Leak Detection Using an Infrared Camera
Living in Los Angeles there’s one thing that you can count on and that’s a mild winter. Well, not including the last winter we experienced of 2019. We received more rainfall that I can ever remember living in California. So with the rain came leaks into our homes and buildings. As a water intrusion company, we were extremely busy. Something else that was busy was our infrared cameras. You see, looking for leaks within walls or, Leak Detection Using an Infrared Camera is essential.
Does and infrared camera see through walls for leaks?
Thermography, or the use of an infrared camera to find water intrusion or leaks, exists on the surface level. That means, when we’re looking for leaks, the camera can only detect temperature differences on the surface. Infrared cameras cannot see into walls. However, the temperatures taken from surface materials will sometimes allows up to more or less guess as to whats within a wall cavity.
Another misnomer is that an infrared camera can find mold. That is absolutely not the case. Leak Detection Using an Infrared Camera is just that, leak detection. Mold detection requires special equipment and testing. Furthermore, when you test mold the samples must be sent to a lab for analyzation. Whereas, with infrared, it’s more like an X-ray. The results are immediate.
Level III thermographers in Los Angeles
As a level III Thermographer, we truly understand the science behind the use of infrared in water leak detection. As a matter of fact, there is no higher certification than the level III thermographer. Here in Los Angeles, there are only a handful of us with this certification. For those of you who require a professional for your Leak Detection Using an Infrared Camera, the level III operator is who you want. It’s not that the other guys who have infrared cameras can’t do the job. Not at all… its just a good idea to have a person who is qualified on paper. In fact, the level III certification is extremely difficult to achieve. For me, it was more difficult than acquiring my California General Contractors License.
Is infrared scanning during a home inspection worth it
One of the many questions I get asked as both an Infrared contractor and home inspector is, “Is infrared scanning during a home inspection worth it”. In short… absolutely. As a level III infrared thermographer here in Los Angeles you see many things. I’d honestly say that I would never ever perform a building or home inspection without the use of an infrared camera.
In other words, with what I know and having seen from what I’ve inspected in over 15,000 inspections, using thermal imaging or an infrared camera to perform inspections during a home inspection is a must.
Let me put it to you in another way. When I first received my infrared camera back in the early 2000’s, my eyes were opened to all the issues I was missing. From water inside walls and ceilings to electrical issues in panels and within the home or business itself. Think about it. One day you’re seeing the walls just as they are, a solid mass of material and with the introduction of infrared scanning, now you can see virtually “inside the walls”… well, sort of. So is infrared inspection worth it? In a word, yes.
What is infrared?
We can define thermography as a non contact, no destructive testing method by which a thermal camera or thermal imager can detect and display temperature patterns across the surface of any given object.
Infrared light as well as the visible light is part of the electromagnetic spectrum. When compared to visible light, Infrared has a much lower frequency and longer wavelength. We use infrared thermography to detect infrared energy which is emitted from an object. The software then converts the energy into apparent temperatures and displaying those results in an image or thermogram.
The use of thermal imaging or thermography can be applied to just about any situation where taking these temperature reading will provide useful data. We use thermography for preventative maintenance, troubleshooting specific quantitative issues, condition assessment, research and development, medical and veterinary science.
The different certification levels of an infrared thermographer
There are effectively three (3) different levels of infrared thermography certification. We are level II which is the highest level of certification provided in the industry. Using an infrared camera to perform infrared building inspections isn’t just taking pretty colorful images with an expensive camera. Thermal imaging with home inspections is a science. Why, with all the false positives with the use of an infrared camera it’s difficult for the untrained to differentiate between what is an anomaly and what is a real issue.
My suggestion to those looking for an inspector with an infrared camera is to choose one with some degree of certification.
Level I Infrared thermographer certification
The level one certification is essentially an introduction to thermography and infrared science. The level one covers the basics of thermography such as infrared theory. Included is some equipment operation, the theory of infrared, heat transfer, standards, how to analyze thermograms, and generate basic reports.
Level II Infrared thermographer certification
On the other hand, the level II course is focused on advanced infrared theory. It speaks to equipment calibration, false positives, the use of other ancillary tools in conjunction with the infrared camera. in addition, it includes the use of windows or filters, repair priorities and quantitive reporting.
Level III Infrared thermographer certification
Level III certification is the highest level of certification available in the industry. This course focuses on implementing and managing programs for infrared inspection protocol and maintenance. Moreover, this certification level speaks to the standards and specifications surrounding the infrared inspection industry such as NFPA, ASTM and OSHA. With more advanced focus on performing prognostics on fault conditions and heat transfer analysis theory as well as supervise and train infrared personal below level 3.
What is the cost of an infrared inspection?
With thermography I’d say there are a few different sides to the industry. On one hand you have home inspectors and other types of building diagnostic companies using the equipment. Not to mention, mold remediation, water intrusion specialists and other industry experts all use thermography. Its primary use is to perform inspections and diagnostics for repairs.
There are others who use thermography as a preventative measure such as in a manufacturing factory for example.
Home Inspection and the use of Thermography
Most home inspectors use the camera during their home inspection for free. That said, however, there are some inspectors who will charge a nominal fee to bust out the pretty picture taking device. How can you blame them, some of these cameras cost of $50,000. Our fee to use our camera outside of a home inspection hoovers around $300 an hour. So is an infrared inspection worth it? Yes, still worth it.
On the other hand, thermography is widely use in the medial field for breast scanning. For veterinary services its used for checking horses for injuries. According to healthline.com, the average cost for an infrared breast exam is about $150-200 while scanning a horse for example, costs about the same.
Do all home inspectors use infrared?
Although the use of infrared technology has been around for a while now, the use of thermography in the home inspection industry is not so old. In fact, it’s only been around 10-15 years now, that thermography has joined forces with home inspectors. I suspect it’s mostly due to the fact that cameras have gotten more affordable. Starting prices are about $200.
Yet still, many home inspectors do not believe in the technology and have not bought into the thermal imaging hype. As I previously mentioned, I refuse to perform a home inspection if i do not have my infrared camera with me. And for us to say this… it must be a pretty important tool not to leave in the bag.
Infrared False Positives and what you need to know
Marc Mazza is a Level III infrared thermographer
Marc Mazza, owner / head inspector of the Mazza Inspection Group is a Level III thermographer in Los Angeles . This status is achieved through a costly, lengthy training and study process followed up by procedural studies and field tests and assignments.
Furthermore, the Level III status is achieved through deep dedication and a genuine desire to make the inspection process as intrusive as it can possibly get without destructive testing. Likewise, this is an essential component of an efficient and professional residential or commercial inspection.
Unlike many other Los Angeles Inspectors and thermographers, a camera does not a thermographer make. Meaning, you can buy an infrared camera but it doesn’t make you a Level III thermographer in Los Angeles.
Three things you need when considering An Infrared inspection
Can Infrared Thermography locate Mold?
Contrary to what many people believe, Thermography does not find mold. Others, think that because the use of this equipment can detect water intrusion, it can detect or otherwise locate mold. It cannot. Thermography, under the right conditions and in the hands of the right operator, can in fact find water, which leads to mold.
Will an Infrared camera see through walls?
No. Infrared thermography is just a tool like many others. This equipment can detect temperature differences. Combined with the knowledge of how thermography works, we can determine whether moisture is present.
Do you have to be a certified to use an infrared camera?
Most users of thermography are not at all certified. In fact, there are no requirements to be a thermographer. That said, we are professional thermographers which is to say we understand the science behind thermography. False positives are not an issue when we perform our evaluations.
Infrared Cameras Used by the Mazza Inspection Group can Identify Electrical Problems and Moisture Intrusion
Infrared thermography is the use of special equipment / cameras that take pictures that use colors to represent the various temperatures of a surface or object.
Essentially, these cameras, operated by qualified technicians are able to detect anomalies in electrical equipment and machinery.
Infrared cameras can also detect moisture and leaks. We use these state of the art infrared cameras and moisture meters at his inspections to identify potentially harmful or hazardous conditions not visible to the naked eye.
An Infrared Level III Thermographer can Find Problems that other Inspectors Cannot
The tools, skill and knowledge of a trained thermographer provide a definite advantage over those inspectors that do not use this specialized equipment or are not trained to use the equipment that they have. Houses and buildings have potentially unsafe situations in electrical panels, wiring outlets and other components within the system. Water intrusion can cause damage to the structure as well as the potential for mold which can become a health hazard if gone undetected.