In years past, thermal imaging cameras have been used in all sorts of special applications, ranging from targeting systems in military planes to search and rescue operations. As the cost of the technology has come down, they have become increasingly prevalent in more mundane situations, such as in moisture testing and leak detection.
How Infrared Thermal Imaging Works
Thermal imaging cameras operate by measuring the amount of heat energy radiating from the various objects in an area at which it’s pointed. Just as the light energy that bounces off of objects can be focused through a lens and “captured” by a camera (or our eyes) to create an image, the same can be done with thermal energy. Thermal energy isn’t visible to our eyes, though our skin can detect it at close range (think of holding your hand over an asphalt road on a hot day).
Because humans can’t see heat energy, infrared imaging equipment translates the picture into a false-color image, where different temperature ranges are represented by certain colors. Typically, dark colors like black and blue represent surfaces that are cool (and thus not radiating much thermal energy), and bright colors like yellow, red and white represent warm and hot areas that are radiating a great deal of thermal energy.
Using Infrared Thermal Imaging to Find Leaks and Moisture Infiltration
In a sense, water is very greedy about heat; it can readily absorb a lot of heat, and thus objects and surfaces in contact with it lose heat and are cooler than they would otherwise be. Imagine putting the edge of a napkin into a glass of cold water. As the moisture wicked up into the material of the napkin, the moist areas of the napkin would become cooler as heat energy flowed through the moisture and back into the glass of water. In comparison, the dry areas of the napkin would be warmer.
Because of this property of water, infrared thermal imaging equipment can be used to determine the source of moisture or leaks within a home that is causing water damage. This is accomplished by measuring the heat signatures walls, ceilings, and floors to find temperature discrepancies that may hint at the source of an otherwise invisible leak. These variations in temperature are usually caused by the evaporation of moisture, or deposits of water absorbing surface heat. Subsequent in-depth investigation with IR equipment allows our trained technicians to more easily find, examine, and remediate water damage before it becomes readily visible.
However, there are many other applications for thermal imaging cameras in building inspections besides those having to do with mold and water leaks. Some of the other issues that our technicians can inspect using infrared thermal cameras include:
- Structural damage to a home or building
- Structural defects resulting from the use of poor building materials or long-term wear and tear
- Electrical system problems
Additionally, this technology can be used in a proactive manner as well to determine potential trouble areas in new construction or repair. For instance, thermal images of a new roof may show structurally weak areas that could later give way and collapse, causing damage or injury.
It should be noted that simply having a thermal camera isn’t enough to conduct proper water damage and structural integrity inspection. Understanding the data produced by an IR machine requires the same sort of practice and expertise that a sonogram specialist must have in order to interpret the images produced by an ultrasound machine.
The technicians at IR Environmental have undergone extensive training so that they can accurately interpret information produced by our IR equipment, and determine the appropriate course of action to fix any problems they discover.