What Is Thermography?

b2 infrared camera

Thermography is basically the use of an infrared imaging and measurement camera that can literally "see" and "measure" thermal energy emitted from an object. An infrared camera can only detect temperature differences that transfer to the most outer surface of an area being thermally scanned. In order for an infrared camera to detect anomalies, it’s mandatory to have a temperature difference (Delta-T) of at least ten to fifteen degrees Fahrenheit, between the inside and outsise of the areas being thermally scanned. If a Delta-T is not established to the outer most surface of the area being thermally scanned, then my infrared camera will not detect any defects that may be lurking within surfaces of your home.

Most building materials that are concealed behind your walls, ceilings and floors of your home will have an absolute temperature difference in a seasonal situation due to the conditioning of the living areas with heat in the winter months and air conditioning in the summer months. In New England’s ever-changing temperatures, the inside and outside temperatures will contain sufficient Delta-T if the area being scanned is conditioned with either heat or air conditioning. If the exterior temperature is the same as the interior temperature, then an infrared camera can not perform its intended function until a 10-15 degree differential is established. Again, a Delta-T is absolutely necessary for an infrared camera to detect concealed defects that I can then interpret.

Now that you understand what Thermography is, I'm going to be more explicit as to “How this technology actually works”. Thermal, or infrared energy, is light that is not visible because its wavelength is too long to be detected by the human eye; it's the part of the electromagnetic spectrum (EM) that we perceive as heat (See electromagnetic spectrum below). Unlike visible light (in the infrared world) everything with a temperature above absolute zero will always emit heat. Even very cold objects (such as ice cubes), will emit infrared images. The higher the object's temperature, the greater the infrared (IR) radiation emitted. By detecting those differentiating thermal patterns that are invisible to the naked eye, I’m able to point out concealed issues that need attention now. These findings enable homeowners to perform repairs in a predictive fashion rather than in a reactive manner, which is going to be far more expensive and time consuming when these invisible issues finally become apparent.

ELECTROMAGNETIC SPECTRUM

Below, you can see that infrared starts where visible leaves off (in the EM spectrum), the color red grades into reflective infrared. This is the infrared energy reflected from the surface of an object.

electromagnetic spectrum

To imply that infrared cameras are like X-ray machines and enable Thermographer's to see through walls and ceilings is ludicrous. By looking at the graph above, you can clearly see that infrared waves are nowhere near the same wave length as an X-ray.

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I have had MassSave energy audits at my house in the past, but for some reason, there were still a few droughts that couldn't be identified. I am a real estate broker and have come to know the excellence and professionalism that Dave Valley brings to home inspections. When I learned that Dave also does thermal imaging audits, I thought that it would be a really good idea to hire him to do an infrared thermal imaging inspection. The findings from the thermal imaging inspection and the report that Dave created allowed me to see exactly what areas did not have insulation and this has enabled me to start tackling the remaining droughts in the house.

The major location where there was no insulation was on the flat roof above my roughly 400 square foot kitchen. All heat would just disappear through the flat roof above the kitchen. It was quite revealing and I never would have had this level of insight through thermal eyes without hiring Dave to do a thermal inspection with his infrared camera. Granted, it was difficult to follow up on Dave's recommendation "just rip out the kitchen ceiling and spray foam the entire roof and ridge line." I thought "ok, sure .. ugh!". I tackled this project though and thoroughly spray foamed the entire kitchen roof. The difference is incredibly measurable.

Now, to tackle several of the other locations identified in Dave's thermal imaging report. I highly recommend to hire Dave Valley to do a thermal imaging inspection and report for your home "prior" to doing an MassSave energy audit. The imaging report will help you immensely in pointing out your insulation needs and keeping the heat inside in winter and the cool inside in summer.

Warm regards,

~Willard


   
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