Thermal Camera - The New Smell Detector?

By
Home Inspector with Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC

On a recent thermal examination of a house I was called on to find the usual - diagnose why rooms are hot and cold, if recent roof repairs stopped further moisture intrusion as intended, and so forth.  It went well. 

I had a very unusual diagnosis to make also.  My client said, "When I am standing at my kitchen sink, I can smell what is going on outdoors.  For example, when my neighbor fertilizes his yard, I can smell it almost immediately."

There are many things a thermal image camera can detect, but I have never used it to diagnose fertilizer smells.

But why not try?  So I set out to find the problem.  Air infiltration was happening somewhere.  But where?

Looking above the kitchen sink it wasn't hard to see why.

The sink is located in a 3 foot bump out, with its own double window. That's a pretty common architectural design.  But looking above we see why air, and smells, can get in.  The left image is of the window and the ceiling above the sink.  The right image is the corner of that bump out, over the corner cabinet.  The cannister lights and square light over the sink are evident.

The purple area is the ceiling of that bump out.  There is no insulation there!  That area is 58 degrees F.  The outdoor temperature is 55F.  There are soffit vents under the gutter just over that window, where air is supposed to get in.  It does!

What is in that air will easily filter into the kitchen, through those lights and even through the drywall!  Hence, the fertilizer smell.

She said, "Oh, so that's why it gets so hot and cold there when I am at the sink!"  Um, yes!

My recommendation:  Don't underestimate the power of your home inspector's thermal infrared camera!  We inspectors are finding new uses for them every day!

 

 

Posted by

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


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Show All Comments
Rainmaker
2,000,716
Roy Kelley
Realty Group Referrals - Gaithersburg, MD
Roy and Dolores Kelley Photographs

Great post with important information. Thanks for sharing your experience. Have a joyful Thanksgiving.

Nov 21, 2009 05:24 AM #1
Rainmaker
310,415
Paul Guenther
Magnus Title Agency - Chandler, AZ
Magnus Title- Chandler, AZ

Jay,

 Very cool technology! That camera makes you out to be a hero!

PG

Nov 21, 2009 05:26 AM #2
Rainmaker
1,242,237
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Thank you Roy!  You too.  We are hoping to have a restful holiday.

Paul - many times over.  I like being a hero!

Nov 21, 2009 05:29 AM #3
Ambassador
1,649,602
Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group
Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001 - Gaithersburg, MD
301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA

I like to go to a bar, have some drinks and use that tool in all the girls. . where were you when I was single? :)

Nov 21, 2009 05:57 AM #4
Rainmaker
1,242,237
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Fernando - IR is currently gaining hold as a medical device, seeing hot spots and things like tumors long before mammography can detect them.  I use my camera on my wife all the time, actually seeing where there is pain following her recent surgery.  There are other uses too:

http://activerain.com/blogsview/1170116/thermal-image-of-my-wife-s-hot-flash

But it does not see what you are hoping it might see...

Nov 21, 2009 06:12 AM #5
Rainmaker
267,701
John Thomas
E3 Green HOMES - Boulder, CO
EcoBroker, MSEE, MBA

And the solution is??? Situations like this are actually quite common. A combination of caulking, insulating foam and loose cellulose insulation will solve most of those types of problems. It's amazing how many homes are full of thermal holes where the energy escapes so easily.

Nov 21, 2009 11:57 AM #6
Rainmaker
1,242,237
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

John - for sure, retro insulation is a big industry (because the first installation was not done right).  Until IR cameras we did not know how much insulation would slip inside walls, or that builders did not staple or that so many huge holes existed to the extent that they do.

Nov 21, 2009 12:16 PM #7
Rainmaker
78,050
Eric Middleton
Closer Look Property Inspections Inc. - Uniondale, NY
Professional Property Inspector

Hey Jay,

Simply put, nice detective work. Work like that helps the value of a home inspection to gain ground in the real estate industry.

Nov 21, 2009 09:44 PM #8
Rainmaker
1,181,481
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

So far, I am old fashioned enough that I have to use my nose.

Nov 21, 2009 11:58 PM #9
Rainmaker
1,242,237
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Eric - there is a mental paradigm shift needed before consumers really recognize the value and power of a thermal infrared inspection.  I think it has yet to take hold among home inspectors!!  I have been doing it now for five years and my camera is a powerful arrow in my quiver of home inspection tools.

Steve - that seems to work every time!  It did for this lady.  That's one reason she googled and called me!

Nov 22, 2009 06:22 AM #10
Rainmaker
1,392,365
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
Keller Williams 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Realtors - Luxury - Short Sale - CDPE, REDS

Hey Jay...come on out here where you would REALLY be able to test the camera...and work hand and shutter with the insulation specialist !

Nov 23, 2009 06:13 AM #11
Rainmaker
1,242,237
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

S&D - the camera sees in 1/10th degree increments.  It is very powerful.  A deeper purple (or whatever color I set the camera on) would be the result if the temps in the attic were colder.  Insulation in your area is very dear - it better be thick!  The camera would be able to see where they skimped in insulation in the walls, in addition to where it is not well placed or not present...

Nov 23, 2009 03:59 PM #12
Show All Comments
Rainmaker
1,242,237

Jay Markanich

Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
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