There is quite a bit of debate on this board regarding the appropriateness of whether or not to use infrared technology during a home inspection. That discusson is not the purpose of this thread and I hope this thread does not turn into another discussion regarding its pros and cons.
I am interested in hearing from anyone who has taken infrared imaging beyond the home inspection and has developed a separate infrared thermography business line- either under a different business name or “division” of their current business.
I think this technology opens up areas of opportunity that lie outside our inspection businesses. These areas, with the right training, experience, and equipment, can provide multiple revenue paths and augment our inspection income.
For those of you who have developed a successful thermal imaging business, I would like to hear from you.
How long was your ramp up time to begin making a profit?
What services outside of adding thermal scans onto a home inspection have you been successful in developing?
What are some of the best resources and sales tactics that have helped you grow your thermal imaging business?
What equipment are you using?
I know Kevin Richardson and Steve Ramos have a great handle on the potential of this technology when placed in the hands of properly equipped and trained individuals. Can anyone else add to some of the information they have provided?
My goal is to develop a separate thermal imaging business over time and any feedback would be greatly appreciated.
Kevin, I also have a big interest in Thermography. I was involved in a Thermal inspection of the hospital electrical systems I use to work at and got hooked, and hope to develop and separate service to my list. Just as soon as i can get my inspection biz going and buy my 1st camera. Any one else who has suggestions I’m all ears.
I am getting a lot of calls from people, outside the home inspection industry, who
want to take InterNACHI’s Infrared Certification Course because they want
to start a business related to home energy auditing and consulting.
Some Europeans and Canadians are doing this type of inspecting via legislation
in their countries.
This trend is growing in the U.S. as well… (those who can spot a trend, will ride
that wave, before others will realize it has reached it’s full force).
In the new TREC SoP, it states that some inspectors may use advanced tools, and
list IR as one of those tools that may be employed. Inspectors in Houston, TX… tell
me that it is not uncommon for them to get 5 to 6 calls a week for an IR inspection,
even without advertising it. The market is reaching critical mass in some areas. Houston
had the largest turn out of students for our IR class, to date. Some said they were
forced to buy the IR camera, or loose all those inspection orders to their competitors,
who already offer thermal imaging.
It is happening folks. I am not making this stuff up.
More and more people are going outside the realtors office to find an inspector who
stands out, and offers a service that distinguishes them from all the rest.
“In addition to using thermography during an energy audit, you should have a scan done before purchasing a house; even new houses can have defects in their thermal envelopes. You may wish to include a clause in the contract requiring a thermographic scan of the house. A thermographic scan performed by a certified technician is usually accurate enough to use as documentation in court proceedings.”
Just read down a bit and you’ll see the above paragraph, a fairly strong statement for the government! And the timing is good with cameras more available and the need for solid information about a home greater than ever.
One of the keys to successful inspections, of course, is having a thermographer who is qualified. As I’ve said before on this messageboard, there are various degrees of qualification and testimony to qualification—or what is commonly termed “certification.”
If you are considering establishing a separate infrared business, I suggest that part of what you must consider is defining the scope of the business. Is it (1) home inspection with infrared, (2) energy analysis, (3) home and commercial, (4) “full” infrared inspection including electrical, mechanical and roof moisture, or (5) some other version?
While a strong background in home inspection, a good IR camera, an appropriate 2-day training and some experience may be perfect for getting started, I think most here will agree that going past #1 above may require additional training and experience.
As we have discussed, Tom, I would suggest you consider investing in a full Level I course (one that complies with American Society for Nondestructive Testing—ASSNT—standards) so that you have a foundation on which to build any business you want to grow.
With regard to certification, there may also be several appropriate options. While I remain unclear as to the advantage of NACHI certification, clearly others feel it has clout in the market and, I believe, almost any education is better than none. Anyone who is competing in the wider infrared market should consider going beyond that, in my opinion, and establishing a formal program that fully complies with ASNT standards. It is not difficult to do so and can provide many returns on your investment.
I too am happy to talk with you, or any readers, further. I’ve seen many get into this business over the 25 years I’ve been in it. Those who succeeded did so mainly on the basis of good, solid business planning. From what I’ve seen, Tom, you are on your way to success in that regard!
ASNT NDT Thermal/Infrared Level III #48166
Thank you everyone for your replies and information. I have corresponded with John Snell on several occasions and he has provided insightful and unbiased information. He makes several points which bear repeating and I have found time and again as I spoke with other thermographers or those entering the field. As I enter this business and continue to refine my business plan, one of the things that I personally believe any beginning thermographer has to remind themselves of is not to become too enamored with the technology and to realize the limitations of equipment purchased, the thermographer’s own experience, and education. When starting out I plan on sticking with what I know best (i.e. residential and commercial structures) and adding services and equipment upgrades/additions as my education and experience increase until the point where my business is a full thermography business. I do have some areas that given my geography I feel I can exploit with the right tools, education, and experience. I also realize that this may take several years, but I believe it is an investment worth making as there are multiple revenue streams that this technology can provide.
The discussion on this thread has been great and I hope we can continue it for the benefit of all, especially those looking to enter this fascinating and hopefully lucrative field.
John, thank you for the compliment. I hope to see you in your December class in Vermont. You will have to let me buy you dinner in appreciation of all your good advice.
My infrared (thermal) scans are an optional service only. I do not scan homes that I am inspecting, unless of course my client is paying for this optional service or I run into a situation (on a home inspection) where my IR camera will give me more information on a potential defect.
Because there is so much information on this particular topic, I do have a separate website dedicated to Thermal imaging only. www.massinfrared.com
I do quite well with infrared sevices in the winter months (after homeowners get their first heating bill), but in the summer months, my camera collects webs.
If you have any questions, you can contact me also.
Thomas - one of the most important aspect when looking into camera types is too make sure you fit the camera to your application. I have written an E-Book covering this topic in more detail. However, the bottom line is to match the specs of the camera with the application. The other piece of advice is to buy a camera one level higher than what you think you need. The theory behind this is that you know nothing about the capabilities of the cameras when you start out and then as you become aware you see all the applications you could be doing but may not have the right camera.
Ramp time has a lot to do with the individual and marketing skills/effort but you should be able to get going in the six months following training provided you are an experienced home inspector with home inspection calls already coming in.
(Jim Seffrin, Director of Infrared Training)
Since 1984, I have worked as a professional thermographer providing infrared inspection services to commercial, industrial and residential clients. During that time, I have also provided training and certification for others seeking to engage in this exciting and dynamic technology. With interest in thermal imaging at an all-time high, there are many opportunities for professional infrared thermographers.
Presently, many home inspectors utilize thermal imaging as either an adjunctive tool to their basic inspections or for the purpose of detecting excess energy loss. While adding thermal imaging can allow a home inspector to command a higher fee, this is often quite small compared to dedicated infrared inspection services for commercial properties. Furthermore, residential infrared inspections tend to be one-time inspections lasting a few hours or less.
For home and building inspectors with appropriate training and experience, commercial properties offer inspection opportunities including, but not limited to:
Electrical Distribution Systems
Motors and Rotating Equipment
Low Slope Roofing Systems
Thermal Insulation Systems
Unlike one-time residential inspections, commercial facilities often require multiple inspection days per year. These inspections are typically repeated annually as part of condition based monitoring or predictive maintenance programs. It is this repeat business that allows one to build a client base thereby increasing the value of their inspection business as an ongoing venture.
In the US, typical fee structures for commercial infrared inspections range from $800 to $1200 per day depending upon services offered and project location. Based upon 250 working days per year, a single thermographer can gross up to $300,000 per year.
With respect to infrared equipment, there is no single imager that will perform all types of inspections. With this in mind, you must consider what types of inspections you wish to perform in the future when selecting your imager. For commercial imaging, purchasing the lowest priced imager may severely limit your inspection capabilities and revenue potential.
For those new to thermography, it is often best to complete formal training BEFORE you purchase a thermal imager. Plan to carry your training to the highest level possible to ensure your success and enhance your credibility.
In addition to appropriate training and certification, a professionally designed brochure along with a properly designed website are key elements for successful sales. Tapping existing client bases is often the best place to start your sales efforts. Networking and referrals are also extremely powerful.
For those interested in realiziing their full potential, Infraspection Institute offers a course module titled, ‘Starting, Marketing & Managing an Infrared Consulting Company’. Although this module is normally included in our application course, IR Inpsections for Home & Building Inspectors, NACHI members can take this individual course module online for only $99.00.
For more information on infrared training and certifcation visit www.infraspection.com or call us at 609-239-4788.