November 19, 2020

A thermal camera in your hand could be the most efficient way to spend your time during the pandemic. Think about it. While you could choose to wait it out and tackle all the hobbies you can take on, getting your house in order this time around offers tons of benefits - largely unprecedented we dare say. And there may never be a better opportunity to get it done than these days.

For starters, you have all the time in the world. All the time that could fly out the window unproductive. Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s National Doctor, believes it will be by late 2021 that everything could be back to normal. That’s a lot of time, right? Secondly, it’s highly likely you have more manpower than you normally can get at your disposal. Yup, under the stay-in-place orders, everyone in the family should be grounded so to speak.

Most importantly, you owe it to yourself to get your house as efficient as possible. When you do, you guarantee a slew of benefits will rain down on your precious abode. And everyone you love. Reason enough why a thermal camera is invaluable.  Its ability to help you plug holes plaguing your house is unparalleled. Certainly, putting one in your hand can mean your time spent at home during the pandemic is not wasted. Come to think of it, it’s a win-win scenario of the highest order. Given that you play your cards right.

 

1. ISSUE: Skyrocketing Energy Bills

If you’re wondering if there is any chance you can lower your energy bills, then you’re in luck. No less than the Department of Energy confirms most American homes can save as much as 30% of their energy bills by taking concrete steps. That’s a lot of money. Considering that a third of American homes nationwide are struggling to pay their bills, that can be a boost, a timely shot in the arm.

Certainly, applying those government tips would bid you well. What many Americans don’t realize is they can actually do more now. Specifically, they make their homes as energy-efficient as possible using a thermal camera. To do that, you need to locate which areas of your home are draining your energy.

To note, drafts are a perennial problem. Think of them as you would a thief. They let heat escape during winter increasing your heating bills;  in summer they let the heat in so your AC has to work double-time.

Heat loss and draft may be invisible to the human eye. But not to a thermal camera. Designed to detect heat, an infrared thermal camera (a.k.a thermal imaging, infrared device) can show you the heat signatures of objects around the house.

DIY Solution #1:

DIY Solution 1

Energy audit your house. Start with the walls to check if insulation is compromised or totally missing. To do that, “point and shoot” the thermal camera to an area you want to investigate. Remember that cold objects put out less heat appear darker, either blue or black. Brighter colors such as red, yellow, or orange represent warmer temperatures.

Don’t miss out on the attic, eaves, cantilevers, and knee walls. usually, these areas are top of the list as a source of the biggest energy losses. By looking into these hard-to-reach spots, you will know if there are insulation issues or substandard installations.

Be comprehensive and check the windows too. The fact is you should check just about everywhere in the house. Usually, energy loss in windows happens below sills and through headers.

The best time to check energy gaps in your abode could be at night. The weather is a lot cooler by then and your heater is cranking double time. Such a scenario makes warm air escaping more apparent allowing you to pinpoint their exact location with better accuracy.

If you want to take your energy audit to a whole new level, you can deploy the blower-door testing. However, this test requires tools to yield accurate results. More often than not, blower-door tests are handled by professional energy auditors.

 

2. ISSUE: Electrical Integrity

Electrical Integrity

Electrical issues cannot be trifled with. Unchecked, these can literally burn your house down. The trick is to detect the presence of electrical anomalies before they blow up in your face.

  • Over $1.4 billion are lost yearly to home fires.

Heat in electrical circuits is a telltale sign of a malfunction. In this sense, it’s an ally as it directs your attention to a circuit gone wrong. When burning occurs, that may already be too late.

There numerous causes of electrical faults. It can be an overload or a simple loose-fitting. As the electrical components age, the risk of malfunction rises. The trick is to do regular check-ups to negate the possibility of fires.

Such predictive maintenance saves you the trouble of unscheduled downtime. Plus, it lowers your repair costs when it needs to happen. Most importantly, it keeps your family safe and warm by preventing disastrous fire that guts your property and endangers lives.

DIY Solution #2:

Solution 2

Start with your home’s main electrical points. Use a thermal camera to check fuses. It’s important that you do not attempt to fix an electrical problem if you see one unless it’s an emergency. Electricity can be fatal so having the right tools and a standing assistant to remedy an electrical hotspot is paramount.

To do an exhaustive thermal inspection, it is best that you have your system under load. Meaning, as much as possible no major projects such as a welding task are burdening your house. This way you can better manage whatever underlying electrical issues present.

For major points such as circuit breakers, you may need to open enclosures for the best results. Getting a visual before you get to view it on thermal is paramount. A thermal camera can point you to the location of the problem. However, you need to factor in additional testing to get to the bottom of it all and determine the cause of the electrical malfunction.

 

3.   ISSUE: Poor Home Insulation

Home insulation acts like your protective cocoon from the weather outside. If you have a better-than-usual energy envelope, your heating and your cooling systems (HVAC) won’t have to work extra to give you the indoor temperature you need.

While it may seem a personal decision, efficient home insulation in your abode can have global consequences. The more efficient your home, the less you need HVAC to work extra. This means the less fuel you use. In turn, the less fuel you use the fewer carbon emissions you contribute to our planet.

So not only do you save money in ensuring you have above-grade home insulation, but you also help Mother Earth.

Be warned, however, sometimes DIYers rely on the R-value of an insulating material to determine the quality of home insulation they’re getting. R-value is defined as the amount of resistance a material manifests against heat flow. The higher the R-value the higher the resistance.

The problem is R-value may not be the “final word” on home insulation. Know that heat can travel both via convection and radiation. And studies show about 40% of heat loss in a home is through convection. Getting a thermal camera allows you to see real-time heat transfer results.

DIY Solution #3:

Solution 3

With a thermal camera in your hand, you won’t have to tear down walls just to check on missing insulation. Missing insulation is an energy hotspot. As it allows either heat or cold to flow in, insulation gaps will manifest energy holes in your thermal imager.

To get the best results, be mindful of the temperature difference between outside and inside your precious abode. As much as possible achieve a 20-degree temperature difference. You can do that by cranking the heater up in the cold of winter and turning the AC on when summer days are here.

Be critical of building connections. Check attic edges and areas where the wall meets the roof. Unfinished garages are also a major culprit when these rooms are directly intertwined with your main building.

 

4. ISSUE: Moisture and Mold Build-up

Moisture and Mold Build Up

You may not realize it yet but unchecked moisture build-up can be a huge threat to your dwelling place. Moisture is a sneaky enemy. By weakening your walls, it destroys from the inside. There are many ways moisture can accumulate without detection. There are faulty roof envelopes and unseen disasters such as flooding.

The situation gets even worse if your precious abode has a basement or crawl space. Moisture is bound to plague your home. As these spaces are often close and therefore not well-ventilated, they act as a moisture magnet, drawing it from the ground.

Unchecked moisture combined with humidity is a breeding ground for mildew. Moreover, this can lead to the proliferation of mold in your wood. As time rolls by, your house wood weakens till it collapses.

Worse, mold/mildew build-up can get you sick. As these proliferate, airborne spores are produced which can be distributed through your air ducts. If left to its own devices, these wayward spores can bring irritation to the skin, not to mention allergies and a host of infections.

If that is not enough, moisture is bound to disfigure your inner space. Mold can develop underneath your carpets causing it to deteriorate and become inutile. Unchecked moisture sabotages your walls. As it creates cold pockets in your walls, moisture can make your wall aesthetics suffer. Paint and wallpaper lose strength and eventually flake away. When you look at it, you may have no option but to replace it altogether.

Bear in mind that mold cannot exist without moisture. So these two go hand in hand as an issue to

DIY Solution #4:

Solution 4

With a thermal camera, you can do a forensic moisture audit. Right off the bat, know that moisture is not the easiest to track as its signs can be subtle. It’s important then that you keep a close eye on your thermal monitor.

Again, you need to be picky about the time you do your testing. The greater the disparity between the weather outside and the temperature inside, the better your thermal results will get.

Bear in mind that the material matters. Stucco exteriors, for instance, can betray the presence of moisture more than a siding. Stucco material can absorb and retain moisture better as it’s more porous whereas siding’s thickness makes it an uphill climb to detect the presence of moisture.

A way to get over challenging materials is to use hot water to enhance a cold exterior. However, applying hot water to the entirety of a bigger area could be a challenge.

 

5. ISSUE: Uneven HVAC Distribution

Uneven HVAC distribution

Think of your HVAC as you would your heart. The heart distributes oxygen-rich blood to energize the whole body through your arteries. However, if the arteries get compromised by plaque, heart complications are bound to materialize. The body won’t be able to function seamlessly.

The same could happen to your HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning) System. As it’s responsible for giving your home the right temperature in spite of the weather outside, the system must be able to provide an optimal distribution system.. If not, you could be throwing precious money while your HVAC is working.

This is why checking on the air duct is a must. Thermal imaging can be a huge lift in zeroing in on the underlying problems plaguing your HVAC distribution system. It could be an obstructed condenser unit or a blocked vent.

DIY Solution #5:

Solution 5

Again, you have to ensure you get the best conditions to track heat signatures in your air duct system. This is important so anomalous thermal patterns can easily be traced.

To be able to locate hidden vents, you need to kick your HVAC system into action. Once the system is up and running, you can scan portions of the house, from the walls to the ceilings to the floors. This gives you a rough idea where questionable spikes or lows of heat are found.

If an area in the vent looks suspicious, you should proceed to investigate. Usually, it’s just the size is just a square foot. Check if you can gain access to the location from within the attic. However, if access is not possible, you may have to do the scanning again. 

You can do so by adjusting the thermostat to a lower or higher temperature. After 15 minutes, get to scan again. If the area in question still registers a temperature different from the rest of the picture, you may have a blocked or hidden vent.

 

Indeed, you will find that DIYs will take your time and effort. And that’s exactly why the pandemic with all the time in the world available to you can be just the right time to do it. Everything should work out fine so long as you have a suitable thermal camera in hand.