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Mold Detection Using Infrared Cameras

Benefits of Infrared Imaging in Building Inspection
Dark areas indicate moisture

For the people who lived in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, the word mold has taken on a very important meaning in their lives. After returning to the damaged homes, many homeowners began the repair process. While many repairs were done correctly, there are also many repairs that were done quickly, and incompletely.

Now, several years have gone by and the houses that were damaged by Katrina and repaired are on the market; potential home buyers must be aware of the danger of mold. Over eighty percent of the homes in New Orleans suffered some type of damage and many of them received water damage. It has become vital to make sure that a home is free of mold when purchasing it.

Mold can cause many health problems. These include allergic reactions and toxic effects due to mycotoxins. Because of these possible problems it is very important to be able to detect mold in a house. One method that can be used to detect mold in a house is by using infrared thermography.

By using an infrared camera that produces images of heat radiation, a technician can detect the existence of moisture inside of walls that cannot be seen by the human eye. Moisture and similar conditions can promote mold growth. Mold related problems can be detected by the camera before there are signs that are visible or detectable by a person other senses such as smell. But the infrared camera is not effective on its own. A technician also needs to have temperature measurements to make an informed decision about the possible mold growth. To solve this, they use cameras that can take accurate temperature measurements. By comparing the temperature measurements with infrared readings of similar structures in the area, a technician can decide if a significant temperature rise will encourage mold growth.

infrared detection of roof leak
infrared detection of roof leak

When a technician finds an area of suspected mold growth, the camera is an invaluable tool for documenting the information. This will help a person who is not familiar with what mold looks like or can do understand the nature of the problem within the house that they are inspecting. This information can be used in the decision making process for a home buyer or a person selling the home. Once the information is documented, the seller will have to disclose that information to any other prospective buyers.

A home buyer can find out how large the problem is within the house they are looking at, and base their purchase decision on this information. There are other ways to detect mold in a house. One way is through brute force. A person can remove the drywall and inspect it visually. This is not very accurate as the conditions that can create mold growth are not always able to be seen by the naked eye. It is also costly since whatever is removed will have to be replaced. Unless a person already plans on tearing down all the drywall in a house, this method is not an effective way to inspect for mold.

Another method for detecting mold is by using scent detection canines. The specially trained dogs can tell when mold is present. The dogs can pinpoint the specific location even when it is hidden behind walls or under floorboards. One more technology for detecting mold is by taking air samples in the house. Even when a dog detects the mold or a person visibly finds evidence of mold, air samples are still needed to determine the extent of the problem. The air samples are studied by lab tests that can determine how dangerous the mold is in a house. Infrared camera technology is readily available.

Insulation of Living Room North
Living Room North

In a town like New Orleans where flooding was a large issue, there are many companies offering their infrared inspection services to the public. They can choose from many different types of cameras that offer such things as high resolution images, laser pointer, and advanced image fusion. They also have cameras that provide accurate temperature measurement. Along with the cameras, the companies also use software that will create detailed reports and inspection summaries that can be used to analyze, diagnose and make repair recommendations based on the images that were taken by the camera.

Infrared cameras are a tremendous time saver in mold detection. They can cover large areas in a shorter time period than traditional methods. They also can provide a reliable survey that can be used by prospective home buyers, or homeowners who have suffered damage and are making a claim with their insurance company. It can also be used to make sure that the proper repairs have been done on a home that has a mold problem. Infrared technology can be used to supplement the other tools in mold detection to provide a person with complete information. The technology can also be used for early detection by finding spots that moisture can be retained. Because of all of this, the use of infrared cameras for mold detection is an invaluable tool for all home owners and home buyers to use.

by Jeff Mechlin

Interested in a career in thermography (the science of using infrared cameras)?

Visit our Infrared Training Center for more information on getting ASNT certified for thermography.  With all the trends leaning towards green energy buildings, now is the time to start a career in thermography!

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