plus, you will have many other markets and clients for your services.

I have found that many inspectors who don’t want to do thermal or are afraid or can’t think of ways to get the money to buy one, are being cautious, which is good. But, I would advise them to think out of the envelope. Depends upon your area and market, which you should already be aware of.

Hope this helps;

Mr Bowers
I would gladly lose a sale than get sued for a moisture leak that goes undetected and will show its ugly face later. I agree that it depends on your area. Where i am at there is alot of rain. I see moisture leaks in attics and celings alot of the time. The Ir camera is a great way to augment the inspection by providing a second look at areas that may go undetected. I give the choice to the customer and most will ask for the IR scan and pay an additional fee.

My take on this (from the Chicago area, which is VERY litigious).

$X, regular inspection, no thermal. OK.

Ask (seen as upselling) if they want to add thermal for $Y.

They don’t want thermal? OK. Do the regular inspection.

BUT, there is, say, a leaking toilet seal, which you could have found, easily, with thermal, but you missed it.

So, they sue your butt for not finding in and claiming that you should have.

You go to trial. The only defense you have is “Sure, I could have found that, but they didn’t want to pay extra for that.” Right away, you look like a crook.

So, in the eyes of the jury (and you can bet that the Plaintiffs lawyer will argue that way) you tried to upcharge, the client turned you down, and they have $XXXXX damage, all because YOU DIDN"T FIND, BUT YOU COULD HAVE!!!

Not logical, but most lawsuits, today are ALL about emotion, not logic.

So, the plaintiffs win and you have a BIG financal hit.

And you better hope that you are insured!

I include thermal in EVERY inspection, but I charge more for my inspections (about the 70th percentile, 20 % above the average).

And, my bookings are solid, and above those who don’t use thermal. So are my web site hits (about 70 - 90 per day).

Many people call me, specifically, because I do do thermal.

All depends on your market, your understanding of that market and the past quality of your inspections. (Word of mouth).

Just my 3 1/2 cents.

Wow, William what a day! I wish I could have days like that every day. :slight_smile: I noticed, you said that you get alot of work from creating relationships with contractors and I have spoke with others about this and it has seemed to work quite successful for them also. Anyways in particular you have began relationships with contractors, for example have you actually contacted contractors and explained your service, sent some pieces in the mail or did the snowball just kind of roll over time? Any input is greatly appreciated. Thanks William!

No. I have had a couple of them call me, looking for thermal. They had a problem and thought that thermal would help (water intrusion, radiant heat pipe leaks, insulation, condensation, etc) and a few that I have met during new construction inspections who were impressed and have had me in, later, to check on peoblems that they were having.

I have never actively persued them, if that is what you are asking.

Hope this helps;

Try reading thru this. A fast log in and your there.


Will, I’m not a legal mind, but I might have to disagree.

If you offer an enhanced diagnostic technique and they refuse, the client is in on the decision. The are partly to blame.
Now I agree that jurys are emotional and not normally objective to the facts. But when trying to protect against lawsuits, it’s about preventing and covering yourself - not wondering what a jury might think. Very, very, very rarely would a case like this go to trial.
More likely the lawyers would see that when presented with an advanced diagnostic technology, the plaintiff refused because of cost, and now wants to blame someone else for their bad decision.

When a Dr recommends an MRI and the patient refuses (happens all the time). THen the patient sues when a diagnosis was missed (also happens all the time). Lawyers ask for the medical records, and there in the records it says “patient refused MRI against advisement”. Now the “plaintiff” can’t find a lawyer that will waste time on their case, because they know it’s a lost cause.

It has no bearing on whether you bundle the IR survey with the inspection or not. I think yours is the correct decision, businesswise. It’s the same as the mold waiver, or radon sampling or whatever extra service. What if you have radon samplers in your truck, but you didn’t use them because the client didn’t want to pay for it? You can’t be liable for not finding radon.

Great job on the thermal imaging jobs. I could take a lesson from you!

If those agents are worried about killing a deal then rest assure if they are not loyal to their customers best interest then why would I be loyal to them.


That is awesome will. I just started the thermal imaging use and i am loving it. I have aready found several defects in clients house. I use it on all inspections but don’t include pictures if they don’t want to pay for the use of the camera. I cover my self. I call out items that i see but i try to find the defect that is causing it first such as a gutter or flashing that is bad. Most people want to have the service after i show them how the camera works and what it sees.