Detection made easy

Moisture detection and thermal imaging can help to identify both the symptom and the cause of issues that don’t always show up to the naked eye. Andy Baker from FLIR Systems explains how the right instrument can put you in the picture.    

Thermal imaging has become a game changer for most contractors and others in the building trades. It helps them identify and document energy loss and other problems they could not otherwise easily find. This saves time and money for the homeowner and ultimately benefits business owners too.  

Most recently, the trade has also begun to realise the benefits of pairing thermal imaging with moisture detection and it is a combination that can be particularly helpful to those in plumbing and HVAC.  

Finding the source of a water leak or moisture ingress is not always simple or obvious.  The damage may be evident on a ceiling, but the source of the problem could be in a different room or another floor of the building. This is where the bigger picture is needed and the twin technology approach is particularly effective. 

Detective work

A thermal imaging camera is a quick way to identify missing insulation in a ceiling

Thermal imaging, on its own, can identify that there is an issue, but cannot distinguish between cold temperatures and moisture. Both show up as a dark blue image, so contractors cannot tell if the problem is caused by energy loss and cold air, or moisture intrusion.

Moisture meters can only give spot data on easily accessible surfaces, so it is difficult to assess the extent of moisture damage using this method alone. Often the only answer is to tear down structures, such as walls or ceilings, to investigate the problem. This is both disruptive to the customer and increases the cost, as ultimately the damage must be rectified.

Putting the two technologies together gives contractors a competitive edge. Using thermal imaging to find the issue and the moisture meter to verify it saves time and unnecessarily invasive troubleshooting. The thermal camera guides the moisture meter to the area of concern so the user can isolate the problem and quickly determine its seriousness and extent.

The ongoing development of both technologies gives plumbers and HVAC engineers different ways to achieve this combination to meet the needs of the job and keep within a modest budget. You can now choose from an increasingly sophisticated range of low cost thermal imaging cameras and pair them with moisture meters or even choose an instrument which combines both technologies in a single unit.

Separate devices

The choice of entry level thermal imaging cameras has never been greater for plumbing and HVAC applications, starting with thermal imaging units that can connect with your mobile phone to become the viewer. These units operate with iOS and Android devices and attach easily to the smartphone without needing to remove the phone case. 

Professional features include multiple spot temperature meters and one-touch reporting capabilities to interpret and share results quickly.  At the higher end of the range you will find standard features that include sophisticated technology like multispectral dynamic imaging.

This innovation, which is brand specific, overlays a visual image onto its thermal counterpart to provide the user with as much detail as possible to make problem diagnosis more efficient. It is an example of how developments in high-end camera technology have been rolled down so the trades can benefit too.

Many contractors are now moving up from their adapted smartphone to a slim, dedicated camera that fits comfortably into a pocket so it is instantly available for troubleshooting. It can be used to find hidden hotspots, energy waste, water damage, clogged pipes, sinks and toilets and many HVAC issues.

Again, dependent on the make and model, these cameras can also include WiFi connectivity as a standard feature to streamline image transfer to a mobile device or PC. 

Heading up the range of both thermal imaging cameras and moisture meters, wireless connectivity provides another combination option. Some models of pin and pinless moisture meters communicate directly with compatible thermal imaging cameras so that moisture readings become directly embedded in the radiometric infrared image. This provides contractors with all the information they need to determine the true nature of the problem before remedial action is taken.

Combined technologies

The latest option is a moisture meter with built-in thermal imaging capability. It shows the user exactly where to focus their attention, providing all the measurement capabilities needed for fast troubleshooting. It allows the user to see invisible cold temperature patterns associated with moisture evaporation and guides them to the precise spot that needs further testing and investigation.

Such a device is also a valuable asset during the drying process. A quick thermal scan with the instrument will show where the evaporation process is not up to speed. Quick adjustments to the blower and dehumidification equipment can then be made to get the drying process back on track.

Best choice

In summary, choosing the best way of pairing moisture detection and thermal imaging largely depends on the scope of the job.  At FLIR Systems we offer a wide choice of instruments. For further information on the range, please use the link below.


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