Things we did not know about insulation before thermal imaging.
I got into thermal imaging about 14 years ago because my son was on his second all-expense-paid-trip to Iraq and told me about some of the fun tools he used. Some of those tools included thermal imaging.
He thought a thermal camera might be useful during home inspections. I had never considered it, but looked into it, and found that there was a big thermal imaging industry out there.
But I also found that few home inspectors used thermal cameras. Looking into all the manufacturers, and many styles and high costs of the units I then knew why. Even today few inspectors use thermal imaging.
And using the camera is not easy. It is not a point and shoot device. There is a lot to know. Classes are available, and they are not cheap.
The more I learn the more I realize there is to learn. For years I have been saying that doing thermal imaging during home inspections is a little bit science and a little bit art. Six years ago I wrote about that.
One thing the advent of thermal imaging helped teach us concerns what insulation looks like behind walls and what can happen to insulation over time. It can move!
For instance, insulation in cathedral ceilings is typically rolled fiberglass insulation.
That insulation needs to be placed properly, without gaps or getting crushed inside its cavity.
Light fixtures need to have the insulation placed around them well. It's best to install Insulation Compatible light fixtures that allow insulation to be closely placed.
Until thermal cameras people did not realize why their cathedral ceiling rooms felt warmer and cooler. The image on the left was taken mid morning, and the ceiling is already very warm.
Insulation can also come loose, and move, and slip down walls.
This thermal image shows how warm a tall wall can become even when it is an interior wall.
Poorly-placed, or slipping, insulation can be seen here. Seeing such a thermal pattern on tall walls is not uncommon!
Ceiling light fixtures are almost always a big deal. Particularly when there are a lot of fixtures.
The insulation around them is often poorly done. The 5% rule would apply, which says that if only 5% of a given area is poorly or not insulated then R-value of the entire space can be reduced as much as 50%! That is huge.
Using the thermal camera has been fun, but it has also been very important to my business. I call thermal imaging the sharpest arrow in my quiver. I named my camera Mighty Mo, after the big double hamburger meal at the Marriott Hot Shoppe Restaurants in the DC area in the 50s and 60s.
My recommendation: home inspections are getting more and more valuable as inspectors employ new tools and techniques. Learning is everything, and passing that learning on in a home inspection is worth its weight in gold. Your home inspector is your friend. Give one a call!
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560