Air-Sealing one’s home is seen as one of the most inexpensive strategies you can employ to help you save money on your utilities, and feel more comfortable as soon as it is completed. Not only can it help lower your utilities & feel more comfortable, but it can also help the air quality inside your home and help prevent moisture problems. Ahh, but how do you know where the leaks are?
Blower Door Testing with Infrared:
For new construction we perform a simple Blower Door Test to ensure that the house is code compliant. While one can also perform this test only on an existing house, there is just one small issue – it only tells you how leaky it is, not where the leaks are. Granted you can use the back of the hand method, a smoke pencil, or incense stick but that is not only time consuming but you can also miss items or the root cause.
Infrared thermography is great for showing insulation voids, but it won’t show you air leakage (as it only shows surface temperatures) unless there is a force acting on it allowing you to see the changes. Combine the blower door with infrared and now you are onto something. Another nice factor about using the two items together is you don’t need to have such a huge Delta ΔT – of 17°. In most cases you can do it with a difference of only 5 or more degrees from inside to outside. With that you do want the largest difference you can get as it allows for longer search times.
Does Infrared show mold or moisture?
Yes & No – Infrared only shows you surface temperatures which can be affected by moisture or mold – they get colder or warmer at a different rate than the dry material. In this case yes that is mold that you could not see by the naked eye, but what type & actually saying it was really mold required additional testing.
As for moisture, the same thing applies, but as for how wet it is, or might it be something else has to be checked with a moisture meter or other type of testing.
How does this work?
The first step is conducting a pre-inspection with the infrared camera and you. The blower door is then setup & we run the normal test and then turn it down to 25 Pa (this allows for more scanning time especially for real leaky homes). At this point we do another full walk around with you and the camera looking for changes / obvious signs of air leakage (aka fingers). This all gets documented with a report sent to you later.
Heh, the picture on the right – that was found on an inspection and is only seen in infrared. Looks like someone spray painted that(?) and then covered over it with regular paint. It shows up as that area heats & cools differently than the surrounding area.
How long does this take & how much?
This depends on the size of the house, temperature differences, and a few other factors. With that we generally plan on being there for around 2 hours to not only test but go over everything with you. Then there is at least another hour on the back end for completing the report with suggestions which we generally have to you within 3 business days. Pricing starts at $400 which covers most standard homes in our immediate service area – additional SF costs may apply to houses larger than 3,000 SF or travel charges for houses further out (30 minute travel.)
Will this damage anything?
Never say never, but 99.9 times the answer will be no. Infrared Thermography is considered a NDT or Non Destructive Test. The blower door only applies a force equal to 12 to 15 mph wind blowing against all sides of the house. With that all pilot lights need to be set to pilot, fireplaces need to be out with all ashes removed or at least covered with a wet sheet, and if you know of a draft that is near a picture or figurine you might want to move that item. Beyond that you should be good to go.
I have asbestos – can I test?
Umm generally no you shouldn’t – with that said the only real concern with asbestos is if it is friable. For example, floor tiles stuck well to the floor, you won’t have an issue but this is something that has to be disclosed up front and checked out to see if it is safe to do. Vermiculite in an attic – that would be a no as one can’t test all of it (i.e. one section could be tested free of it while another section just a foot away may contain it).
How about lead paint?
Generally this is not an issue BUT if you have spots flaking off or are ground to dust that can become airborne, then no you shouldn’t.