For many years, utilities and large companies used thermal imaging to uncover potential heat problems across large areas and to keep track of heavy machinery. But more recently, thermal imaging has truly become a game changer for most contractors and others in the building trades. Thermal cameras help contractors find and document energy loss and other problems they could not otherwise easily find. This saves them time and money — which ultimately results in homeowners saving money. Most recently, contractors have begun to combine portable thermal imaging cameras with moisture meters. Using thermal imaging to find the issue and the moisture meter to verify it saves time and helps avoid surprises that will ultimately cost homeowners more.

Thermal imaging benefits contractors and homeowners

Thermal imaging detects heat given off by an object or person. It takes the energy and translates it into light that can be seen. Using the typical “Ironbow” color palette, the viewer sees the light in a range of colors: red, orange, and yellow indicates heat; dark blue, black or purple signifies coolness. Cold can mean air leaks through doors and window frames, missing insulation or water — especially evaporating water. No other technology can provide this information.

Like having super powers, thermal imaging uses radiation energy so contractors can actually see energy loss, and potential problems stand out and can be found and documented in real time.

Home inspectors were the first to adopt the use of thermal imaging, but all the building trades are now jumping on board. Most recently electricians, HVAC technicians, and plumbers have started to use thermal imaging to quickly find problem areas from a safer distance. In essence, thermal imaging can be used by all trades, and if they are not using it, now may be a good time to start.

thermal imaging

The number one application contractors use thermal imaging for is to locate energy loss in hotter and colder months caused by missing insulation and poor sealing around doors and windows. Interestingly, the number two use is to locate pest infestations, including termites and rodents. While thermal imaging cannot “see” a single termite, it is excellent for locating termite nests because of the massive amount of heat generated by huge numbers of termites living together.

The third most common application is for detecting water intrusion in houses and business. Thermal imaging points contractors in the right direction, and moisture meters are then used to isolate the problem.

One other essential feature of thermal imaging is that it can be used to document issues to show customers. As a contractor who works closely with clients, I believe it is absolutely crucial that customers have a clear and in-depth understanding of what is going on with their project. Thermal imaging gives contractors the ability to proactively bring up and demonstrate issues. If the issue is something they should be concerned with, it is important to be able to document that issue with a picture or video. The more information homeowners have, the better off they will be.

Pairing thermal imaging with moisture meters offers a one-two punch

Recently, many in the building trades have begun to realize the benefits of pairing thermal imaging with moisture meters. This combination is especially effective because thermal imaging by itself does not distinguish between cold temperatures and moisture. Both show up as a dark blue image, so contractors cannot tell if the image indicates moisture or cold air. Using the two technologies together, they can simultaneously find energy loss and moisture intrusion ­— giving contractors a real one-two punch.  

Using thermal imaging to find the issue and the moisture meter to verify it saves time. By taking the moisture meter to the area of concern a contractor can isolate the problem and quickly determine its seriousness and extent. Before the ability to pair the two technologies, contractors had moisture meters, but they had to tear the entire wall down to address a suspected problem. Using the non-contact or non-invasive/non-destructive detection methods together helps contractors confine the problem to a smaller area so they can avoid taking that wall down. The moisture meter will indicate if the spot is a matter for concern. 

How new technology makes combining thermal imaging and moisture reading easy 

The FLIR ONE PRO thermal imaging camera attachment in combination with the FLIR MR40 moisture meter are especially helpful for those contractors who are not particularly tech savvy. You can attach the thermal camera to your smart phone, and the phone becomes the viewer. 

Especially useful is the multi spectral dynamic imaging (MSX) technology, which enables users to overlay the visual with the thermal to get a clear image that the contractor can then decipher. This means users are not just seeing a screen of colors, they are seeing the definition of what they are looking at.

MSX incorporates real time thermal video enhanced with visible spectrum definition. It produces exceptional thermal clarity to highlight exactly where the problem is. MSX ensures easier target identification without compromising radiometric data. The quality of the thermal images is excellent, with almost no need for a separate digital image. With MSX, thermal images look sharper, the orientation of the target is done more quickly and the reports are clutter-free. Users can see the results of MSX technology directly on the touchscreen of the camera, in real time.

thermal imaging

Another practical feature of the FLIR ONE Pro is the 1-fit connector. This allows users to adjust the camera’s fit, so they can use the attachment with thicker cell phone cases.

Anyone can operate it easily, even if they have never used a moisture meter before. The portable, rugged moisture meter comes with an integrated flashlight. It is also small, tough, and fits easily in a pocket — making it easy to use in tight spaces.

When used in combination with a thermal camera, MR40 can help confirm whether a cold spot in a thermal image is moisture, and measure the severity of the problem. If it measures in the 20 percent range or above, it would be considered a problem. Below 10 percent it would not be considered a problem.

Other all-in-one imagers plus moisture meter options include the FLIR MR160 and the MR176. With these options there is no need to carry two separate pieces of equipment.

Beyond the bells and whistles of these tools, combining the capabilities of thermal imaging with a moisture meter should give contractors and their customers a piece of mind when quoting jobs.

Now, contractors can virtually see the invisible, reducing unforeseen costs and issues, which will make your customer thankful that you can see things from a new point of view.