What Makes Thermal Imaging Cameras Useful? (2024 Guide)

Do you want to learn the top ways to use a thermal imaging camera?

Thermal cameras are highly useful in finding water leaks, and they show up as a dark blue color on infrared.

In this guide, I will go over...

  • Finding water leaks and moisture intrusion
  • Locating electrical hotspots
  • Spotting missing insulation

Let's get started with this guide!

thermal imaging camera uses

What Are The Best Uses For Thermal Cameras?

Just some of the top thermal camera uses include finding water leaks, air leaks, electrical problems, and pest control. As a home inspector, I use thermal cameras to mainly find water issues and insulation problems, but inspectors occasionally find electrical hotspots and even rodents.

Thermal cameras are so effective to find problems because you can stand in the middle of a large room, and simply sweep the room with the camera in a few seconds. Any obvious water or insulation problems will stick out like a sore thumb.

Read Also: What Are The Best iPhone Thermal Cameras?

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1. Finding Water Leaks

Infrared cameras can be highly useful in discovering water leaks. An active water leak in a home's interior will show up colder than the surrounding materials, and these cool areas are blue on an infrared camera.

However, if you are looking for leaks on the exterior such as a roof, it will appear warmer after sunset because water retains heat longer than the roof tiles. In fact, if you try to use a thermal camera outside when the sun is out, you will likely experience thermal blindness and won't 'see' anything since it's all the same temperature.

As a home inspector, using a thermal camera allows me to sweep a large area of a roof, basement, or bedroom --- and quickly find suspicious areas.

If I think there is a water leak in a corner of a basement, the thermal camera alerts me to that area, but then I always confirm it with a moisture meter. The thermal camera can show you differences in surface temperatures, but only a moisture meter will tell you 100% that there is water in that location.

But you can't sweep a large area quickly with a moisture meter. An infrared camera allows you to stand in the center of a basement and quickly inspect the entire area for water leaks.

Read Also: How Does A Thermal Camera Work?

2. Missing Insulation

One of the most common uses for thermal cameras is finding areas of missing insulation. Just like with finding water leaks, a thermal camera allows you to stand in a room, and look at the thermal profile of the entire area in a few seconds.

Similar to finding water leaks, you must overcome the problem of thermal blindness when it comes to finding insulation problems. Turning the HVAC up or down a few degrees will provide you with that needed 'delta T' or change in temperature so that areas of inadequate insulation will show up on the infrared camera.

A few common areas of missing or inadequate insulation include the attic, exterior wall outlets and switches, window frames, and the basement rim joist.

Read Also: What Are The Best Thermal Cameras For Android?

thermal imaging camera uses (1)

3. Air Leaks

Similar to finding insulation problems, a thermal camera can be especially useful when looking for air leaks.

Unlike finding missing insulation, the best way to find air leaks is to change the home's air pressure. A top method in changing the interior air pressure is with blower door equipment. If a blower test is unavailable, then simply turning on bathroom exhaust fans, range hoods, and other ventilation equipment can provide enough air pressure change to spot air leaks with a thermal camera.

Common areas of air leaks will be around windows, doors, outlets, switches, light fixtures, and pipe penetrations.

Of course, thoroughly using a thermal camera around HVAC ducting is important. A poorly air sealed HVAC duct can lead to significant energy losses throughout the year —as much as 20 percent.

4. Loose Or Defective Electrical Wiring

Thermal cameras can be invaluable tools to find electrical problems without getting near any suspicious electrical equipment. Since electrical components usually overheats before it fails (or catches on fire), a thermal camera is well-suited to finding electrical defects and it will show up as orange-red on the infrared camera.

Similar to finding water leaks or missing insulation, a thermal camera can quickly assess a large area and look for outlets, switches, or light fixtures that have loose, defective, or overheated wiring.

The easiest diagnosis is if an outlet or electrical device shows up as much hotter than comparable outlets. For electrical panels, it can be easy to see defective breakers because it will light up as a hot spot on the thermal camera after the electrical panel cover is removed.

Taking off the cover of an HVAC heat pump or furnace can also allow you to see electrical problems or an overheated motor.

Read Also: What Are The Overall Best Rated Thermal Imaging Cameras?

5. Pest Control

Believe it or not, using a thermal camera can be an effective way to find unwanted pests. Even though insects are cold blooded, when they gather together in nests or hives, they can generate enough heat to be detected by an infrared camera.

Simply sweeping the thermal camera in a suspected area can lead you to a termite or wasp nest. A large termite nest will show up as a reddish orange color on a thermal camera and can help you pinpoint the nest without removing drywall.

Termite tubes (entry ways) will be cold or bluish in color on a thermal camera because of its high moisture content.

If you have a suspected rodent infestation, sweeping the attic with a thermal camera can reveal rats, mice, or other small mammals that are living there. A thermal camera can also find their entry areas into the home because it will show up as a cold spot and where insulation has been moved.

Final Thoughts

Thermal cameras literally have hundreds of uses, but I have listed the top uses of thermal cameras for home maintenance.

In terms of pure safety, using a thermal camera to find electrical problems or hot spots before they become a big problem is extremely valuable.

Over a quarter million home fires are started every year, and a thermal camera can help prevent such a disaster from happening.

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