Thermal Imaging for Building Diagnostics

Thermal imaging has broken all bounds in the building inspection industry. It has become the mainstream method of inspection, and it has not disappointed yet. Building diagnostics is the process of inspecting a building to ascertain whether it is in good condition or whether it has been built properly. In the sections below, we are going to dig deep and find out how thermal imaging has made building diagnostics easy and seamless.

Thermal Imaging is an inspection technology that requires no introductions. It has revolutionized the building inspections. Building diagnostics have become simpler, faster, and much more accurate. Follow along as we explore more about this impressive technology, and how you can use it to ensure your building remains in perfect condition.

What is thermal imaging?

For the avoidance of doubt, let’s briefly describe what thermal imaging is. Thermal imaging is an inspection technology whose operation is based on temperature differences. As heat flows and temperature changes, there is bound to be an emission of infrared radiation. The intensity of the radiation depends on the temperature levels, and how rapidly the temperature is changing. It is this radiation that is imaged. An infrared thermographic camera is used to capture these images. Different surfaces appear with different colors on the camera depending on their temperature level.

Now that we have a better picture of how thermographic imaging works, it would be easy to understand how it is applied in building diagnostics. We’ll begin by exploring the various aspects of building inspections. What aspects of a building are inspected thermally during building diagnostics? What indicators would the inspectors be looking for?  Let’s try to answer these questions and a couple more.

Building Diagnostics

We’ve already mentioned that Building diagnostics is the process of inspecting a building for faults. During the inspections, there are specific protocols and guidelines to be followed. Any building is a conglomeration of various systems, each with a specific function. Each system is inspected during a thermal inspection. Here are the various systems we are going to explore.

  • Structural Integrity
  • Electrical Systems
  • Plumbing Systems
  • HVAC systems

Structural Integrity

Structural integrity, in this case, refers to how strong the building is structural. Any construction has to meet certain thresholds as far as structural integrity is concerned. In many places, it is the responsibility of local governments to ensure that any building that is being constructed meets these thresholds. The authorities use thermal imaging to conduct inspections and uphold these standards.

So, how is thermal imaging applied to structural integrity inspection?

As we mentioned above, thermal imaging is all about temperature differences. While inspecting a building’s structural integrity, all the walls, floors, beams, and other support structure of a building are scanned with an infrared thermographic camera. The inspector will scan every inch of the building observing how the various surfaces appear on the camera’s screen and noting anything unusual. Of course, an experienced inspector will be able to note abnormalities when they come across any.

Structural problems might be problems such as cracks on the walls, weak beams, wet walls, wrong installations, and several others. While inspections are being conducted on a new building, the infrared cameras can help the inspector find out the kind of building materials used and whether they have been installed properly. Different surfaces have different temperatures. As such, they appear different on the infrared camera.

Thermal imaging also captures cracks quite easily. Any cracks that might be there tend to be pockets of air. The air will have a different temperature from the surrounding walls. Similarly, a wet patch is going to have a different surface temperature from that of the other surfaces. When scanned with an infrared camera, these faults will be caught quite easily.

Thermal imaging is quite ideal because you do not have the struggle to inspect hard to reach areas. You can easily scan various parts of a building using the infrared cameras from a distance. You are also able to image objects that are hidden from view.

Electrical Systems

No house is complete without an electrical system. A comfy house needs to have electric energy since electrical appliances are central to human life today. Electrical systems can be hazardous if they are not handled with care though. That is why they need to be inspected immediately after installation, and periodically while they are in use.

Thermal imaging is very effective when it comes to the inspection of electrical systems. How can an infrared camera detect electrical faults? You might ask. One interesting aspect of electrical components is that they tend to get extremely hot when they are not faulty, or are under heavy load and is under stress. The significant temperature difference between faulty electrical components and those working properly makes it easy to identify the problems. Thermal imaging will enable the inspector to call out electrical components that are under stress, even when they are still working.

As mentioned above, faulty electrical systems tend to get hot. They usually appear red when scanned with an infrared camera. Any component that appears unusually red on the camera is usually faulty. Also, the images on the camera are usually in the exact shapes of the components. That means that it is quite easy to note which components are faulty, even without having to get too close to the. It, therefore, follows that the inspection of electric systems is usually quite simple. It is arguably the simplest application of thermal imaging. The inspector has to scan every single inch of the conductors and components that make up the electric system. The best part about this inspection is that impending faults can be caught before they occur.

A thermal imaging inspection of an electrical system makes it easy for an electrician to conduct repairs. The results are usually very precise and accurate, and the electrical components that need to be changed can be clearly picked out. The inspection report is always handed to the electrician to ensure they work on every part of the system that might have problems.

Plumbing Systems

Plumbing systems are yet another part of a building that needs to be properly inspected. In a building, there are pipes that supply water, and then there are drainage pipes. All these pipes need to be in good condition at all times. The last thing you need is leaking pipes around the house. When water leaks and accumulates somewhere in the house, it will affect your air conditioning systems, electrical systems, and the structural integrity of the walls and floors getting wet.

Leaking pipe can be avoided through thermal imaging inspections. The scanning of the pipes is done in the same way it is done while inspecting the other systems. Each section of the plumbing or drainage systems need to be scanned carefully to determine whether there are any leaks. The walls around the pipes should be scanned to identify any wetness as well.

So, what do the thermal imaging inspections of a plumbing system look like? What indicates that the pipes are leaking?

Recall that we mentioned that different surfaces and object will always have different temperature capacities. The surface of the pipe and the water inside have different temperatures. As such, any point where there is a leak, there will be a break on the appearance of the pipes. The stream or drop of water leaking out will be easily picked out because it will appear completely different from the surroundings.

As mentioned above, the walls around the pipes need to be inspected as well. There might not be water flowing in the pipes at the time you are doing the inspection. Under such circumstances, you’d miss some leak spots. Inspecting the walls will enable you to identify any wet patches, which would indicate that the pipes have been leaking. Wet surfaces tend to absorb more heat than the surroundings. As such, these patches are going to appear different when that surface has been scanned.

As mentioned earlier, these inspections are very helpful to repairmen. The inspection report is used by the repairmen. It makes their work easy because they will go directly where the faults are. Also, thermographic inspections will help to catch the leaking problems and repair them early enough before they cause any significant damages. As mentioned above, plumbing issues need to be caught as early as possible because they always have a cause a cascade of damage whenever they occur.

HVAC Systems

Last but not least, thermal imaging can be used to inspect the HVAC System. HVAC systems come in different kinds, but they operate in the same way, and their main purpose is to provide the required conditions in the house. HVAC systems can either heat or cool the atmosphere inside your house depending on the prevailing conditions and what is needed.

So, how does thermal imaging help identify problems with the HVAC system?

HVAC systems work by either heating the air inside the house or pumping our hot air by bringing in cool air from outside. Air vents of the HVAC systems are therefore either carrying hot air or cold air. The hot or cold are will appear with a unique color when scanned with an infrared thermographic camera.

The camera will show images of any points where the vents might be leaking. Note that a faulty HVAC system translates into high energy bills. HVAC systems use electricity and they waste electric energy when they are not working properly. When they are faulty, they will cause you to incur huge electric bills.

Just like with all the other systems, you have to scan every inch of the HVAC system in order to identify any faults that might be present. You need some level of expertise to be able to detect where the faults might be.

Keep in mind that HVAC systems work for hand in hand your home’s insulation. As such, you need to ensure the insulation in your home is in top-notch condition as well. The insulation can be inspected using thermal imaging as well. Insulation is usually placed in the roofs and attic, and inside the walls of your house is made of wood. If the insulation is leaking, it will be interfering with the conditions in the house even when the HVAC systems are working properly.

If the conditions are cold outside and your need warmth inside, the insulation leaks will be letting out warm air and letting in cold air. If the conditions outside are hot and you need cool air inside the house, the leaks will let in hot air while the cool air inside escapes outside.

The insulation is inspected using the thermal cameras as well. If there are any insulation leaks, they will be picked up quite easily because they will have jets of air spraying out from them. The air jets are easily detectable because they have a different temperature from the surroundings.

Just to mention, thermal imaging can be used to inspect a building for pest infestation. The infrared cameras will easily show images of any pests that might have invaded the building. As we mentioned in the beginning, building diagnostics is about checking every single aspect of the building. It is quite impressive that thermal imaging can inspect every single aspect of a building. The is a lot to write home about the use of thermal imaging in building diagnostics. We just couldn’t fit everything in this brief review.


In summary, thermal imaging is a very interesting inspection technology. You would certainly enjoy conducting an inspection with the infrared cameras. The best part is knowing that you will not miss any faults that might be in the building. As we have seen, thermal imaging inspection is very comprehensive, and it will enable you to inspect every aspect of a building.

Thermal imaging is a superior technology and it has become the go-to solution for any intense inspection. There are many benefits to using thermal imaging over any other inspection method. After all, it is the best inspection technology in the industry.

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