Infrared Camera and Air Leaks in Homes

Date Published: February 5, 2019

It is easy to detect air leaks when you sit next to a defective window on a super cold Winter night. Unfortunately, we don’t always know where air leaks are in our homes or how they might be impacting our health, physical structure or wallets. One of the best ways to detect home air leaks is with an infrared camera.

The Department of Energy says that air leaks not only cost you more money on your heating and cooling bills but are also a source of poor air quality. Homes that continuously leak air might be susceptible to moisture issues, which can invite things like mold into your home

How Do Infrared Cameras Work?

An infrared camera detects radiation that reflects heat differences in temperature variations. The cameras can identify temperature variables that the naked eye just cannot see. The viewfinder of the camera will display a series of gradient colors on a small screen giving the operator a clear look at the heat spectrum in a particular space. These colors are expressed in brighter reds, yellows, and oranges for warmer signatures; while cool blues and purples indicate cool areas of a home.

How Infrared Cameras are Used to Find Air Leaks

An inspector who is looking for air leaks will usually bring ‘blower door’ test equipment to pull air through the home.  When this equipment is used, it creates a vacuum in the home, making air leaks more detectable with the infrared camera.  The combination of infrared scans and blower door testing is the most effective way to discover air leakage and is the preferred method of most energy auditors.

Infrarad scans with home inspection

Common Air Leaks Found with an Infrared Camera

An inspector will likely turn off the heating or cooling system of your home and make sure all the windows and doors are closed to get the most accurate test. Here are some of the most common places an infrared camera can detect air leaks in your home.

  • Attics – Attics are a common space for air to both enter and escape in a home. An infrared camera will be able to detect these air leaks so the homeowner can address the issues with remedies like weather stripping or caulking.
  • Windows and Doors – Windows and doors are areas where most homeowners will likely detect something is going wrong. An infrared camera will be able to confirm and pinpoint the problem so the homeowner can resolve issues and eliminate potential energy loss.
  • Basements – Like attics, basements are a common area for air to enter a home.  As cold air enters in lower areas, for example around a basement rim joist area, this can draw cold air in and as heat escapes from the attic, energy loss can occur.  This is referred to as the stack-effect in a home.  Sealing lower level leaks can help to reduce overall energy inefficiency.
  • Light and Fan Fixtures – Since light and fan fixtures usually affix to a ceiling, air from your attic space can be pulled in and out of your home through these fixtures almost entirely undetected.
  • Electrical and Plumbing Points of Entry – Infrared cameras can identify air leakage in electrical and plumbing receptacles. These points of entry are connected to the hollow spaces of a home (inside walls) or via a basement where air leaks are prominent.
  • Fireplace and Chimneys – Fireplace and chimney flues have to have direct access to the outside environment to function correctly. When a homeowner understands how much air leakage is taking place at these points, they can either repair or prepare for extreme weather conditions to prevent discomfort or energy loss.

In the past, infrared cameras were seen as expensive equipment only law enforcement or military personnel used to do their jobs. Today, this technology applies to everyday people wanting to save money on energy bills and have good indoor air quality. Consider having an energy audit performed on your home, and ensure the inspector uses an infrared camera to help improve your home’s energy efficiency.  Visit our Energy Services page for more information.

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About the Author: George Scott

George founded Scott Home Inspection in 2006, and has grown the business into a multi-inspector firm serving the Colorado Front Range, from Fort Collins down to Colorado Springs. As an ASHI Certified Home Inspector and Certified Energy Rater, George is an excellent resource to help with inspection and energy-related requirements.

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