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Heat Loss Detection of the House With Infrared Thermal Camera
Dario Sabljak Heat Loss Detection of the House With Infrared Thermal Camera

Istueta Roofing, in Miami, discovering a bat infestation under the tiles of a Miami roof. While most remodelers rarely encounter such a big surprise, learning what lurks behind the walls on a job before getting started can save time and money.

Not Quite X-Ray Vision

“Thermal” imaging (used interchangeably with “infrared”) — using the heat emitted by objects to produce an image — seems like the answer, as concluded by most participants in a recent LinkedIn discussion on this topic. But scouting for trouble spots isn’t simply a matter of purchasing a special camera.

About three years ago, David Meiland, president of Bailer Hill Construction, in Friday Harbor, Wash., got interested in energy and building performance and purchased a midrange infrared camera for $9,000. (See below for more about camera cost.)

But even if such a camera is in your budget, Meiland cautions general contractors: “You probably wouldn’t buy a thermal imaging camera unless you were going to expand your business model and incorporate its use.” Aside from remodeling, Meiland is a Building Performance Institute analyst and does blower door testing (now required of new builds in his state) as well as water intrusion and moisture inspections. “But,” he adds, “any contractor who’s not going to become a trained building performance technician needs to know one.”

Know Your Limits

If you do decide to buy a camera, it’s important to get training. “Finding radiant tubing in a floor is like shooting fish in a barrel,” Meiland says. But you might not know how to find moisture in a building. “There’s more subtlety to that,” he adds. Training also showed Meiland that he couldn’t do what he needed to with a low-cost camera.

“Thermal imaging is a real shortcut,” he says. “I can often save myself a lot of time and avoid destructive investigation. If I can do that, I want to.”

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