Frequently Asked Building Envelope Inspection Questions:
A building envelope inspection is meticulously performed focusing on perimeter surfaces which adjoin unconditioned areas such as exterior walls, ceilings, windows, etc. The objective is to identify and document inconsistencies and thermal exceptions in the building envelope which should be addressed for increased comfort and improved energy efficiency.
Building envelope inspections are typically best performed during periods of extreme outdoor temperatures when ambient indoor and outdoor temperatures differ by at least 18 degrees Fahrenheit or more. This variance in temperatures allows us to more accurately identify concerns contributing to excess energy use, uncomfortable rooms, uncontrolled air infiltration/exfiltration, etc.
In the Midwest region, this means that this application is best reserved for our cold winter or hot summer months. Spring and fall months create difficulties to accurately perform these inspections when the outdoor weather closely matches our comfortable indoor temperatures. While it's not impossible to perform a building envelope inspection during the spring and fall, or other mild periods of the year, these seasonal periods do require experience and professional high-end thermal imaging equipment to carefully navigate the difficulties encountered.
BC Warner Inspections, your Dayton Thermal Inspection provider, owns professional grade thermal imaging equipment and related inspection tools, has invested in quality professional training, and has accumulated years of real world thermal imaging experience to ensure our clients receive accurate service and information.
Infrared technology is not x-ray vision as sometimes depicted in movies or by untrained contractors. So in simple terms, the quick answer is "no"... we can't see through walls, or clothes, or most other solid surfaces. In fact, unless we employ a specialized thermal imaging camera (known as a short wave thermal imaging camera), we can't even see through clear glass windows! The image here helps to illustrate this. It's an image captured while looking at a clear window from the outside. The hand print is actually on the surface of the glass, and is simply residual heat left after removing my hand. My thermal (heat) reflection in the lower right is simply that... a reflection with a tree behind me. Nothing on the other side of the window can be seen with infrared because long wave infrared energy is reflected off glass surfaces. Unless there is an object in contact with a single pane of glass, or some other force heating or cooling the surface of the glass, we can't see it.
Similarly with walls and ceilings, infrared technology can only 'see' surface temperatures. It detects surface temperatures much like a standard thermometer, but translates the thermal data into a visual image. From this image, we can carefully diagnose the cause and effect to assist in determining what is occurring underneath or behind the surface. If the problem is not physically altering the subject surface temperature, it remains 'invisible' in the infrared spectrum of light.
Without delving further into a physical science discussion, for the most part if we don't have direct line of sight, the subject can't be seen with infrared. However, as my young son demonstrates in his hand in the image to right... Don't wear merely a plastic bag or balloon around a thermal imaging camera. While they may be somewhat opaque to visible light, their transmittance values make them quite interesting filters for infrared. But I'll save that discussion for another topic...
The answer is "most of the time from the interior, but it depends".
When performing a thermal inspection for the purpose of energy efficiency concerns, the inspection is best performed from inside while the building is under negative pressure. Most structures (typically speaking) will naturally be under a negative pressure differential, meaning they draw air from the outside in. If the building does not have enough negative pressure, it can be augmented or created by other means such as a blower door for example. Concerns with the building envelope can be more accurately identified from the inside of the structure under these conditions. However, if the building is under positive pressure (less common), then certain aspects of the inspection can be performed from the exterior.
Regardless of the pressure differences, the inspector will still need to access the interior of the building or home in order to perform a full assessment. Too many exterior environmental factors (wind, sun, rain, cladding type, etc.) can prevent an accurate infrared inspection.
I have devoted years of time and investment in quality training and equipment to provide our clients a truly unbiased and experienced infrared inspection service. BC Warner Inspections does not perform repairs, so our service remains truly unbiased and dedicated to your best interest and trust. My knowledge and experience with infrared thermal imaging inspections is surpassed by few. In fact, as the Educational Director for the National Association of Commercial Building Inspectors & Thermographers™, I find myself answering questions and providing technical support to many local and regional infrared companies, as well as to inspectors across the United States and Canada who actively seek advice from an experienced thermographer. Infrared technology and training varies dramatically in quality, specifications, and of course costs. Many providers, contractors, and individual inspectors unfortunately choose to enter this profession as cheaply as possible with little to no training and grossly inadequate equipment. When accuracy, quality, and experience matters in such an important application as an Infrared inspection, BC Warner Inspections & Thermal Imaging Services is the right choice for your facility. I encourage you to choose wisely and compare credentials, experience, and sample reports.
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Hidden building envelope concerns don't fix themselves. In fact, the longer they go undiscovered without correction, the greater the risk of further detriment and financial waste.
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