By Angie Hicks • August 22, 2008
Gus Poneris had hot and cold spots throughout his Milford home, and was about to shell out $20,000 for a new HVAC system to regulate the temperatures.
But before he signed a contract, he wanted more proof a new system was needed.
He got it from a thermal image scan, which uses infrared technology to reveal problems with moisture, electrical, HVAC systems, foundation, plumbing and, in Poneris' case, insulation, by comparing the relative temperature of one object to that of its surroundings.
Infrared imaging is a growing trend that can lead to some impressive energy savings. This has brought the field extra attention recently, especially with home heating costs projected to increase as much as 60 percent this winter.
A problem is that only a handful of home inspectors offer thermal imaging. In the past, this was due mainly to the price of infrared cameras, but in the last few years their cost has dropped from about $75,000 to about $3,000.
"One day, every inspector is going to have an infrared camera," says Nick Gromicko, founder of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. "It does things the naked eye can't, like identify a roof leak that a (traditional) inspector wouldn't find even if he was standing on it."
Just having the images taken isn't enough, though.
"The infrared cameras aren't something you can just point and shoot," says Barb Yankie, president of Homes + Inc. and a nationally certified thermographer. "You need to know what you're looking at and what could cause changes in the temperature."
Poneris, who paid Yankie $500 for the inspection, says it was worth it.
"We had a lot of bad areas," he says. "There were areas where the insulation was wrong; spaces where there wasn't any insulation at all; a cold spot in one area of the roof."
Yankie showed Paneris how to correct the issues, and he now saves about $35 on his energy bill each month. And, he did not need a costly new HVAC system.
Be sure to check credentials of any thermographer.
Gromicko estimates that by fixing the energy-sucking problems in your home that thermal images highlight, a typical client will get back the cost of the inspection in one winter.
Angie Hicks is founder of Angie's List, provider of ratings on more than 330 types of local service companies.