Here’s why a thermal camera is a must in energy audits

August 14, 2019

Here’s why a thermal camera is a must in energy audits

Let’s face it, a thermal camera is no magical genie’s lamp. But, you better pray you got something to rub on to bring you a most thorough energy audit devoid of thermography.  

It’s true. Thermal imagers won’t certainly show you a list of all the thermal anomalies just by turning it on. Consequently, your first home inspection may be far from ideal especially if you’ve never been trained before (under the watch of a master energy auditor) and yet, you definitely are flying blind walking into a client’s home without the services of a thermal imager under your wing. You may not mind at all - with ample pride tuck in your belt. However, with the way social media works, it would take a miracle for you not to stir things up. And attract all the negative attention. Like flies to a pile of trash. Recklessly.

Luckily, we’re living in better times. Nowadays, with price tags dropping, getting a brand new thermal imager shouldn’t constitute such a steep climb for you. What used to need all the government funding to get firefighters timely thermal imaging (in-mask) decades ago, wouldn’t require you to lose a shirt these days. In fact, you could grab top-quality infrared gear with 76,800 pixel-IR Resolution priced as low as less than $600. Come to think of it, it’s actually ironic. Not too long ago, not only did the thermal imagers lacked the firepower of modern models, they were a burden both to the pocket and to the back ($16,000 for each one-pounder-plus piece). Today, you can bag products that are so handy and so powerful they’re armed to the teeth. Basically, that is. Not to mention smart and internet-ready. 

Well, that should tell you, it’s about time you stop putting all your faith on a trained eye and some so-so measuring instruments. Every time your clientele calls you to poke your finger into his abode. Read on. 

Top Invisible Things a Thermal Camera can Show You

It’s true. The thermal imaging camera is one ‘mighty powerful’ tool. It will allow you to see what escapes your naked eyes. In this sense, the invisible. However, as a certified energy auditor, you ought to bear in mind that all tools work best only in capable hands. And the IR cam is no different. Chances are, no matter how powerful the imagery of a thermal device, it will be next to useless in the hands of a simpleton.

Exactly, this is the reason why you should make the most of a blower door. If you haven’t already. In which case, a note of warning: If you haven’t done anything of the sort, you certainly have lots of catching up to do. Blower doors make it easier for you to check on thermal anomalies as it depressurizes the abode. Drawing cold air to all those unwanted leaky spots. To be honest, it’s an auditor’s best friend.

You need not go that far to demonstrate how essential blower doors are. A fine example is when looking at access hatches in an attic. Usually, sans what can be called weather protection mechanisms (e.g., weatherstripping, rubber gaskets), air can easily slip through the edges despite the presence of an insulated lid. Even with a trained eye, it’s highly likely you’ll miss seeing such vital air leaking through - escaping the house and undermining energy in the process. Not with a blower door in action. By deploying negative pressure all over the domain, you end up reversing the flow of air leaks, making a more thorough assessment possible. 

And open to a whole new world of possibilities. With a thermal camera doing your bidding, it’s not just leaky access hatches that may catch you in surprise. Here are some essential aspects of your client’s precious abode that will show its energy secrets to you:

  • HVAC woes (mechanical and electrical)
  • Above-normal electrical connections
  • Plumbing woes (condensation)
  • Water leaks (bathroom)
  • Unwanted moisture accumulation (roofing etc.)
  • Air leaks (HVAC, etc.)
  • Kitchen leaks (heater etc.)

Even home invasion by unwanted creatures in the house can appear on your screen (assuming you’re pointing your device to it):

  • Vermin infestation
  • Creepy crawlies infestation (ants, termites)

The good news is you can do all the audit you need without any unnecessary invasion on the property entrusted to you. So, no disruption of any home surface just to reveal their energy woes. No need to open up equipment, electrical and otherwise. 

With a thermal camera in hand, you can do your energy audit as smoothly as possible. Imagine the kind of reputation you’d weave without it. 

Best of all, you are able to detect problems before they blow up in the homeowner’s face. Thermal cameras like can be used to detect thermal anomalies that lead to fires giving owners ample time to put the situation under wraps. A perfect example is the Hi-low temperature alarm (i.e., IR0280) which sets off an alarm when a certain preset temperature is reached. 

Putting It All in Perspective

Then again, hold your horses. While thermal imagers do actually spot thermal anomalies, it’s still best not to jump into hasty conclusions. Meaning: You need not tear down walls based on a set of images.  A thorough assessment should be in order, coming from a certified home improvement professional. Here’s a rundown of some essential things to bear in mind when doing an energy audit:

  1. You can’t overemphasize the power of images. It’s important therefore that, as much as possible, you go for thermal cameras that also feature a digital picture as we know it. This allows you to zero in on the problem area with greater accuracy. 
  1. Look twice before you leap. Remember that not all thermal anomalies are created equal - even with similar heat readings. It’s always best to do a thorough inspection before you jump into drastic action. Think of a thermal imager as a guide. It shows you the problem areas. Now, you need to do your due diligence to bring about needed results. 
  1. Remember, the amount of heat differences matter. The lesser the heat difference, the lesser the chances your thermographic pictures will register anomalies. Usually, a difference of lesser than 20° becomes least noticeable. 

A great way to overcome this hurdle is by relying on the thermostat. Putting the room temperature lower or higher some minutes before your set home inspection time can do wonders to your thermal camera graphic results. Earning you greater confidence from your clientele. And winning hearts, in the long run. 



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