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INDOOR AIR QUALITY & HOUSE TIGHTNESS
INSULATION INSPECTION & IMPROVEMENT
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THERMAL IMAGING, THERMOGRAPHY
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Guide to effective use of thermography: this article describes the use of thermography, infra red imagers or scanners for observing building component or temperature variations as a component of building inspection, testing or surveys as part of an energy audit, house doctoring, heat loss, moisture screening, or screening for hidden building damage or mold contamination.
We describe how thermal imaging is used in building surveys and we list sources of error in conclusions some may draw from examination of thermal images or data. We include sources of thermal imaging equipment, thermal scanners, and thermography education and training. Page top image of thermal scan results provided courtesy of Paul Probett, Incodo Ltd., a New Zealand Forensic Building Specialist.
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Paul Probett, Incodo Forensic Building Specialists 
This article is adapted with permission from Thermal Imaging and Building Surveying / Inspection, a 2008 presentation by Paul Probett. 
Thermal images and IR have been widely used with some success at spotting areas of heat loss in buildings and these tools have a longer history of use in examining overheated electrical connections, motors, etc.
Examples of Using IR Infrared Scanning Thermography Equipment for Building Surveys
We have made regular use of small hand-held IR or thermal scanner equipment in building inspection surveys for nearly twenty years. The two most common uses we've made of the equipment are described here.
See ALUMINUM WIRING HAZARDS & REPAIRS for an example of aluminum wiring overheating shown in the two photographs at left.
Are Thermal Images Useful in Spotting Areas of Extra Risk of Structural Rot Damage or Hidden Mold in Buildings?
OPINION: DF: Thermal images and IR have been widely used with some success at spotting areas of heat loss in buildings and these tools have a longer history of use in examining overheated electrical connections, motors, etc. But for finding hidden mold, thermography is a risky proposition.
Image at left, courtesy Paul Probett, Incodo 
Watch out: in the hands of the un-trained or unscrupulous these and other tools can wreak havoc or harm to consumers.
The most egregious instrument snafu I've come across [DF] recently was a Hudson Valley New York "mold remediator" uses an IR camera to tell his clients where the hidden mold is located in their home - it was a modern version of the guy with the light meter who sold people replacement windows by showing clients where their heat loss was occurring - wherever there was light.
I did find areas of basement water entry and moldy insulation - in an area not addressed by the New York mold-thermographer. Details about using thermal imaging to look for hidden mold are at THERMAL IMAGING MOLD SCANS. Also see FIBERGLASS INSULATION MOLD. A different case - a thermal imaging report with almost no useful data, is discussed at ROOF VENTILATION IMPROVEMENTS.
Paul Probett adds: We had major problems with people buying thermal imagers, using ex military units and making ridiculous claims. In 2008 I gave a power-point presentation  to a conference explaining how IR results can be fudged and I described the limitations of thermal imagers. (Our staff had been through the Infraspection Institute USA on-line course to level 2 the year before).
Mr. Probett's 2008 power point presentation on using thermography in building damage or mold surveys is adapted and expanded in the article text that follows.
Consumer Tip For Hiring a Building Surveyor or Mold Inspector
Sources of Error in Thermal Imaging and IR Temperature Measurements
Paul Probett, Incodo Forensic Building Specialists 
In our opinion, thermal imaging is a very useful tool for building surveys, but building inspection reports that rely primarily or only on thermal imaging tend to be flawed.
Images at left, courtesy Paul Probett, Incodo
Key Observation Factors in Moisture Detection (or heat loss detection) using Thermal Imaging
False positive thermal images are illustrated in Probett's slide shown at left.
At top right is the digital image of the building exterior wall.
At lower left is a thermal image that might be indicating a water leak or moisture collected inside the wall at its top section.
At lower right the image has been digitally manipulated to dramatize the apparent leak.
A thermal image can be manipulated by accident of how the image was collected (at an angle or with improper camera adjustments) or deliberately by an unscrupulous operator.
In these images Mr. Probett illustrates how easily a color image from a thermal imaging camera might be manipulated - in this case changing the color palette and contrast and temperature range to lose definition.
Examples of a false positive thermal image reading include the thermal images at left.
The thermal image shown at left illustrates wet or damp areas and concomitant temperature differences noted by the IR camera.
In this case the surveyor wasreporting on a gutter leak that sent water across the soffit and behind the fiber-cement cladding on the building wall.
Example Thermal Imaging Report
[Click to enlarge this or any images in this article]
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