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It’s Summer…It’s HOT (My IR Camera Won’t Work As
By Christopher Casey, President of Monroe Infrared
Infrared camera adoption by home inspectors is still much less than 50%. And of those “early adopters” we know that many haven’t completed any formalized infrared thermography training.
Why is this so important? You know why! Because infrared training improves your understanding of the tools and how to use them. Infrared training increases your confidence. And infrared training develops competence in home inspectors for using the technology to differentiate, to grow and to become a more profitable business.
At the time that I’m writing this, it is summer and the weather is HOT in most places around the country. Many home inspectors think using an infrared (IR) camera in the summer may not be as effective as it is during the cooler months of the year. Why the misconception? Hands-on training helps demonstrate what and how ambient temperature, reflected temperature, emitted temperature and atmospheric temperature interact when viewed through the lens of your IR camera. Understanding what happens when moisture changes state and why an infrared camera can detect the temperature delta (difference) created by the evaporation are critical to getting the most real time information from that infrared camera that you have invested several thousand dollars in.
So here’s a tip: don’t put your IR camera away when it gets hot! We tell home inspectors all the time and especially those who are attending and graduating from our infrared training classes— like the Certified Residential Thermographer (CRT) class— designed specifically for home inspectors and other residential inspection professionals, that just like learning to ride a bicycle, a home inspector is often uneasy and worried about making a mistake or “crashing” when they first start out using infrared technology. And worse, that no one is going to be there to catch them before they fall!
We understand and we know that you have to practice what we teach you in order to gain confidence in your new skills; that you need to practice “seeing” the information presented in the classroom out in the “real world.” You have to get up on that bicycle, break out that infrared camera and use it every day on every inspection you perform. You can begin at home: offer to look at all your neighbors’ homes as well as the homes of any other friends and relatives who live nearby. Get your “balance” for having the infrared camera in your hand and understanding what you are seeing in different homes at different times of the day with different temperatures inside and out.
Most everyone understands the greater the temperature difference between the inside and outside of a home’s wall surfaces, the more pronounced the thermal image will present and the easier it is to identify and analyze thermal anomalies. Summertime in the southern half of the country offers great delta T’s with customers making use of air conditioning to make their indoor living spaces more comfortable. So what about those homes you need to inspect which are not air conditioned? What do you do when it is the same temperature inside as outside the home? What can you do for that second inspection of the day, which likely starts after lunch in the hottest part of the day? What do you do if the home does not have the utilities turned on so there is no hot water or maybe no water at all? Everyone reading this article should consider a few suggestions for infrared inspections during the summer (or just on hot days!), regardless of whether it’s inside or outside work or whether your customer market is north, south east or in the western United States: • Be aware of where the sun will be positioned when you are going to do your inspection. Solar loading the roof and walls ofthe home can actually be used to help you better utilize your infrared camera during the inspection and generate some outstanding images which tell the story for you and your clients.
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• Walk around the home before you start to check for shadows from trees in the client’s yard as well as from trees in adjacent yards.
• Be aware of surrounding structures for both shadows and reflected sunlight. Reflections often have substantial impact on a home because of how strong direct sunlight can be on clear summer days. These reflections come from windows, siding, sheds, fences as well as vehicle windows and windshields.
• If you plan to have the AC turned down, be sure your clients confirm and that this is done at a minimum of two to three hours prior to your scheduled inspection start time.
• Properties without electricity and/or air conditioning available may need to be scheduled in the evening or early morning once thermal loading can be removed and heat dissipated (as the house will maintain heat within while it starts to cool outside).
• Home inspectors who are confident using infrared will want to consider using manual level and span control on your IR cameras to better identify and highlight suspect areas.
• If you are not as familiar with summer inspections and don’t have air conditioning to help create minimum delta T conditions, be sure to work slowly and look carefully. This will help you find those small anomalies.
• Always confirm your infrared findings with other diagnostic tools like moisture meters, borescopes, confined space entry cameras and electrical measurement meters.
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Your infrared camera is an investment in your business’s growth and success. It is an excellent tool that you can learn to use effectively and efficiently throughout the entire year. Don’t let warm weather be a deterrent to your using an infrared camera as a value added service to your customers.
Hot, cold, wet or dry, infrared thermography allows you to see with your eyes those issues which might otherwise go undiscovered during the home inspection. And those unseen issues today can be major headaches in a week, a month or several months. Don’t miss finding these issues and providing your clients with the absolute best inspection that you possibly can. With ROIs of three to six months for most home inspectors, an investment in infrared really has become a “no-brainer.” One day in the not too distant future, it will absolutely be an expected tool for every home inspector—just as the flashlight and moisture meter have become.
One final thought—many home and commercial building inspectors tell us they often leave their infrared cameras in their SUVs and trucks (on hot days) for security purposes. Remember, your infrared camera feels the heat just like you do! A suggestion on how to keep your infrared camera secure when on a jobsite is to utilize the soft-sides nylon carrying pouch designed for it. These pouches or holsters safely keep your infrared camera on your person and across your chest/back, freeing up both hands while allowing for quick access to get your camera back out and into use. WRE
About the Author
Christopher Casey is President of Monroe Infrared, a Veteran-Owned Small Business supporting clients with infrared training and selecting the best IR camera for their business since 1984. Christopher focused Monroe Infrared to work with home inspectors over 4 years ago recognizing the power of thermal technology to improve the quality of inspections offered as well as business growth and overall revenue
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