Q&A with Thermascan on Building Surveys

We hope you found last month’s blog post on safely conducting an electrical survey useful and interesting. Following on from that, we held a Q&A session here at Thermascan to answer some of the most common questions we get about our thermal imaging equipment & surveys:

Building Surveys need to be carried out under dry and cold conditions.

Building Surveys need to be carried out under dry and cold conditions.

What can the camera see through?

The FLIR Thermal Camera can only detect surface temperature and is not x-ray, so it can’t see through windows or other reflective surfaces. When scanning reflective targets, you may need to change your angle to minimise the reflections on the image. The reflection could be from your body heat, a piece of machinery, light bulb, or some other heat source in the area. Reflections can affect the data in the thermal image, and if not understood, cause an incorrect temperature reading.

Can the FLIR Thermal Camera work through wooden, laminate or tiled flooring?

Yes, it can detect leaks through wooden, laminate and tiled floors, but cannot go through carpet as it acts as an insulator, so you will need to lift the carpet when looking for a leak. In most cases it will work through wooden, laminate and tiled flooring, but it all depends on the depth of pipes and materials below etc. so it’s not always guaranteed. If pipes are laid under the floor or inside a wall it can be possible to determine the exact location of the problem. Sending hot water through the pipes will allow heat to radiate through the area. The problem will quickly become visible to a FLIR thermal imaging camera.

FLIR cameras can detect leaks through flooring, depending on the depth of pipework.

FLIR cameras can detect leaks through flooring, depending on the depth of pipework.

How far under flooring can the camera detect pipework?

Usually between 1-2 meters, under screed.

How long does the heating need to be on prior to looking for a water leak?

As long as is practical, to ensure that the pipe work is as hot as possible. The process of evaporation has a cooling effect on wet ceilings, walls, and floors, so the AC condensate leak will appear cold in relation to the rest of the room.

Is the camera always successful at detecting leaks?

No, the camera is not always 100% successful, and should not be taken as an absolute.

I have a leak on a flat roof, will the camera be suitable?

Yes, a thermal camera is suitable to detect flat-roof leaks, but this needs to be carried out in dry conditions. This can be carried out during the day, but it is best to wait until the roof has cooled down in the evening as you’ll be able to see the water with your thermal imaging camera more easily. Again, this is because water changes temperature more slowly than the roof materials. You can save a tremendous amount of money by repairing wet areas instead of replacing the entire roof!

I have a damp problem in my house, will the camera pinpoint the problem areas?

The FLIR Thermal Camera is capable of detecting and pinpointing leaks, moist ingress, hot and cold air leakage, cold bridging and general building issues.

Building surveys need to be carried out in the early morning or late evening to achieve the best results.

Building surveys need to be carried out in the early morning or late evening to achieve the best results.

What time should a Building Survey take place?

1-2 hours after sunset, or 1-2 hours before sunrise. This is because, during the day, the building, ground and external surfaces will be heated naturally by the sun causing solar gain. We need at least a 10-degree differential in internal and external temperatures for the best results on a building survey! High-image-resolution, high-thermal-sensitivity cameras can detect temperature differences that are much smaller, but these cameras are often far more expensive.

What do I need to do before a Building Survey?

The building needs to be fully heated 24 hours before the survey takes place, and full access (both internally and externally) will be required. The external digital images and internal images should be taken during daylight, and the external thermal images taken after sunset.

What time of year is best for a Heat Loss Survey to take place?

October to March, as these months tend to offer the greatest differential in internal and external temperatures. Buildings located in cold climates are often inspected during winter time. In hotter climates, the summer months can be ideal for surveying a building’s insulation to determine whether chilled air is escaping.

In what weather conditions can a Survey be carried out?

The building survey needs to be carried out under dry and cold conditions as the cameras are not waterproof, nor will the survey be accurate due to water saturation on the building.

Can we give Energy Reading Calculated Surveys?

No, we don’t energy-rate buildings; we only advise on problem areas.

Does the survey meet BREEAM standards?

Yes, all of our building surveys are carried out in accordance with BREEAM standards!

We hope this Q&A has answered your question; however please remember that we’re always here to help, so if you still aren’t sure about something please contact us and we’ll be happy to assist you!