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Using Thermal Imaging to Locate Water Leaks

Inspection training

This picture of a home taken with an infrared camera looks beautiful, but this tool is most often used to find problems in the home such as leaks.

Your home inspection training helped you to learn ways to spot evidence of leaks — stains, warping, etc., — but how do you find the source of these leaks?

Sometimes it’s easy. You may be in an attic and see water leaking through a hole in the roof. You may be in a basement and view water seeping under a door or dripping out of a crack in the wall. You may spot a slow leak in a pipe or water heater.

But other times, it’s harder to figure out where the water is coming from. Homeowners know only too well how they can pay for repairs over and over and still suffer from the same problem.

Thermal Imaging for Leak Detection

Unfortunately, you can’t just ask Alexa where a home is leaking. But the same technological innovation that makes helpful inventions like Alexa is also responsible for thermal imaging infrared cameras. Thermal imaging works by detecting subtle changes in temperature caused by the presence of moisture.

The more sophisticated tools produce a colored picture, but both these and the monochromatic versions reveal wet areas as darker. This in itself, however, doesn’t solve the mystery. It’s just a clue. After all, it’s not difficult for a homeowner to eyeball a wet spot; but sometimes it’s hard to tell where the water is coming from.

When you identify a wet area on a ceiling, the next step is to find out what’s up above it. It may be a hole in the roof, or it may be a plumbing leak in the bathroom upstairs. If you see a wet area in a basement, water may be seeping through the floor, but it may also be trickling in through a window, door, or crack in the wall.

A thermal imaging meter can help you trace the water back to its origin.

Finds Hidden Problems

It’s an incredibly useful tool, and not only to find the source of leaks. As a home inspector, you’ll want to use your meter in every room to search for any signs of moisture. Frequently there is no evidence of moisture infiltration until the problem has significantly progressed. If you can catch it early, it can save the homeowner money.

For instance, sometimes a small roof leak will trickle down the underside of the roof and into the walls, where it may be absorbed by the insulation. This can go on for years with no one being the wiser. However, with a moisture meter, you may be able to detect dampness inside the walls of a room.

Thermal imaging handheld device

Thermal imaging technology can help you do a better job — and make more money.

An infrared camera is not a cheap tool, however. They can run from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand. The time and investment it takes to look for moisture in rooms with no evidence of problems may not be worth the effort. However, if you purchase an infrared camera to use when you discover evidence of active leaks, you may want to offer an add-on service to increase the value of your investment in the equipment.

For an extra fee, you can offer to go through each room of the house, looking for any signs of unusual moisture. This is actually a highly valuable service. Anyone can see puddles or stains, but an infrared camera can spot moisture that no one can see. This is evidence of a problem — possibly an expensive one — that would have otherwise gone undetected.

Adding sophisticated tools to enhance the value of your inspection training makes your business more competitive, and therefore more in demand.

For more great tips on how to grow your home inspector business, check out our website today

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