How the IAQ Industry Uses Thermal Imagery

How the IAQ Industry Uses Thermal Imaging

Thermal imaging has been used by the military to detect and identify enemy personnel, equipment, and buildings for years. Helicopters, fighter jets and even some missiles use thermal imaging for targeting and reconnaissance. Law enforcement agencies also use this technology for everything from tracking criminals at night to rescuing citizens and pets.

In the building industry, thermal imaging has been used to find problems with building materials, such as hidden water leaks, HVAC leaks, missing insulation, and faulty electrical and mechanical systems. For example, thermal imaging can help you locate loose fuse connections and overheated breaker boxes, or determine if there is energy loss due to poor insulation, bad weather stripping around entryways or refrigeration units.

Energy loss in building
Energy Loss in Building

The IAQ industry has been using thermal imaging over the past 5 years for “vision” during environmental investigations. Now you can examine roofs, floors, and walls for moisture intrusion. This technology does not use x-ray capabilities. Instead, it uses the differences in surface temperature to pinpoint problems and presents the results in a colorimetric scale on screen. Infrared cameras cannot detect mold. However, it can detect the temperature differences of moisture often associated with mold growth and condensation problems. You need to use a moisture meter to confirm that the temperature difference is indeed moisture.

Cold zones around attic door
Cold Zones Around Attic Door

Infrared cameras can also be an asset to remediation and restoration contractors. If walls are not dried completely, microbial problems can continue to occur. The infrared camera can help you determine if a wall has dried properly after remediation, saving you time and money by avoiding revisits.

Moisture at baseboard
Moisture at Baseboard

Some thermal imaging cameras come with features such as viewing picture-in-picture, saving jpeg images, and downloading capabilities. Thermal imaging cameras are quickly becoming a common tool to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of IAQ investigations and home inspections.

What is Thermal Image Scanning?

What is Thermal Image Scanning? Thermal imaging uses infrared technology to detect very small differences in temperature. Every material has a unique thermal signature and when moisture, heat, cold, or wood destroying insects are introduced into the structure the thermal signature changes. The changes can be subtle or dramatic but with this incredible thermal image scanning technology the thermal signatures are detectable where they wouldn’t be able to be seen with the naked eye.

What Thermal Imaging is NOT.  It’s not a Moisture Meter or X-Ray Vision or Super Tool or a Risk Eliminateor.   It cannot detect moisture because the best it can do is detect thermal differences.   The infrared imaging camera can identify suspect areas that require further investigation.

As new technologies are developed, they become available in areas of use far from what they were originally developed for.  Thermal Imaging is one such technology.  Originally developed for the military for finding enemy soldiers at night, it progressed to medical imaging, industrial testing and, finally, to the construction trades and building consultation.

A Home Inspector, equipped with a thermal imaging camera and properly trained in its use, can find suspect areas with a house that normal home inspectors cannot.  These areas include:

  • Water intrusion through the houses exterior covering, whether the house has brick, stucco or siding.

 

  • Plumbing leaks inside the house, including leaking pipes, improperly seated toilets, leaky shower pans and bathtubs and water pipe condensation.

 

  • Improperly insulated HVAC ducting that can cause condensation dripping in attics and crawlspaces.

 

  • Improperly installed or insufficient insulation in ceilings and walls.

 

  • Leaking roofs, skylights, roof vent piping and roof vents.

 

  • Pest investation or insulation issues caused by such.
In short, Infrared technology is purposefully designed to provide you with a level of service that increases the speed by which many household problems can be identified, reduces the collateral damage required to fix those problems, increases the accuracy rate of correctly identifying problems, and helps you to catch small problems sooner so that don’t become expensive or unmanageable problems that can affect your family’s health or your financial well-being.
 
Finally, thermal imaging technology allows us to more-accurately identify damage to your home’s electrical systems. By being able to pinpoint “hot spots” in fuse boxes and household wiring, we can provide you and your electrician with detailed imagery that will help the electrician to identify defects and make repairs more quickly to save you money.
 
Surface temperatures can also be changed by living organisms such as mold, mildew and household pests. Because these organisms often thrive in places that cannot be seen by the naked eye (such as behind walls), the use of Infrared technology allows us to pinpoint exactly where a problem area is in your home without the need for any immediate invasive damage to the structure of your home.

The unique aspect of seeing surface temperature variances is that such variances can be caused by issues that may lie below the surface of a floor, behind a wall, or above a ceiling – places that are “out of sight” and are thus out-of-mind. Also, surface temperature variances can be caused by airflow such as cold air seeping under a door or warm air leaking from central air ducts. The air itself changes the surface temperature of objects that come in contact with the air.
 
As human beings, we are limited to seeing light only in the visible spectrum called white light. This is the light that bounces off everyday objects whether that light is being emitted by our Sun or an artificial source such as a light bulb. Without assistance from technology, we are unable to see surface temperature variances, and it is the ability to see these variances that allows us to more-accurately identify potential, and immediate, problems in your home that would have otherwise been missed.
 

 

WHY IS INFRARED THERMAL IMAGING SO VITAL TO YOUR HOME INSPECTION?


Thermal imaging can detect electrical issues where any component in the circuit may be failing or improperly installed or deteriorated.  Electrical defects are a common cause of house fires and are often the result of older wiring deteriorating or new electrical work that was not done properly. Even hanging a picture can cause electrical issues.

The electrical system can also be evaluated with Infrared Technology.  In this picture the circuit breaker is reading as elevated compared to the surrounding items.  With further investigation it was found to be a 15 amp breaker connected to a newly installed blower motor that was rated for 20 amps. Without Thermal Imaging this would have probably been undetected.

10 Ways to Reduce Your Summer Utility Bills

Before the summer heat—and summertime utility bill—starts to make you sweat, you might want to consider making a few changes to cut your energy consumption. You can shave dollars off your monthly bills without sacrificing comfort as long as you plan ahead and get creative. Here’s a room-by-room guide to saving money this summer—and benefiting the Earth at the same time.

In the basement: Geoff Godwin, division vice president of Emerson, the country’s largest provider of heating and cooling systems, says cleaning air conditioning filters  every month and getting your system checked by a professional once a year will ensure that it’s functioning as efficiently and inexpensively as possible. “A lot of people don’t do that—they ignore the AC systemuntil something goes wrong,” he says, then they end up buying an entirely new unit instead of making minor fixes.

If you need a new air conditioner, an energy efficient one might be eligible for a tax credit (check at www.energystar.gov). When you’re shopping around, look for a unit with a seasonal energy efficiency ratio of 16 to 21, the highest level of efficiency. Another option is a geothermal heating and cooling system, which utilizes pipes running from the more stable, ambient temperatures found five feet underground year-round into your home, where they pump heat in or out, depending on the season.

[Slide Show: 10 Ways to Reduce Your Summer Utility Bills.]

Throughout the house: “Make sure your house is leak-free,” says Alliance to Save Energy spokeswoman Ronnie Kweller, or else “nice, cold, expensive air is going out the cracks.” You might want to consider assigning this task to a professional. Through the Energy Star online directory, you can find a local auditor who will use diagnostic equipment to test your home for areas where air conditioning might escape. Your auditor will probably do what’s known as a blower door test, which lowers the air pressure in your home and reveals leaks. He or she may also take a photo of your house with a thermographic camera, with the red areas of the photo indicating where better insulation and sealing are needed.

If you don’t want to shell out money for an energy auditor, you can perform a casual energy audit yourself. Efficiency experts recommend feeling around baseboards, windows, doors, light switches, and electrical sockets for air leaks. Air can escape or enter anywhere that two different building materials meet. Kweller also recommends walking around your house with incense to see if the smoke blows in when you pass windows. Kweller says old, wooden windows are especially prone to this kind of leakage

If you find problem areas, seal it with foam or caulking, which you can find at the hardware store. Insulation that meets certain efficiency criteria is also eligible for the federal tax credits. Kweller says properly sealing your house can save up to 20 percent on your utility bill.

Using a programmable thermostat so that the temperature automatically rises when no one is home during the day can yield annual savings of about 30 percent, says Godwin, with much of the savings in the summer, since air conditioning runs with electricity. While some 25 million households own programmable thermostats, only half of those people take advantage of them, says Godwin.

Replacing older light bulbs with compact fluorescents not only reduces your electricity bill , it can help save energy on air conditioning since fluorescents generate less heat, says Kweller. She estimates that each bulb can save about $50 over the course of its lifetime.

[See 10 Ways to Save By Going Green]

In the living room: There’s nothing wrong with hosting movie nights this summer, but make sure you shut your entertainment center down when the evening’s over. Simply turning off a television set doesn’t put a stop to so-called “vampire power”—the power that devices consume even when they’re not in use. That’s why you should either unplug your electronics or use a Smart Strip, which cuts power when it’s not needed.

If you’re in the market for a new television, check energy efficiency ratings. The Energy Department bestows its Energy Star rating to sets that use about one-third less energy than regular televisions. In general, LCD televisions use less energy than plasma screens, but both use more than older sets.

Remember to turn the power off or unplug your digital photo frames when you’re not gazing at those illuminated photos. Over the course of the year, leaving one on costs about $9—not a lot, but when thousands of people are doing the same thing, it adds up.

In the kitchen: Baking a cake or casserole in the summer will force your air conditioner to go into overdrive. Plus, eating hot food will only make you want to turn the thermostat down. But you don’t have to survive on cold pasta salads and gazpacho this summer. Instead of using your oven, consider an outdoor grill or toaster oven for small amounts of food.

If you’re up for a challenge, try baking cookies on your car—yes, your car. Nicole Weston of Baking Bites developed a method of baking chocolate cookies with the heat that collects inside cars on steamy days. She suggests parking in the sun, using a thermometer to help monitor the temperature, and protecting your dashboard by putting a barrier between it and the baking sheet. (It should be at least 95 degrees outside and the baking process takes around two and a half hours.)

[See 10 Great Green Home Improvements for 2010.]

In the bathroom: If you don’t want to spend money on a low-flow toilet, you can still make yours more efficient by dropping a soda bottle filled with sand or water into the back. It will use less water each time it flushes. Ivan Chan of carbonfund.org adds that small steps such as turning the water off while brushing your teeth or shaving can save a substantial amount of water (and money on your water bill) each year. He also recommends installing a water conserving showerhead.

In the bedroom: Stay cool while you sleep with an overhead fan instead of pumping air conditioning throughout the entire house. Shutting the doors and vents of unused rooms can also lighten the load of your air conditioning unit .

Outside: A way to reduce cooling costs in the longer run is to plant trees or shrubs so that your house is more shaded, especially on the sunnier side, says Kweller. (For a quicker fix, draw the blinds or shades when you’re not home.)

10 Toughest Things to Get Rid Of

It’s hard to know what to do with cans of leftover paint or electronics that have seen better days. You know you shouldn’t throw them in the trash, but they’re not typically recycled at the curb. So how exactly do you get rid of them?

Luckily, if you’re armed with the right info, it can be easier than you think to dispose of these things. It’s worth any extra effort because many of the items on this list contain toxic chemicals that can contaminate the environment or cause other damage if not carefully disposed of.

The laws for disposing of household waste vary depending on where you live, but here are some general guidelines and resources:

1. Batteries
Recycling rechargeable batteries is fairly easy. It’s a good thing because throwing out lead-acid batteries is illegal in 41 states, according to Trey Granger at Earth911. Home Depot, Staples, Radio Shack, Best Buy, and many other retailers take them back free of charge.

There are fewer options for single-use batteries, but look for bins at your local library. Otherwise, your best bet is a nearby household hazardous waste (HHW) drop-off site.

2. Electronics
Every retailer that takes back rechargeable batteries also accepts mobile phones, as do most wireless providers. For computers, cameras, televisions, and others it’s worthwhile do a little homework because some stores charge fees depending on item and brand. Check out Best Buy, Staples, and Office Depot to see what’s the best fit.

Some places, like Radio Shack, have trade-in programs where you can receive store credit for your old gadgets. You can also turn your old electronics into cash thanks to a growing number of websites designed to help you easily sell them.

3. Paint
This is among the harder items to dispose of, but it’s still totally doable. Some ideas to try first: Do your best to make sure it gets used. Give it to a friend. Use it for primer. Donate it to a charity, such as Habitat for Humanity or a school theater group. If you can’t reuse it, then search to see if you can recycle it.

If you just can’t reuse it, you might need to throw dried paint in the trash if it’s not against the law in your community. Remove the lid from a latex paint can and let it dry out until it’s completely hard. Take any oil-based paints directly to your household hazardous waste center.

4. CFLs
Fluorescent bulbs contain tiny amounts of mercury that can leach out if broken, so it’s important to properly recycle them. Luckily, these energy-sipping light bulbs are relatively easy to get rid of. Just drop old bulbs off at any Home Depot or Ikea for free recycling, or search for other nearby solutions.

If you have absolutely no other options and must throw them in the trash, then the Environmental Protection Agency suggests sealing CFLs in two plastic bags before disposing.

5. Medications
Don’t flush them down the toilet or pour them down the drain because tiny amounts of pharmaceuticals are making their way into our streams, rivers, and lakes. Your best bet is to find a program that will take back unused medications. Check with your local government to see if it’s hosting a collection event. Ask if your pharmacy or HHW collection program will accept old prescription drugs.

Otherwise you’ll have to throw them in the trash. Remove all personal info before chucking bottles to avoid identity theft. Crush pills and try these other tricks to make medicines unusable in case they accidentally get into the wrong hands.

6. Cooking oil
Bacon grease or cooking oil can clog up your pipes and ultimately back up sewer systems. Rinsing with hot water as you pour it down the drain won’t help. Once that grease cools down, it solidifies and sticks to pipes. Your best bet is to absorb small amounts of grease with shredded paper or kitty litter before throwing in the trash.

Or you can pour oil or bacon grease in a coffee can or other metal container and throw it out once it solidifies. Here are some other suggestions on disposing and recycling.

7. Aerosol cans
Empty cans can be recycled fairly easily through your curbside program or at your local recycling facility. Partially full cans are harder to get rid of. Don’t try to empty them yourself. Instead, see if your recycling or HHW drop-off center will take them.

It’s also not a good idea to send pressurized cans (empty or not) to a landfill because they can explode if a fire breaks out.

8. Appliances
Most retailers will take away your old refrigerator, dishwasher, or other large appliance when you purchase a new one. Also check with your municipality because many cities and towns offer free curbside pick-up. For small appliances, try Best Buy or Goodwill.

9. Packing materials
Bring packing peanuts and bubble wrap to a local mailing center (such as the UPS Store or Mail Boxes Etc) if you don’t have room to store them for future use. You can also give them away by listing on Freecycle or in the free stuff section on Craigslist.

Here are tips for what to do with annoying clamshell packaging, non-paper FedEx envelopes, and more.

10. Car stuff
Wal-Mart, Autozone, JiffyLube, and others recycle used motor oil. Ask if they’ll take your old filters back for recycling too.

Return dead car batteries to the store where you are purchasing a new one and ask if they’ll recycle it. If not, check with your local HHW center.

Environmental journalist Lori Bongiorno shares green-living tips and product reviews with Yahoo! Green’s users. Send Lori a question or suggestion for potential use in a future column. Her book, Green Greener Greenest: A Practical Guide to Making Eco-smart Choices a Part of Your Life is available on Yahoo! Shopping and Amazon.com.

10 Mistakes People Make with Heat

Even with a constant flow of information about energy efficiency, homeowners make major heating mistakes that end in higher electric bills and larger environmental footprints. Here are 10 of those errors, with the cause and effect of each decision.

1. Maintaining a constant temperature

Cause: A persistent myth suggests that you can save energy by leaving the house at a comfortable 68 degrees (a widely recommended winter setting), even when you are sleeping or away at work. The idea is that it takes more energy for the furnace to reach a comfortable temperature than to maintain that temperature.

Effect: You could miss out on significant potential energy savings by not using a programmable thermostat and adjusting the temperature overnight and during the workday. Though the impacts of adjusting the thermostat vary based on your climate and other factors, studies show that knocking the temperature down by 10 degrees for eight hours per day can cut heating bills by 5 to 15 percent. Sure, the furnace will cycle on for a longer period to return to the more comfortable temperature, but it will be far outweighed by hours of savings when it didn’t have to work as hard.

2. Cranking up the temperature to warm up the house

Cause: You come home in the middle of the day to a cold house. You want to warm back up to 68 ASAP, so you crank the dial up to 78 to get the furnace working harder and faster.

Effect: No time is saved in reheating the house. Most furnaces pump out heat at the same rate no matter the temperature. They just cycle on for a longer period to reach a higher temperature. The furnace will take the same amount of time to return to 68 degrees regardless of the thermostat setting. By cranking up the thermostat, you are likely to overheat the house past 68 degrees and waste energy. Just reset the thermostat to 68, make some hot chocolate and wait.

Learn how to get the most out of a programmable thermostat.

3. Closing off vents in unused rooms

Cause: You don’t want to waste energy heating rooms you aren’t using.

Effect: Again, this just wastes energy and makes your furnace run inefficiently because it changes the air pressure in the whole system. Experts recommend never shutting off more than 10 percent of vents. Sealing your ducts is a more efficient way to save energy.

4. Using the fireplace

Cause: You found some free firewood on Craigslist and think you can burn up some free heating energy while enjoying a romantic fire.

Effect: While we can’t make any promises about increased romance, we can predict increased energy bills. An open fireplace flue may suck more cold air into the house than the fire can radiate into the living space.

5. Using electric room heaters

Cause: You spend most of your time in a couple of rooms, so you figure you will just heat them with space heaters.

Effect: This could lead to higher energy bills and greater fire risks. Generally, a central gas heating system is cheaper and more efficient than a set of electric room heaters. Electric heaters also can be a fire hazard. There are exceptions. A single energy-efficient space heater in a small, well-insulated room can save energy if the central heater is switched off.

Learn how to use space heaters efficiently.

6. Switching to electric heating

Cause: Electric heaters are more efficient than fuel-based systems, so they must be cheaper and better for the environment, according to this popular idea.

Effect: In most areas, simply switching to electric heat leads to higher energy bills and a bigger carbon footprint. Your heater may be more efficient, but most U.S. homes are still linked to coal-fired power plants. These coal plants and their transmission systems are extremely inefficient. Of course, it’s a different story if you have a large photovoltaic solar array or your utility company uses renewable energy.

7. Replacing the windows

Cause: Those big pieces of glass get so darn cold. They must be the reason your house is so drafty.

Effect: You could spend a lot of money to only take care of part of the problem. Windows must be installed properly to avoid drafts, gaps and leaks. Moreover, more heat is typically lost through poorly insulated walls and ceilings than through windows.

8. Replacing the furnace first

Cause: You blame high energy bills on an old, inefficient furnace.

Effect: Your energy bills will still be higher than necessary if you don’t start with cheaper, smaller upgrades to improve the energy efficiency of your home, such as caulking around windows and doors and adding insulation.

9. Upgrading to the most efficient furnace on the market

Cause: You want the sleekest, most energy-efficient furnace available because it will be the most cost effective as well.

Effect: You may end up replacing an oversized furnace with another (albeit more efficient) oversized furnace. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that most U.S. homes have oversized HVAC systems. Again, insulate and weatherize to maximize efficiency, then get the smallest system that will comfortably meet your heating needs, which will be substantially reduced. Also make sure it is professionally installed.

10. Using incandescent light bulbs for heating

 Cause: Incandescent bulbs give off more heat than light, so they must be warming up the house.

 Effect: It is hard to see this logic as anything but a weak excuse for holding on to the Edison bulbs rather than switching to CFL and LED lighting. In fact, one German entrepreneur is marketing incandescent bulbs as “heat balls” to skirt EU laws against the old-style bulbs. However, I doubt he is keeping cozy this winter simply by sleeping with the lights on.

How to Ruin Expensive Appliances

Yahoo Shine/Readers Digest says in an article” Appliances eventually wear out. Certain parts simply fail with time. It’s inevitable. But abuse and neglect can speed up the breakdown rate of stoves, dishwashers, fridges, clothes dryers and washing machines, helping to keep repairmen busy.” Here are some of the most common ways that homeowners contribute to the demise of their appliances, along with advice for avoiding these errors that damage dishwashers washing machines, clothes dryers, lass and ceramic stove tops and fridges and freezers.

Is There a Better Time to Run the Clothes Dryer?

A typical dryer exhaust 300 to 500 cubic foot of air per minute from the vent. This air is extracted from the home through vents in the dryer, heated and then circulated through the dryer cavity.   This air is coming from inside the home that has been conditioned (heated in the winter and cooled in the summer) to the desired temperature inside the home.

For example in the summer time – if the house is conditioned to 72 degrees, and the outside air is 85 degrees at noon, then the dryer is drawing the 72 degree air into the dryer, using it to dry the clothes and then exhausting it outside the house through the exterior vent. The house is equalizing the inside/outside pressure and drawing air in every tiny opening from the exterior at 85 degrees at noon.   While at 8am or 8pm it’s 75 degrees.  

The AC will need to run more to cool the 85 degree air at noon then the 75 degree air at 8am or 8pm. 

So in review it’s better to dry clothes in the summer in the cooler part of the day and in the winter during the warmer parts of the day (to keep the furnace from running more).

NOTE – It is unsafe to dry clothes when asleep or when no one is home.

Replacing Sash Cords

A box-framed window has an upper and lower sash, each counter-balanced by a weight on each side of the window. The weights go up and down inside box sections as the windows are opened or closed.

If one of the cords attached to the weights breaks, it is advisable to replace all the cords on that window. Replacing these cords is a relatively simple job.

Materials Needed – One inch galvanized roofing nails (6 or 8 per sash), sash cord, and panel pins.

Tools Needed – Hammer, pincer, wood chisel and utility knife. Before prying off the beading around the window, use a utilityknife to score along the painted joints.

1. Using a wood chisel, remove the interior beading from both sides of the window.

2. Lift out the bottom sash, cutting the sash cord if it is still intact. Lower the weight to the bottom of the box.

3. Pry out the center beading that separates the sashes. Cut the cords and lift out the top sash.

4. Remove the wooden caps from the pockets on either side of the window frame. Lift the weights out of each box section.

5. Pull out the nails that secure the cords to the sides off the sash. Discard old cords.

6. Tie a piece of string to a bent nail. Push the nail and string over the pulley, lowering it until it comes out through the pocket.

7. Remove the nail, tie string to the new sash cord and pull it over the pulley and out through the pocket.

8. Remove string and tie cord to a weight. Push weight in through the pocket and lower it into the box section.

9. Tie a knot in the end of the cord. Hold the lower sash against the top and mark the pulley position on the side.

10. Lower the sash. Pull cord tight and nail it in the groove, down from the mark.

11. Repeat on the other side. Lower upper sash cords over outside pulleys. Fix the weight. Hold sash at bottom.

12. Cut the cords to length and nail them to the sash on both sides. Refit the beading and the pocket covers.

 

Now that the beading is back in place.
Check the paint, if it is rough use a caulk that can be painted on to seal the joint.
Remove any excess and the job is done.

Thermal Seal Failure

Possibly the most common problem with modern windows is the failure of the thermal sealed, insulated, double glazed glass unit. Double glazed windows are made of two pieces of glass with an air tight gasket between them. This gasket usually a black or silver color is what fails allowing air to get between the panes of glass.

The most common signs that the glass unit has failed are:
1. Condensation is visible between the two (inner and outer) panes of glass.
2. It looks like a white powdery substance is coating the inside of the window.
3. The windows have a foggy appearance.
4. There appears to be a scum on the window that cannot be washed off.

If the window glass appears to have one or more of the above conditions, it has probably failed and will need replacing. Depending on the brand of window, it may be possible to replace the glass unit by simply un-screwing the corners of the sash or removing trim strips and releasing the failed glass unit glass. A replacement unit is then easily inserted into the frame.

Welded vinyl frames, it is often impossible to remove the glass and a new sash unit must to be ordered. On these windows, there is often a number or small tag/sticker on the top or side of the sash (the part of the window that goes up and down) with a code number on it. Using this number you should be able to order a replacement glass and frame without the necessity of having the manufacturer visit the home to measure for a replacement.

When Should I Test My Well Water?

The best time to test for contaminant in well water is during the spring or summer following a rainy period.

Testing for bacteria should be conducted after repairing or replacing a well pump or piping. If a new baby is expected in the home, it is a good idea to test for bacteria and nitrate in the early months of a pregnancy and again during the first six months of the baby?s life.

If any older person or anyone with a low immune system is going to live in the house, check for bacteria and possibly nitrate/nitrite.

When purchasing a property with a well, the water should always be tested for bacteria. Additional tests can be performed depending on the situation.