What I'm Seeing Now


Thermal Imaging Is Sometimes Science And Sometimes Art

Depending on the palette used, thermal infrared images can reveal different things.  On the palette I am using for this image a wet spot would typically appear as blues, lavenders and purples.

Infrared cameras, contrary to some phony ads I see, do NOT see inside walls!  They don't have X-ray vision.  They see very long light waves, not visible to our eyes.  And they see them very well. 

As such, what the camera "sees" are differences in temperatures.  That's the science part!  A cooler temperature can indicate moisture, but NOT NECESSARILY!  Something as innocuous as the shade of a tree on the side of the house can create a temperature difference in an image which is minute, BUT LOOKS LIKE MOISTURE.  That is the art part!

That is where the experience of the operator/technician/super-cool infrared guy comes in!  We experienced thermographers are worth our weight in gold!

My camera produces images of 120x160 pixels, which was state of the art 7 years ago when I bought my camera and still very good today.  It also determines levels of temperatures in tenths of a degree Fahrenheit.  So an image can indicate one thing or another!

For this reason it is important to couple an infrared exam with a moisture meter.

Take this image to the right.  That blue and dark blue area is EXACTLY what a wet spot might look like.  But, its location in the house was weird.  There was little above that spot which could have produced moisture.  The center of the house, and therefore the ridge vent, was not overhead.  Nor was there any plumbing penetration through the house.

From the attic, the roofing above this spot looked dry and there was no evidence of dripping moisture on the insulation.  The moisture meter registered no moisture at all.  So, what caused this purple spot?

Just above this is the large, center trunk of the flexible HVAC line, off of which run each of the spurs which service the rooms on each side of the hallway.  And, feeling around, just above this spot the flex line had a tear, perhaps there even from original construction!

The HVAC system has been alternatively heating and cooling the attic!  Easy to fix with aluminum tape, that tear over time could have caused mold.  And this is the baby's room.

WITHOUT AN INFRARED CAMERA THIS SPOT MIGHT NEVER HAVE BEEN FOUND.  And therefore the repair might never have been made!  And this is an easy and permanent repair.

My recommendation:  if you have one in your area (not all home inspectors have this technology or the training to use it), call in a thermographer to sweep the entire house.  They can find many things - moisture related to plumbing or roof, electrical issues, insulation problems, even termites or other fauna inside the walls!  AND, best of all, they are all really, really cute...




Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560


Comment balloon 14 commentsJay Markanich • October 19 2010 08:49AM


Thermal imaging and a cute inspector???  What a bargain!  Where do I sign up?

Posted by Kathryn Maguire, Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach (GreatNorfolkHomes.com (757) 560-0881) almost 10 years ago

I guess this is one of those times when a picture truly is worth a thousand words.

As well as a detection system for problems past and present.

And kinda cool

Enjoy the day

Posted by Don MacLean, Realtor-Homes for Sale- Easton Mass (New England Real Estate Center Inc.) almost 10 years ago

Every one Kathryn!  I think you can sign up where ever you live!

Don - thanks.  It really is.  What is great about the technology is that I can go into a house to perform a one-year inspection, just prior to the warranty giving up, and find fallen or misplaced insulation.  The photo images are definitive and the builder simply cannot argue.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago


I love this stuff!  How much time does it take to do a thermal audit of a common 2000SF home?

(I know, kinda like "How much does a roof cost?")

Posted by Mike Jaquish, 919-880-2769 Cary, NC, Real Estate (Realty Arts) almost 10 years ago

Depends on what I am looking for Mike.  But a general sweep of an average house only takes about an hour.  If there are specifics I am looking for in addition, like ice dam leaks, electrical issues, etc., it might take a bit longer than that.  The real time is putting together the report in a coherent and understandable manner.

It's very cool technology and in short order things can be discovered, never known previously!

Now, if Mosby shows up, and we talk, it could take longer yet...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

There are a few thermal imaging companies getting a start here in Seattle, but it's not anything most buyers do at present.

Posted by Glenn Roberts (Retired) almost 10 years ago


I am in Parma, had some time so checking in. We could use that device here. Seems warm then you go out and wish you had your coat.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) almost 10 years ago

Jay, hope you bring that thing with you to 905 Hamlin St NE today!  See you at 3!

Oh, and is it the camera or the thermographer that is cute?

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (RLAH Real Estate) almost 10 years ago

Glenn - for sure a mental paradigm shift has to take place among consumers, agents and home owners!

Steve - you might be giving off a very distinct thermal signature!

Pat - it will be in the car.  If I need to break it out I will!  That's NE Baltimore right?

Oh, am I confused?

After our inspection I am going to Kensington to Continental Pizza to get one of Mike's famous subs for dinner.  I grew up on them - I started going to Mike's in 1965!  He is still there... for good reason!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Jay...and to think that I thought the thermal imaging was only used to 'locate ghosts', now discover that this type of thermal imaging looks for the cool hits = moisture=trouble=mold build-up.  This is great stuff  uh...technology.
"Thermographer"---WOW ! and  "Cute" --double WOW.  [spell-check would not accept Patrick's word of thermographer, but I lke it so it stays as is.]
Have a great week.

Barb &Sal 

Posted by Barb & Sal Dragotta, Macomb County Michigan almost 10 years ago

I think thermal imaging is all about making pretty pictures.  Oh, and having another cool gadget toy.  Kidding.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) almost 10 years ago

Just finished an IR job which I will be writing about soon. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 10 years ago

B&S - thermal imaging -- not just for ghost hunting anymore!  And "thermographer" is a very cool title and we thermographers have great T-shirts which identify us.  It's a very elite club!  And yes, cute is as cute does...

You're right, the computer doesn't like the word.

Debbie - that's EXACTLY what it is all about - very pretty pictures!  And, I assure you, I bought that device 7 years ago for just over $15K, when it arrived at the door it wasn't perceived as "another cool gadget toy!"  (Shhh, that's exactly what it is...).  It paid for itself pretty quickly with my clever marketing.

Jim - send it!  SEND IT!  You gonna do another layer cake?

Wow, just getting home from work.  That Pat Kennedy really worked me!  Of course, the job was downtown and not exactly nearby!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

No more cake Jay, but I'll try to make something "sweet".

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 10 years ago

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