If you are like most other homeowners in the Phoenix, Arizona area, you are overspending on your utilities every month. With all of the improvements and innovations that can make homes more energy efficient, it is possible to reduce your monthly utilities bills by up to 50% when you make a few changes in your home. Some of the most basic ways to improve the energy efficiency of your home are replacing appliances with Energy Star models, replacing windows, patching leaks in your duct-work, and insulating the house. The best way to find out where the major problem areas are in your house is to have a home energy assessment. This assessment includes a number of tests and procedures that are designed to detect where and how you can improve your home.
Over the past several years, thermal imaging has become an important way to detect problems in homes. Not only is thermal imaging used in home and building inspections before you buy a home, it can also be useful when you are interested in upgrading or improving your home so that it is more energy efficient, safe, and comfortable for your family.
How Does Thermal Imaging Work?
Thermal imaging is a way to detect infrared light. Although it is not detectable by the human eye, every object emits a certain amount of energy. The way that objects transmit and reflect this energy is based on their composition and on their temperature. The waves of energy that are emitted by a given object are called infrared radiation. Hot objects emit more thermal energy, or radiation, than cold objects.
High tech tools are used to do infrared inspections in homes. These tools are equipped with a special lens that detects radiated energy and transmits what it finds to a signal processor; the signal processor measures the data and converts it to a corresponding map of temperatures. The images produced by a thermal imaging tool can be displayed in several different ways. It can be broadcasted onto a standard television screen, or the screen of a camera. The technology that is used to detect thermal energy in a home is actually the same technology that has been used for decades in night vision devices by military and law enforcement groups.
What Can You Find Out from Thermal Imaging?
In a modern home inspection, infrared imaging can be used to display a thermal map of a certain part of the home. The map is color-coded based on the amount of heat that is being emitted. The warmest objects are projected in red and yellow, while the coldest objects will often show up as purple and blue on the monitor. In a home energy assessment, the thermal imaging machine can be instrumental in showing moisture or cold air. Generally, a wet area is colder than the dry areas around it. When you have a thermal image of a leak in your ceiling, you will be able to see pools where moisture has created cold spots in the home.
Thermal imaging can also be pointed at a furnace or air conditioning unit, duct-work, plumbing, or even the elements on your stove. When each of these machines is turned on, the imaging machine can detect whether or not they heat evenly, and it can also find areas where more heat or cold is released. Thermal imaging can be instrumental in detecting some of the following problems:
- Inadequate insulation in the attic, around fans and fixtures, or in the walls
- Windows that do not provide a sufficient barrier between the interior and exterior
- Leaks in plumbing fixtures, duct-work, and in other areas
- Thermal defects
- Air envelopes
One of the drawbacks to thermal imaging is that it takes a well-trained eye to be able to understand the images and accurately diagnose any given problem in the home. In some cases, a cold spot on the monitor can look like it might be a water leak, but actually be a section of the home that is not properly insulated. When the thermal imaging machine yields results that indicate a possible leak or other problem in the home, there are additional tests that can be done in order to determine exactly what is causing the hot or cold spot. Additionally, the accuracy of a thermal image can be distorted when it is used under improper conditions. Wind speed, temperature, and time of day can have a big impact on the image, which is why it is important to time the test correctly, taking into account all of these factors.
When is it Most Useful?
Thermal imaging is one of the most useful parts of a home energy audit. When it is performed by a certified technician, thermal imaging can provide detailed information such as the location and severity of leaks, defects, inadequate insulation, and other problems.
While a thermographic scanner can be useful for many different things, one of its strengths is detecting problems that aren’t visible from the surface. In the past, if you suspected a leak or other problem in a pipe behind a wall, you had to cut a hole in that wall in order to diagnose the problem. You might have had to cut several holes in various parts of the wall to finally find the leak. With a thermal imaging scanner, you can determine the exact size and location of the problem before you cut a single hole.
A thermal imaging device is also a great asset for detecting faulty wiring, mold, and many other things that can affect the health and safety of your family. In tandem with a blower door (which is used to put positive or negative pressure on the entire home and perform various tests), thermal imaging can help to accurately locate the size and type of leak that you might have. By undergoing the testing and inspections that are included in a home energy audit, you can improve the energy efficiency of your home and find various other problems that may be unnecessarily costing you money. Thermal imaging is one of many different factors that go into performing a comprehensive and accurate home energy assessment.