This week we had the privilege to talk to with Scott Warga, ACSI American Construction Specialists & Investigations LLC who shared his thoughts on the importance of education, thermography tips, and how to catch animals in the act of doing something mischievous (we’ll explain this shortly).
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I do building forensics, which means I find out why buildings have problems as part of a litigation process, and I also do home inspections. 50% of my work is building forensics and expert witness testimony and 50% is home and building inspections. I got into building forensics because I was approached by an attorney who asked me if I could help with an expert witness testimony. The legal and forensic work usually comes up this way: someone has a problem with their house such as moisture in the home or their carpets are always damp or a room will not stay cold, etc – they would call up with a problem, calling me or an attorney, or sometimes a home inspector who points out the problem. I go out and figure out what causes the problem – and if it’s part of litigation I have to figure out whose fault it is.
How did you decide on Fluke?
I compared FLIR and Fluke. I looked at both the camera and the software – Fluke includes software upgrades for free. Secondly, I liked the calibration on Fluke cameras – FLIR required the camera to be calibrated on an annual basis, Fluke only required it every 2 years and it was also cheaper than FLIR by thousands of dollars.
The Fluke people that I experienced were very easy to work with and very accommodating. For example, in litigation you have to disclose a lot of data. We had to disclose raw data for a certain case and the other attorneys weren’t going to be able to open the images unless they had adequate software. I requested the additional software so it was easier to explain situation to the opposing counsel, and Fluke called us right back and dropped 20 copies of software with information and how to activate it. They just gave to us for free!
Are you a loyal follower of the Fluke blog and if so what’s your favorite stuff to read?
My favorite part is the mystery image. When I first started I couldn’t figure out what any of them are – but now that I’ve purchased my own Fluke camera and now that I’ve been in the industry I can figure out what most of the images are.
Can you name one instance where information from the blog helped you at your job?
There are frequently little nuggets in there that help, but they serve more as reminders to me. I went to The Snell Group for my training and it was outstanding and really helped me get underway quickly. I learned pretty much everything I needed to from that class. I would recommend Snell to anybody. For example, I am always checking for the reflectivity. John Snell’s posts on the blog serve as reminders of little tidbits that I learned from the class.
What Fluke thermal imager model do you own?
I own the TiR2FT (older camera) – it is a FlexCam specifically for building diagnostic as well as the Ti32. I love the Ti32 and still use the TiR2FT on a fairly regular basis. The Ti32 has a much better resolution and longer battery life which is great for a lot of the diagnostic work I do in litigation. Sometimes I’ll even use both at the same time. For example, one day I set up the TiR2FT inside a house and let it take images on one specific area to see water migrating through the wall. On this particular day we had a rainstorm. As soon as the rainstorm started, I set the camera up for 2 hours and I went to lunch. I came back while the camera was still continuously taking pictures. I scanned rest of house with the other imagers, and was able to see how water leaked throughout the house when it started raining. As a result, I was able to prove the exterior of the home was not weather tight without having to cut holes in the wall to prove a point.
Can you give us some other examples of your work?
I took a thermal image of a pair of glass doors that had low-e windows and also took images of the flooring below it. One of those windows was actually installed backwards and you could see the temperature difference between the doors. Another example of where my thermal imager was VERY helpful was also one of the more difficult jobs I’ve had. It required me to spray test walls on 10 houses and determine how water was migrating through and across the walls. It was very challenging because in the morning, the water was hotter than the wall. By 2 PM it was 85 degrees and the water was still 70 degrees. The variables kept changing so it was really challenging. When I was doing spray testing, it was a hot and sunny day (Phoenix) – as the water passed through the stucco it heated up and as it migrated through the wall it cooled down –It would show up on the interior as a warm area and as it moved through and down the wall it would cool down then almost disappear and return lower as a cooler area. It was interesting to see the temperature change as the water went down. And very challenging getting the results I needed to report back to my client – as you can probably imagine – but I loved the challenge and my Fluke thermal imager helped me win that day!
What’s the quirkiest image you’ve taken with your thermal imager?
I’ve looked at a lot of stuff with thermal imagers. One time I was working with the TiR2, which has a temperature/color sensor. If anything goes above a certain temperature when it enters the field of view, the camera will sense this and automatically take a picture. These people had several cats and one was urinating on their carpet. I set it up so that when anything above a certain temperature entered the picture it would take an image of the culprit doing its business on the carpet. Since the Fluke Imagers take both the thermal image as well as a photo, I was able to prove which cat it actually was!
Is there anything else you’d like to be written on the Fluke blog?
A lot of the blog topics are on motor circuit analysis and maintenance inspections. I would like to see more information on different types of uses where people are using the cameras to find different issues. Different things that can be done with the camera to expand different uses of it. I do like the motor circuit analysis and actually got a call last night to say “how do I use this?” – I was able to answer all of all the questions related to this topic because I’ve been reading the blog. The person who contacted me was doing a contract to do maintenance inspections for a commercial facility. He knew how to shoot and operate a camera, but didn’t know all the other variables that were involved when shooting the camera. I was able to help him with setting the right parameters and other factors for getting the right pictures.
Lastly, is there any wisdom you’d like to impart on our readers?
Education is the key. I know several inspectors who bought thermal imaging cameras and did not know how to use them. Often times, I get paid to go out and reevaluate what they said. For example, some home inspectors will say that some items are red hot and claim “this is really bad, your insulation is missing.” The client has a contractor evaluate it and he says there is nothing wrong. I get called to check it out. I often find that the home inspector has set the temperature span too narrow, so even a tenth of a degree looks like a huge temperature difference and there is no real issue. Yes, education is key and it’s made me a better thermographer. Anyone can buy an x-ray machine, but that doesn’t make them a radiologist.
Thank you Scott for sharing your wisdom with us and our readers!