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How To Determine That The Seal Has Broken In A Double-Pane Window

How to determine that the seal has broken in a double-pane window.

The seal has broken long BEFORE condensation and fogging are visible in a double-pane window.

But how can you know that?

You can't.  Unless you have a thermal camera!

One thing I do with Mighty Mo is to sweep the entire house.  I'm looking for many things. 

And one of those many things I'm looking at is to see how the windows are doing.

In this house none of the windows showed condensation.  But one, only one, demonstrated the classic Bull's Eye pattern indicative of a broken seal.

The Bull's Eye happens as pressure differences begin due to the broken seal.  As the gas inside the two panes dissipates air is drawn inside.  As the pressure changes the two panes begin to get drawn together.

When it's cold outside, and at the time of this image the outdoor temperature was about 40F, a thermal camera can reveal that the two panes are closer, and cooler, in the middle than on the edges.

And the pattern that you see develops.  Choosing a color palette which best demonstrates the phenomenon can make it very clear.

You can actually see that the top window is also beginning to draw closer together.  Just beginning.

Also, notice (contrary to popular belief) that the thermal efficiency of the window is not decreased that much by the broken seal and the loss of the inert gas inside the panes.  The temperature difference between the cooler center and the warmer edges is only about 10 degrees.

My recommendation:  a thermal camera goes a long way toward evaluating a house for many different things.  And windows are one of those things!  Be sure to make a thermal image sweep an essential part of your home inspection.  You'll be glad you did.

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

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

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 27 commentsJay Markanich • December 10 2017 11:18AM

Comments

One step ahead in te4chnology....and ooohhhh the windows we see that are foggy ! !

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) 10 months ago

I see foggy windows too, S&D.  But a thermal camera can be predictive.  And predictive of many things!

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

Thermal cameras are life savers!!! We dected so many moisture spots and week insulated area with the cameras.  It was not a show stopper but buyers were going into transacton with plans to take care of them in the near future

Posted by Sham Reddy, CRS (H E R Realty, Dayton, OH) 10 months ago

Some broken seals you can tell with the naked eye, Jay. Had no idea that a thermal camera worked to tell you more. Thanks for the tip.

Posted by Nina Hollander, Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage | Charlotte, NC) 10 months ago

That is a use for a thermal camera I had no idea about. Thanks for this and it is extremely important. This may change some rules about what constitutes a broken window.

Posted by Joe Pryor, REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties (The Virtual Real Estate Team) 10 months ago

I've been using one for 14 years, Sham.  And it's the sharpest arrow in my quiver.

Nina - the fogginess happens much later.  The camera is very predictive.

Joe - there are zillions of things you can do with one.  For instance, they can detect breast tumors long before a mammogram.  And can see problems with horse legs and circulation, used often by equine vets.

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

Wow!  That thermal camera reveals a lot!

Posted by 1 ~Judi & Don Barrett & Chassy Eastep - Integrity, BS Ed, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK (Integrity Real Estate Services 118 SE AVE N, Idabel, OK 74745) 10 months ago

Good morning Jay. Most often overlooked and an expensive lesson! Thanks. Enjooy your day!

Posted by Wayne Martin, Real Estate Broker - Retired (Wayne M Martin) 10 months ago

Hi Miss Judi!  Yes, I learn things nearly every time I use it!  This isn't the first time I've found Bull's Eyes, of course, or the first post about it, but thought this one would be instructive for those who have not seen it before.

Wayne - fer sher, good buddy.  Windows and doors account for 30% of energy loss.  Truly.

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

Not too many inspectors use it here, but I do a walk around scan at every inspection... I love my E6!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) 10 months ago

Fred - E6 is a good unit.  In winter it should pick up a few Bull's Eyes here and there!

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

Hi Jay Markanich you certainly set the bar high for other home inspectors.... every one of them should have a Mighty Mo.....

Posted by Barbara Todaro, "Franklin MA Homes" (RE/MAX Executive Realty ) 10 months ago

Barbara - a couple of years after I bought my first camera, 14 years ago, I was learning and finding so many things I said that in a few years every inspector would be using thermal cameras.  Boy, was I wrong.

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

Jay,

Glad that Joe Pryor reblogged this.  This is great information.  On the project we are working in Florida, they are installing triple pane windows,  Would your camera detect leaks in those also.  A

Posted by Ron and Alexandra Seigel, Luxury Real Estate Branding, Marketing & Strategy (Napa Consultants) 10 months ago

A triple-pane window would not demonstrate this phenomenon, R&A.  And I have never seen such a pattern in the summer on double pane. 

I can't remember the last time I saw triple-pane windows!

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

I have a hunch every window in my house would reveal broken seals... even though my hubby insists they are just fine. So for now, I'll just wear an extra sweater.

Posted by Kat Palmiotti, The House Kat (Grand Lux Realty, Monroe NY, 914-419-0270, kat@thehousekat.com) 10 months ago

Might be, Kat, but likely not.  However, broken seals does not diminish their efficiency that much.

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

Jay

Thanks for the tip. I have learned to spot a number of signs of a broker seal but this takes it to another level. Glad to know the broken seals do not damage the efficiency that much, but that cloudiness and ghosting can sure be annoying.

Jeff

Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (Solutions Real Estate ) 10 months ago

Jeff - the window guys will tell you that they must be replaced as they are no longer effective.  But the cloudiness is the reason most people give up on them.

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

Very interesting, Jay.  I have not experienced any of our local inspectors using this technology.  Sure going to ask about it.  Thanks for sharing.

Posted by Betsy N. Robinson - Serving the Sandhills, NC, CNS (Everything Pines Partners, LLC.) 10 months ago

Thanks Betsy.  I have been using thermal cameras for 14 years or so.  They are a big help to my inspections and have been a boon to my business.

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

Great words of wisdom regarding windows, efficiency, broken seals, and how to find the broken seal. My inspector here in AZ has a thermal camera.  I'll start asking him to shoot the windows as a just in case.  Glad to know the temperature difference is only 10 degrees.  I wonder if that applies in my climate zone in Phoenix?! 

Posted by Jan Green, HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN (Value Added Service, 602-620-2699) 10 months ago

I expect energy loss would be the same summer or winter, Jan.  I'm not sure the bull's eye works in warm weather though as I've never seen it.

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

I will be sure to ask my inspector if he looks for this already. Thanks for sharing!

Posted by Corey Martin, Real Estate and Management Solutions (Martin Presence Group) 10 months ago

Thanks for stopping by Corey.  I found this phenomenon many years ago and have many thermal images.

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

Nice post Jay! Excellent education on the misnomer that loss of the inert gas renders the window unit useless for thermal resistance.  The two pane system in a vinyl casing is still pretty amazing in what it accomplishes for energy savings compared to those old steel casement post-war windows of the 1950s. 

Posted by Donald A. Masters (Master Home & Building Inspections, LLC) 9 months ago

Thanks Don.

Here is a thermal image during an inspection yesterday showing a single-pane window.  It was about 40F outdoors at that time!

It speaks a lot toward the inefficiency of single pane!

My first ancestor to come to America, Alexander Wallace, arrived in Maryland in 1702 and had his first child near what is now Rockville.  They married often over the centuries with the Magruders.  I am a direct relation of Zadock Magruder, of Magruder High School, too!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 9 months ago

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