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Using Infrared Camera Technology to Detect Insulation Voids

Insulation of Living Room North
Infrared Building Inspection of roof Insulation

The modern homeowner has more reasons than ever to desire a well-insulated house. First, there is the question of comfort; a well-insulated home, warm in the winter and cool in the summer, provides a much more pleasant living space than a drafty house that is impossible to heat or air-condition.

Secondly, there is a financial incentive, because fixing leaky, gap-filled insulation can save homeowners hundreds of dollars a year that were being wasted on gas or electricity bills.

Finally, as more people worry about going “green,” they seek the comfort of knowing that their energy-efficient home is good for the environment. Reliable insulation is necessary for meeting all of those goals. There are many components to effective insulation, and the degree to which your house is protected from the temperature outdoors may vary depending on the type of insulation you have, the R-value of your insulation, the depth of your insulation, and where the insulation in your house is located. Upgrading or improving these aspects of your insulation can be effective, but also expensive.

Fortunately, there is a quick and easy way of drastically improving the insulation of your home, and that is checking for insulation voids. These are locations in your home where the insulation was improperly installed, or has shifted over time, resulting in gaps where there is no or little insulation. Checking for and fixing these problems is cheaper than changing the insulation of your entire house, and can have a significant impact on your heating and cooling bills – and infrared cameras are the easiest way to do this.

Cold air leaking into an attic
Cold air leaking into an attic

Before the invention of infrared cameras, there was no easy way to find insulation voids. One option was to examine the insulation visually, which was time-consuming and could involve lengthy examinations of little-used spaces, like attics and crawl-spaces, or even the tearing down of walls. A variety of tests to detect air leaks, like smoke tests and the blower-door tests, could sometimes indicate insulation voids but it is possible to have an insulation void without an air leak. In short, these older methods were time-consuming and inaccurate.Fortunately, infrared cameras are the perfect solution to this problem.

An infrared camera, or thermal imaging camera, is a form of “non-contact temperature measurement”. Normal cameras, which are a form of visual imaging, use the visible wavelengths of light to create an image of what we see when we look at an object. Infrared or thermographic cameras, on the other hand, use longer wavelengths of light to record an image that shows what temperature an object is. The infrared camera is not a thermometer, and does not directly measure temperature, but the infrared energy that it does detect provides information about the temperatures of the item. The range of colors in an infrared image show a range of temperatures: this shows the “thermal pattern” of an object or area and provides helpful data about the temperatures ranges present in that area.

Missing insulation in a living room
Missing insulation in a living room

Typically, blue colors represent colder areas, and red, yellow and white colors representing progressively hotter areas. To use an infrared camera to detect insulation voids, the thermographer needs to take photos of the house in question from a variety of angles. A trained technician can then examine these images and determine what areas of the house look unusually warm or cold. This is an indication of a probable insulation void. Meanwhile, the technician can also find gaps in duct insulation, inefficient equipment or windows, and other problems which also contribute to high heating and cooling costs. In a session as short as one hour, the technician can examine the entire house, explain the results to the homeowner, and at the same time detect faulty electrical wiring, termites, or mold.With this knowledge, homeowners can then have their insulation repaired.

An infrared camera, followed by selective visual inspection and insulation repair, is the easiest and best way to find and fix insulation voids. Compared to practices of the past, like visual inspection of the entire house, and smoke and blower tests for air leakage, the use of an infrared camera is cheaper, less time consuming, less invasive, and more precise. Also, unlike any of these other systems, the infrared camera can provide data not only on the location of the void, but also about the extent of the problem. The different colors of the image show which leaks are losing the most thermal energy, which can help determine which voids or gaps should be filled first for the maximum benefit. There are many benefits of thermography to fix insulation voids in houses. It is a completely non-invasive procedure: to determine if there are voids in the external insulation of a home, the technician may not even need to enter the house, and no walls will need to be removed unless a void has specifically been detected. It is also quick, accurate, and very specific about the location and extent of the problems. It can also help treat other problems at the same time, by providing information about windows, ducts, equipment, and other potential flaws in the home. Homeowners with any interest in increasing the comfort of their homes, decreasing their bills, and reducing their energy consumption should certainly consider having an infrared camera technician look for insulation voids in their home. This non-invasive, quick and accurate inspection is the best way to find gaps in insulation, so that they can be repaired and improve the quality of life for the home’s occupants.

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