Written by: Robert E. Sheriff, CIH, CSP
Published on August 29, 2019, Updated December 6, 2019
Infrared Moisture Detection
A low-temperature range infrared camera is a very useful tool in detecting the presence of water or moisture that ultimately leads to mold growth. An infrared or thermal inspection does not directly identify the presence of mold, but it may be used to find moisture where mold may cultivate, including behind walls, rooflines, soffits, and foundations.
An infrared camera is just a very sensitive temperature detector. Cooler temperature shows blue color, and as the temperature increases, the color changes toward orange to red. The lower temperature range 1R Camera can detect temperature changes as little as 1/10 degree F.
It is important to note that it is not effective in unheated or un-air-conditioned buildings because the inside/outside temperature differentials are small-if any.
The instrument is very useful in locating temperature differential, especially where water/moisture may be present. This applies to surfaces such as exterior walls, roofs, and foundations where moisture can collect-and thus there is a possibility of mold growth. An IR camera can also be effective in building interiors such as pipe chases, internal walls that carry water lines or heat piping as well.
Infrared Mold Detection
Even though an IR Camera is not actually a mold detector, an experienced user of such equipment can easily identify where conditions for mold are most likely.
But Beware! I have seen many cases where the infrared camera results have been misinterpreted. That is, the lower temperature readings than the surrounding area were not the result of water intrusion.
The most common error is not recognizing that the temperature differential is due to insulation—or the lack thereof. Generally, it’s fairly obvious—a section of the wall/roofline shows a straight line compared to an irregular pattern of a water intrusion. Sometimes it’s simply a missing or removed insulation batt or panel, or insulation removed for an electrical outlet, water, or sewer line.
Less obvious situations often involve chill water lines since in these cases the infrared image is often not a straight line. The infrared technician must also be aware of elevations where heat may be the result of the temperature differential. I don’t mean the more obvious and apparent air supply ductwork, but the more subtle conditions such as electrical boxes, transformers, and overloaded electrical lines. It’s also possible to overlook problems from the much-maligned EIFS (Exterior Insulation Finishing Systems) where the borders along windows, corners, rooflines, and foundations have failed with or without water intrusion but certainly an identified temperature differential.
Once again, here is an important situation where qualified and experienced Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Specialists are better utilized to address water intrusions and mold growth problems, rather than someone who rents an infrared meter and buys a mold test kit at a home improvement center.
Indoor Air Quality Specialist
We have the equipment and knowledgeable Indoor Air Quality Specialist to evaluate buildings where there is a concern that the potential for mold exists.
Atlantic Environmental, Inc. has been in business doing IAQ surveys for 41 years and we are continually challenged to keep up with equipment technology and construction materials/techniques and their effect on indoor air quality.
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