What I'm Seeing Now


Things We Did Not Know About Insulation Before Thermal Imaging

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


Comment balloon 12 commentsJay Markanich • July 14 2016 04:46AM


 First....thank your son for us...for his service...Next...when is that you are opening the museum of thermal art ?  I bet it would sell Jay Markanich ...at the very least to other home inspectors !

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) about 4 years ago

Good morning Jay Markanich,

You were definitely out in front of inspectors using thermal imaging 14 years ago! We do have several inspectors who use thermal imaging and one company I really like..they are excellent, catch everything but also put their findings into perspective for the buyer.

Posted by Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR, Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate (Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899) about 4 years ago

Good morning Jay. Mighty Mo has made me a believer! Enjoy your day!

Posted by Wayne Martin, Real Estate Broker - Retired (Wayne M Martin) about 4 years ago

Thank you S&D.  He is presently on his sixth all-expense-paid-trip to Afghanistan.  Thermal art would be fun!

Dorie - the perspective is everything.  Images are definitive.

Wayne - when I first started using it I raised my hands and said, "I belieeeeve!"

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

This is great information to share with those who are looking for a home inspector.

Posted by Roy Kelley (Realty Group Referrals) about 4 years ago

I try to be instructive, Roy.  And gain SEO!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

Good Morning, Jay. I always enjoy your posts. One of the inspectors I have used showed me his new "arrow", and let me take a few shots with it while he was on other matters. Have to admit I was somewhat embarrassed that he had to hunt me down in the house to ask for it back...LOL. What an awesome piece of equipment it is!!

Posted by Bill Saunders, Realtor®, www.BillSellsHotSprings.com (Meyers Realty) about 4 years ago

Well, hopefully you found a ghost or two, Bill.

Or the ghost footprints on the wall.

Ghosts can't seem to hide their presence well.


Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

Super post from you, Jay Markanich and the 5% Rule is something to remember in the future. Thank you!

Posted by Sandy Padula and Norm Padula, JD, GRI, Presence, Persistence & Perseverance (HomeSmart Realty West & Lend Smart Mortgage, Llc.) about 4 years ago

I'm going to have to invite you and Mighty Mo over for a cook out one of these days.  I'm actually afraid of what we would see!

Posted by Stephen Weakley (Nationwide Mortgage Services) about 4 years ago

I started using a thermal camera about a year ago. It is slowly catching the attention of people here, and you're right, not too many inspectors are using that technology here! I think it's partly the costs, not only the equipment, but the training necessary to learn that interpretation of what you're seeing and verification. At some point, I believe it will be necessary to have a thermal camera to compete in the Home Inspection business!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) about 4 years ago

Thanks S&N!  It used to be the 7% rule, but studies have changed that over time.

I bet Mo would think the grill to be hot, Stephen.

Fred - for about 10 years I have wrongly said that in the next couple of years all home inspections would come with thermal imaging.  I remember when moisture meters first came out and inspectors did not want to use them because they "increased liability."

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

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