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What does a thermography inspection reveal?

Infrared thermography inspections reveal condensation and poorly sealed or leaking HVAC ductwork.

Air leakage in forced air duct systems is now recognized as a major source of energy waste in both new and existing houses. Studies indicate ductwork air leakage can account for as much as 25% of total house energy loss and can prevent heating and cooling systems from operating properly, resulting in uneven heating and cooling of rooms.

Air leakage into wall cavities and ceilings, because of poorly sealed or installed ductwork register boots, ranks at the top of the list, due to the volume of air which leaks during operation of the heating and cooling systems. These leaks can heat or cool entire wall cavities and is the largest contributor to condensation. Most if not all these register boots are un-insulated or sealed at the drywall/boot junction.

extensive air leakage between ceiling and insulation in the attic space in this one year old home

Extensive air leakage between ceiling and insulation in the attic of a year-old home

 

Air leaks can also cause condensation resulting in mold/mildew growth.

Condensation may be identified through basic visual inspection if it has led to obvious defects, such as staining or mold growth. However, by the time visible evidence has presented itself, significant damage may have already been done. In many cases, condensation may have been developing for a while before obvious signs become apparent.

By employing thermal imaging and a moisture meter, inspectors can locate condensation issues before they become large problems and lead to serious damage. While an infrared camera does not specifically detect moisture itself, it does detect differences in temperature. When a material becomes wet and saturated with water, its temperature will be cooler than the surrounding areas because water takes longer to warm up than, wood or drywall. In order to verify what the IR camera is seeing; I use a moisture meter to verify the present of moisture.

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Infrared thermography, recessed light fixtures and energy loss

Recessed lights have traditionally been costly contributors to heat loss. These fixtures allow conditioned air to leak into unconditioned spaces, such as attic spaces. The large rough openings needed to install recessed cans, the numerous perforations in the housing assemblies and trims, and the fact that manufacturers require a minimum 3″ gap between insulation and fixture made them extremely susceptible to air leakage. This air leakage increases substantially when the light bulb heats the air in the light fixture causing a chimney effect. Enough air leakage over a period can cause moisture problems and possible mold growth.

Sometime around 2002 all recessed light fixtures were required to have thermal protectors (these fixtures are called Insulation Contact). However, these fixtures were still manufactured with holes and perforations resulting in air leakage.

The image indicates bright areas around light fixtures are due to missing insulation and air leakage.

To address air leakage the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), as of 2009, required that any recessed-can fixture installed in an insulated ceiling/attic must meet the air tightness standards and be labeled for insulation contact. The most recent requirements state recessed light fixtures installed in the building thermal envelope/attic space shall be airtight, IC rated, and sealed to the drywall.

By employing thermal imaging, we can determine the extent of energy loss around recessed light fixtures. Thermal imaging can also determine if moisture is present due to condensation.

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Chimney and Fireplace Inspections

Chimney inspections come in many forms and you should be aware that not all inspections are alike. At Jersey First Inspection Services, we go to extreme measures to make sure that your new home is safe from any potential fire hazards. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), an educational organization located in Indianapolis, the installation of a flue liner has been recommended since the early part of this century, but now many codes mandate chimney liners for masonry chimneys.

Most masonry chimneys are built with clay liners that can deteriorate over time or can incur damage from weather, undetected chimney fires or foundation settling.

Chimney is missing mortar at flue joints

The image above shows missing mortar at flue joints.

This deterioration or damage can leave the chimney unsafe.  Damaged flue tile can allow flue gases from a fire to penetrate the brick and mortar, reducing the life of the chimney and creating gaps in the mortar joints.

When these conditions exist, problems can occur, such as carbon monoxide seeping into the living structure of the home, or sparks from a fire that escape through the crack in a chimney wall into a flammable part of the house. Even prolonged exposure to the heat from flue gases leaking through cracked or broken clay tiles can pose significant threat to combustible materials near the chimney. Additionally, an unexpected chimney fire can spread through a breech in a damaged chimney liner scattering fire throughout the home.

Jersey First Inspection Services utilizes state of the art chimney video inspection equipment, which is the most accurate method of determining whether defects exist in the flue lining. During this inspection, a camera is either lowered down or raised up through the flue. A monitor allows the inspector to view the condition of the internal walls of the flue liner and the entire inspection is recorded. This is the only type of inspection that allows the inspector to view/find the exact problems and exact location of the problems.

According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), clay flue tiles within a chimney should be replaced if they are cracked, broken, or missing. The most efficient and cost-effective repair is relining of the flue by a certified chimney contractor, which can cost from $2000-$4000+ per flue.

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Permits

You just found your perfect home in New Jersey.  Your bid has been accepted by the seller and you have just finished your three-day attorney review.  The homeowner purchased the home two years ago and stated in the disclosure that the previous homeowner had made several additions, alterations and upgrades to the property.

Now it’s time for the home inspection.  When purchasing a home with upgrades/additions/alterations, hiring the most experienced inspector is a must. Licensed home inspectors who are also licensed New Jersey building inspectors will be able to determine what work has been performed correctly or unprofessionally without permits.

During the inspection, the home inspector notes in his/her report, there are several concerns regarding additions/alterations/upgrades which may not be permitted.  What’s your next step?  I recommend to all my clients to take a trip to the local township building department and do an open records request.  The building department will provide you a list of all work permitted and has had its final approval, work permitted but has not had its final township inspection or work performed without permits.

The open records request, on the home you are purchasing, identifies several additions/alterations/upgrades made without permits.   This is where a good real estate attorney can help navigate who is responsible for applying for the missing permits.

I cannot stress enough the importance of building permits, whether you are hiring a contractor on your own home or the home you are buying.

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Home Inspectors Offering Infrared Scans

With the cost of infrared cameras becoming less expensive, more and more home inspectors are purchasing infrared cameras and offer free infrared scans during a home inspection.

It’s the flashy new technology to get prospective buyers to use their service. What you get is nothing other than a home inspection with may be a few infrared pictures added to the inspection report, which tells you nothing about the home you are about to purchase.

We are now hearing from the field that these inspectors are calling out problems that do not exist when reviewed by a licensed professional.

At Jersey First, when requested by the client, we perform a full infrared scan of the entire home room by room. We provide a separate report identifying any exceptions (problems) in the home with a digital photo and infrared photo, where the problem is, what type of problem and what the repair is.

Training and the lack of it, is what’s driving the problem. To properly understand what you see on the screen of the infrared camera you need to have training in infrared thermograph and training in the specific areas in which you will be working (energy scans, moisture penetration etc.).

To understand infrared thermography, you must be a Level 1, 2 or 3 certified infrared thermographer in accordance with the American Society for Nondestructive Testing.

Most if not all these home inspectors offering infrared scans have attended an 8- or 16-hour course and receive a certification that you attended the course.

To be a Level 1, 2 or 3 Certified Infrared Thermographer requires 32 hours of classroom training and passing of a 3-hour test with an 80% or higher, for each level.

Jersey First Inspection Services recommends the following credentials if you are hiring a home inspector to perform an infrared scan of the home you are purchasing minimum Level 2 Certified Infrared Thermographer, Training and Certified in Energy Evaluations, minimum of three years performing Infrared Scans.

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Why is one room colder than the rest of the house?

With the cold weather upon us again, people often ask, “Why is one room colder (or hotter) than the rest of the house?” You know the feeling, you’re in the living room under two blankets watching the latest episode of “The Voice.”  Then, you go to bed and find yourself in shorts and a t-shirt. So, what’s the reason for this temperature difference? Air leakage or missing or insufficient insulation may be the reason why the temperature in your home temperature varies from room to room.

Air leaks or drafts

Air leakage near window is shown in blue

Air leakage near window is shown in blue

Excessive air leaks (most commonly referred to as drafts) are one of the main reasons why the rooms in your home are colder or hotter than others. They also raise your energy bill. During the winter, cold air enters the home as your heated air leaves, creating drafts. Whether your home is 100 years old, just renovated, or newly constructed, drafts can be found near electrical outlets, switch plates, door and window frames, baseboards, and recessed lighting. Air leaks hide in your interior wall cavities, attic, basement, crawl space or chimney and can carry moisture into framing cavities. This leads to condensation and is a leading cause of mold and rot in your home.

Missing or improperly installed insulation

Missing insulation in the ceiling is shown in blue

Missing insulation in ceiling is shown in blue

It is not uncommon to find missing or improperly installed insulation in homes.  Batt insulation, generally made of fiberglass, is usually installed in attic spaces and exterior wall cavities.  However, Batt insulation is rarely installed properly–leaving gaps and voids around outlets, switches, ductwork, and piping (causing pipes to freeze). These gaps allow air movement resulting in drafts at windows, doors, outlets, switches and recessed lighting, and cold spots in walls and ceilings. That might be the reason why you were under all those blankets in your living room! Building standards and insulation manufacturers require that fiberglass batt insulation completely fill the wall stud cavities with no voids or gaps. Attic insulation should cover the top plate of exteriors walls,  be divided to fix around wires, and should fill the air space in corners. By utilizing today’s technology, we can detect the reason for varying temperatures in your home.

Detecting varying temperatures

Using infrared thermography (an infrared camera), we can determine what is causing the varying temperature issues in your home. Infrared thermography is a non-contact/non-destructive method of identifying air leaks, missing insulation or improperly installed insulation in residential and commercial structures. Due to the differences in temperature between interior and exterior, winter is an excellent time to scan walls and ceilings. We can pinpoint the exact location of the issue and provide you with a detailed report so that your contractor can make the appropriate repairs. Contact us today. We can help you find the source of your varying temperature issues, help you make your home more energy efficient, and keep you warm all winter long.