Thermal imaging cameras see temperature differences in the form of very long light waves the human eye cannot detect. Different temperatures are represented by different colors, and the camera can snap a digital picture of what it is looking at.
It is not point and shoot technology. The operator needs training to understand what the camera might be seeing. As I have said before, thermal imaging is sometimes science and sometimes art. Experience and interpretation of what is viewed is the key.
This thermal image represents hot and cold, relatively speaking. The color palette I pick for thermal image reporting is the one that shows orange, red and yellow to represent warm colors and blue, lavender and purple for cold.
There are many colors to choose from, including black and white, but this palette just seems logical to me.
A year ago I had an inspection where the entire roof space, all of the attic, and areas above the drywall on the upper level was covered with icynene foam insulation. It looks like root beer foam frothing out all over.
I have very little experience with this insulation. And I have never had the opportunity to look at it with my thermal camera.
Recently the same couple had me back to do a one-year inspection. I was happy too! I wanted to see what I could with the IR camera!
(WE ARE ALWAYS LEARNING!)
You should understand that the upper-level room, the fourth level, is one grand space, with two attic closets, each housing a different heat pump. One heat pump handles the third level and one the fourth.
The fourth level, an office, is closed off to the rest of the house by a door.
The thermostat there is set to 68F. The temperature is 74F. This level is essentially a turtle shell, surrounded by icynene.
The R-value (resistance value) of icynene is determined to be 3.6/inch. That is similar to fiberglass. Fiberglass batt insulation, the rolled stuff, has a stated R-value of 3.14-4.3/inch. But fiberglass has gaps and actually absorbs heat from the house when it is real cold outside.
Sprayed properly, icynene foam has no gaps at all. It is really very effective stuff!
Remember I said IR imaging is sometimes science and sometimes art. The color palette here might indicate a widely-varied temperature given the orange to deep purple color change.
The warmest temperature indicated in this image is 74.4F and the coolest a frigid 72.6F. So, just as Einstein said, IT IS ALL RELATIVE! What might look cold, with this palette, is not. The purple here just represents the coolest spot.
How effective is the insulation seen here? The temperature on the other side of this icynene layer is 14F! I don't know how deep the icynene layer is. I am told 12-14". This effective thermal barrier is doing very well indeed!
My recommendation: if you have the opportunity to select icynene foam insulation consider it! It is NOT cheap and the installer's experience is ESSENTIAL. As the Templar Knight said to Indiana Jones, choose wisely.
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560