As a real estate inspector, I recently added a new tool to my toolbox for inspecting houses. It wasn’t required by the Texas Real Estate Commission and many inspectors don’t bother with them but being a gadget guy I bit the bullet and bought a thermal imaging camera.

So far I have been amazed at what I have found. Not because the hotspots were unexpected but because the thermal camera so easily identified what needed to be insulated better. But it did take some reading and training to interpret what I was seeing. On a hot Texas summer day, it was easy most of the time to identify what was hot and what was cool.

So here are a few pics of where most of us have issues.

  1. Attic door pulldown. This is an area inspectors can count on to be deficient in an inspection.

Thermal Imaging

Notice the bright yellow. Yep, heat from the attic is seeping into the air-conditioned hallway there. No Bueno, my friends. The door in question needed weatherstripping and insulation on the door itself.

2. Exterior doors. Another area that is deficient in most houses.

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The yellow under the door shows heat. The window in the middle is doubled pane but there is a reflection that is indicating warmer. I spot checked the window and it was only a few degrees warmer than the interior temperature with the sun shining on it.

3. This plug is showing it is hot and could be a potential problem except that it is a GFCI outlet which is “on” continuously. The difference in the temperature of this plug and the surrounding area is a few degrees. It actually feels to be the same temperature as the wall beside it.  Which is why whoever is using thermal cameras should be well trained in interpreting what they are looking at. This is a normal picture. GFCI and AFCI breakers are also hotter than others in a panel.

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Here is how a nonGFCI plug should look.

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Lastly, here is one cool Texan after walking on a hot Texas day. Using a thermal camera to augment inspections is going to help confirm heat movement as well as moisture and cooler area. I will also start to offer a thermal imaging assessment as a stand-alone service. But I will take a picture of the homeowners for free.

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