They say that seeing is believing. When it comes to energy-saving home improvements, many people believe they are making the right decision for their family and their home when they see a benefit to their pocketbook or the comfort level of their home. Another way that you can literally see the benefit of energy-saving improvements is through the use of infrared technology, or “thermal imaging”.
Thermal imaging is the leading form of inspection technology available today. In the hands of a skilled technician (formally known as a “thermographer”), defects, flaws and potential problems in a home can easily be identified. After repairs are made, thermal imaging also allows you to see how the improvement is actually performing.
How does it work?
In some ways, infrared cameras used for thermal imaging are similar to a digital cameras; they use a lens and software to convert colors into an image displayed on a screen. With an infrared camera, the lens and software capture the energy (or temperature) emitted from the subject, assigns that energy a color, and converts it into a visual image on a screen.
The most common applications for thermal imaging is finding issues such as uncontrolled moisture and air, and missing insulation in buildings. More intense inspections such as finding electrical faults, subsurface moisture in a flat roof and problems with rotating equipment are other common commercial applications.
Thermal imaging is also a great tool for proving the effectiveness of insulation products. Many times, traditionally-constructed homes do not have continuous insulation on the exterior. This lack of insulation can contribute to tremendous energy loss, as well as comfort issues for the residents when inside the home.
When you don’t have continuous insulation in the walls of your home, heat can by-pass the insulation in the wall cavity and transfer right across the connected building components, such as wood or metal studs, drywall, fasterns and sheathing. This process is “thermal bridging”. Thermal imaging can actually reveal spots where thermal bridging is a problem.
As you can see in these thermal images, adding continuous insulation to the home’s exterior makes a tremendous difference, both in reducing energy transferred through thermal bridging, as well as reducing airflow.
If you are interested in seeing your home through the lens of an infrared camera, make sure that the contractor has at least a Level 1 certification from either an accredited training center or camera manufacturer such as FLIR, Fluke or Testo. This certification ensures that the user understands the basics of building science and how to properly interpret thermal images. Because of the expense that goes along with a good infrared camera and training, it also shows that the contractor is serious about their craft.