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.

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.

Roof Ventilation

Presuming that your roof has been properly installed, the next most important factor to consider is attic ventilation. The best type of ventilation is when cooler air can enter the attic through soffit vents. These vents can be seen from the ground and are located behind the gutters.

The warm air is then vented out through the vents mounted on or near the top of the roof. The other type of venting is commonly found in older homes does not use ridge vents. In these homes the cooler air enters through the soffit vent, and vents out through louvers in the gables on each end of the building.

Without these vents, heat and moisture will build up in the attic area and combine. This combination causes the sheathing (the wood under the shingles) to rot, the shingles to age prematurely and the insulation to lose its effectiveness. A cooler well ventilated attic during the summer will also lower air conditioning bills.

All About Insulation

If you’ve looked into insulating your home lately, you’ve seen that there are numerous facts and figures to be taken into consideration. The insulation industry itself cannot agree about the safety of some of its products and their insulating values. For an industry so well-established, and products so well tested, it may be surprising to learn that, except for lightweight urethane foam, the insulating materials used today were commonplace 20 years ago, and most of them long before that. Even the latest installation techniques are now over twenty years old.

So what’s the bottom line? All types of insulation’s work, but some work better than others in specific situations. This is always been true. What has made insulating more complicated today is the fact that building homes has become more complicated. While it’s agreed that sealing our homes against the elements increases are comfort levels and lower fuel bills, the improved insulating techniques have brought new worries like sick house syndrome and structural rot. Insulation and vapor barriers can cause these problems, but they can also help solve them. To understand about insulation you first have to understand how heat moves.

Insulation Basics
Whenever you find two areas of differing temperatures, you’ll find heat transfer, the hot moves to the cold. In a home this transfer takes place in three ways.
1. It takes place by heat conduction through the materials your home is made up.
2. It moves by convection, that is by currents of air within the house, the attic and wall cavities.
3 . Heat leaving your home by air leaking in of out through cracks, gaps and holes in the structure.

Insulating materials control the transfer of heat by slowing down the rate at which it moves through the homes envelope. R- value is the rating used to indicate the materials ability to resist the flow of heat. The half-inch drywall that usually covers interior walls as an R-value of approximately .4, but typical fiberglass insulation rates at 3.5 per inch or R-12 for a wall with a 3 1/2-inch cavity.

Filling your walls with adequate insulation is only part of the solution. Air infiltration through openings in the house envelope can account for 30 to 40 percent of a typical homes heat loss. Today plastic vapor permeable house wraps like Tyvek are typically used to cover the exterior of the home reducing the draught factor, as well as caulking and spraying foam into gaps around windows, doors and around holes in electrical and plumbing entrances.

Moisture
A typical family of four generates 2½ gallons of water vapor every 24 hours through bathing, cooking, washing clothes, etc. This moisture, like heat moves from warm to cold areas, and the colder it is outdoors the greater the outward pressure. This natural migration can pose real problems for today’s moisture vulnerable building products. Water vapor moves through ceilings fairly easy, without doing much damage, but walls are closed and are more likely to trap moisture. Even a little dampness can degrade the R-value of most wall insulation. And when the vapor condenses it can rot structural members. To prevent moisture from entering the wall cavities, builders use vapor barriers. Kraft paper or four faced insulations slows moisture penetration and is a good choice in moderate climates than a few really cold days. In northern states however, vapor impermeable polyethylene film is installed on all exterior walls just under the drywall. Except in a few very cold locations, plastic vapor barriers are not usually recommended on ceilings. Sealing a house completely not only traps water vapor inside but also harmful gases that may be present, like formaldehyde, radon or carbon monoxide.

Types of Insulation
Fiberglass and rock wool are considered mineral insulations because they’re made, at least in part, from sand or rock. Since the ’50s fiberglass has become the more popular of the two and, it now dominates the entire insulation market.

Fiberglass comes in two forms, batting (blanket type) and loose fill (for blowing in). Batting is available with a kraft paper or a kid aluminum foil glued to one side to serve as a vapor barrier. Normal thickness or depth are 3 ½ inches and, 5 ½ inches, six, eight and 10 inches ate available.

Fiberglass batting is made in various R-value?s; they are determined by alternating the density or fiber length. A 3 1/2-inch fiberglass batting for example is available in R-11, R13, and in R-15 versions with different pricing of course. Fiberglass batting is also available encapsulated in a plastic sleeve type bag, this makes application easier but does increase the cost by 15 to 20 percent.

Loose fill fiberglass is designed to be blown in. The traditional place for loose fill is in the attic and closed wall retrofits, in some cases it is also blown into open walls in new construction when remodeling. Known as blown in blankets the fiberglass is blown into stud cavities through holes in a polythene sheet stapled to the studs. Blown in blankets have three times the density of batting and are better at slowing convection. The R-value is approximately 4.1 per inch. Blankets require more work to install and usually you will have to pay 30 to 50 percent more.

Cellulose is made from ground up newspapers and other recycled paper products, with boric acid added as a fire retardant. By its nature, cellulose has greater density than fiberglass which makes it more resistant to air filtration and convection currents. Its R-value is around 3.7 per inch, it is the most affordable type of insulation. Like fiberglass, cellulose has been used for decades in well in attic and retrofit wall insulating. Like fiberglass, it can be blown into open cavities in new construction. In this type of application cellulose contains adhesive. When water is added, it can be shot into the cavities by machine. Any excess thickness or over spray scraped is then scraped away. Wet application cellulose makes a very tight wall tighter than fiberglass for loose fill cellulose, with an R-value of approximately 14 in a 3½-inch cavity wall.

Insulating rigid foam boards are made of either expanded, polystyrene (White in color), extruded plus tiring, (usually came to blue yellow or green). Foam boards range between R-4 and R-7 per inch and are available in many different sizes, the most common being 4x 8. Foam board is intended as exterior sheeting and is usually covered with a paper, plastic or foil skin.

Spray in place polyurethane foam is excellent at sealing gaps or cavities completely, stopping convection and infiltration of air. Polyurethane foam also boasts the highest R-value of any insulation delivering approximately R-7 per inch. On the downside, it is very expensive, modified lightweight urethane foam can also be used, sold under the trade name Icyene, this foam is applied like urethane, but water is used as a propellant. This foam remains soft and flexible when set, which means that can expanded and contract with the structure. It’s been thoroughly tested and produces no detectable vapors after 30 days; it is a good choice for those with chemical allergies. This foam can also be used in the walls of existing homes. Its R-value is less at 3.6 per inch but it does seal gaps or cracks. Spray foams are vapor impermeable, cutting down on the need for vapor barriers.

Adding Insulation
If you’re thinking of adding insulation to your existing homes but are unable to do it all at once, prioritize from the top-down. Heat rises and it makes sense that you’d lose more heat at the ceiling than at waist level. Even if a house is un-insulated, six inches of attic insulation will pay for itself in his little as a year, and will also improve the comfort level dramatically. After that the law of diminishing returns comes into play. Another six inches may take four to six years to pay for its self, and not noticeably improve the comfort level.

The effectiveness of the first six inches in the attic means that you are now losing relatively more heat for your walls than before, the next investment should be insulating the walls, including the rim joists. After this it’s time to focus on the windows, which are always the weak link in heat loss and will now be more vulnerable to condensation.

Replacing windows can be very expensive as well as having a long payback period. Caulking around the windows exterior trim, replacing the weather stripping around the sashes and adding plastic window covering in the winter are low cost alternatives that can make a big difference. Once you have taking care of the windows, it’s time to return your attention to the ceiling. After adding insulation there, focus on the basement or crawl space walls.

Payback on Investment
What is the best method of insulating your house, what is the most cost-effective? These are questions are going to have to ask yourself, the main factors to take into consideration are A: the cost of heating and cooling your home. B: have the years you intend to live in your home. If your utility bills are low any do not intend to live in a house for more than a year or two, the cost of insulating may be more than you would pay in higher utility bills. The decision is yours.

NOTE: If you are insulating an attic that does not have a lot of headroom, consider insulating to the top of the ceiling joists and covering the insulation with a Radiant Heat Barrier (An aluminum foil blanket). This will increase the efficiency of the insulation by reflecting heat away during the summer and reflecting it back into the house during the winter. The big saving is that the attic remains accessible.

Whole House Fans

Whole house fans lost popularity during the cheap energy years when everyone wanted to run the air conditioner 24/7. A well positioned whole house fan, used properly will cool most houses down to a comfortable level during all but the most humid summer days. They are particularly effective in the north during the early summer and early fall.

Instillation is simple, and the cost of the fan depends on model. Prices start somewhere under $250 and go up to about $425 for a deluxe model. Available in most large hardware stores or major home improvement stores.

If the fan is being installed in a newer home, the attic framing is probably manufactured wood trusses on 16″ centers. These cannot be cut or modified to accommodate the fan.

Before operating a whole house fan, a couple of windows must be opened two or three inches to allow air flow through the rooms that need cooling. Protect downstairs windows from vandals.

In the fall, we recommend going into the attic and covering the fan with an insulation blanket. This will stop heat loss during the winter. A hot water tank insulation blanket is perfect for the job.

Remember to remove the insulation before the next season’s use!

Check the tension on the drive belt (if applicable) and oil the motor if necessary or applicable annually. If the louvers need lubrication try using silicone lubricant or Endust furniture polish.

NOTE: If a whole house fan is operated without opening the windows, the vacuum created will extinguish the pilot light on gas hot water heaters and furnaces.

Attic Ventilation

Attic Ventilation

Presuming that your roof has been properly installed, the next most important factor to consider is attic ventilation. The best type of ventilation is when cooler air can enter the attic through soffit vents. These vents can be seen behind the gutters when viewed from the ground. The warm air is vented out through vents mounted on or near the top of the roof.

The other type of venting is commonly found in older homes. This is where the cooler air enters through the soffit vent, and vents out through louvers in the gables on each end of the building.

Without proper ventilation, heat and moisture will build up in the attic and combine, causing the sheathing to rot, shingles to age prematurely and the insulation to lose its effectiveness.

There should only be two points of ventilation, from a choice of three possibilities (Soffit, Gable, Roof). Two points of ventilation creatse a flow through current that draws air out of the attic, a three point venting system creates a dead space with little or no airflow.

In many cases when home owners insulate attics they do not use dams (made of cardboard or Styrofoam) in the eaves (over the soffit) to stop the insulation from being blown into the cavity and blocking the soffit vents.

Black staining (possibly mold) on the roof decking in the attic are an indication of poor ventilation. Failure to cure this condition could lead to serious health related problems for the occupants of the property.

Note: Do not block or cover any attic or roof vents.

Insulation R-values

Insulation R-Values

The insulating value of insulation is given as an R-value. The R is for resistance. The greater the resistance the material has for disallowing the transfer of heat, the greater the insulating R-value.

Insulation values are approximate; the R-value can depend on the installation and change over time as the insulation becomes compacted, loosing some of its effectiveness.

The true R-value of “already” installed insulation cannot be determined by measuring the depth of the insulation because the density is an unknown factor

Measuring the thickness or dept can give you an idea of what the R value is.

TYPE / R-value (rated per inch in thickness)

Fiberglass batts 2.9 to 3.2
Fiberglass loose fill 2.9 to 3.2
Loose fill mineral wool 3.3
Cellulose 3.2
Extruded polystyrene board 5.0
Expanded polystyrene board 4.0
Foam 3.9

Moisture Damage
Fiberglass or cellulose insulation that becomes wet, looses its ability to perform its intended function. The insulating factor will need to be decreased and possible reduced to zero. Insulation that has been wet and should be completely removed, and replaced with new insulation.

Recommended R-values for Ohio Zones 2 & 3

Location Area
Attic R-49
Cathedral ceiling R-38
Wall R-18
Floor R-25
Crawl space R-19
Slab edge R-8
Interior Basement R-11
Exterior Basement R-10  

Adding Insulation?

1. To an older house with knob and tube wiring, this type of wiring cannot be encapsulated (buried) in any type of insulation. knob and tube wiring that in buried in insulation will overheat and may cause a fire.

2. Do not bury recessed ceiling lights in insulation, unless indicated on the installers tag that it is alright to do so.

3. Insulation should be kept 2 inches back from metal flue pipe.

4. The first six inches of insulation are the most cost effective, after that any added dept will have a progressively longer pay back time.

Need to add insulation to an attic with limited headroom, consider adding radiant heat barrier (an aluminum foil blanket). This product reflects 97% of the heat back into the building during the heating season and 97% of the incoming heat away during the summer.