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Inspecting Buildings with Thermography

Despite the fact that many families presently spend more on their cable and internet connections than they do on home energy, there has recently been—thankfully—a resurgence of interest in improving the efficiency of our homes. Most of us recognize we must use energy more efficiently in the long term for a variety of good reasons. Nearly all of the more than 110 million existing homes in the United States could benefit from cost-effective efficiency improvements!

Thermography plays key roles in understanding the condition of a home as well as ensuring that work is done effectively. While we cannot actually see through walls, we often can—if conditions are right—determine whether a building is insulated or not. Even more importantly, if it is insulated, we can see how effectively the insulation is performing. The notion that we can improve energy efficiency by simple adding more insulation has been proven false. The right materials must be selected and properly installed if we are to get a return on our investment.

Insulation is missing in this wall that backs up to a walk-in attic. The image, taken under Summer conditions, shows several areas where fiberglass batts, which were not well secured to the back of the wall, fell down--leaving the building susceptible to overheating. In the Winter, the situation was reversed, and additional energy was needed to make up for the excessive heat loss.

We also understand how buildings function much better than in the past. While we must have some “fresh air”, it turns out that excessive air leakage is a significant part of why it costs so much to condition most buildings and why many of them are also uncomfortable. Again, thermography—especially in conjuction with blower door technology—can help us locate sites of air leakage and, after sealing work has been accomplished, confirm that the work was done effectively.

While the technology has long been used for auditing buildings, more and more often thermal imaging systems are also being used by the crews who are actually installing the insulation and air sealing materials. This saves time, helps them solve problems and provides a measure of quality control and documentation not possible in the past. The end result? Better work is being done more cost-effectively.

Over the next several weeks I’ll focus my blog postings on how thermography is being used in building diagnostics work—so stay tuned!

Thinking Thermally,

John Snell—The Snell Group, a Fluke Thermal Imaging Blog content partner

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