Smart cam that puts the fo­cus on ways to stay warm

Ther­mal imaging can spot ev­ery­thing from draughts and damp to leaks and heat loss. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

MOST prop­er­ties have cold spots but pin­point­ing the draughts and the heat leak­age can be vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble.

It’s why a grow­ing num­ber of home­own­ers are com­mis­sion­ing ther­mal imaging sur­veys.

Ther­mo­g­ra­phers use in­fra-red cam­eras that give colour coded clues to where prob­lems lie. Ar­eas that show blue are cold and those that are red are warm.

Each im­age pro­vides in­stant vis­ual feed­back on where heat is be­ing lost from a build­ing

“The cam­eras read the sur­face tem­per­a­tures of ev­ery ob­ject and as­signs it a colour, while com­puter tech­nol­ogy con­verts that into an im­age.

“If you are look­ing at a build­ing from the out­side you look for red ar­eas where heat is leak­ing out of the build­ing and on the in­side, you look for blue ar­eas where the cold is get­ting in.

“The tech­nol­ogy has been around for a while and has been used a lot by the mil­i­tary but it’s only in the last few years that it has been used to an­a­lyse do­mes­tic build­ings,” says ther­mo­g­ra­pher He­len Wheel­erOs­man, projects di­rec­tor at En­vi­ron­men­tal Strate­gies Ltd, which is based in Cot­ting­ham, near Hull.

“Up till now it has been mainly ar­chi­tects and de­vel­op­ers who com­mis­sion a sur­vey but we are see­ing a lot more in­ter­est from home­own­ers.

“It’s very help­ful be­fore a ren­o­va­tion project be­cause then you can pri­ori­tise the spend to make the home warmer. It can also be use­ful be­fore pur­chas­ing a new prop­erty to con­firm in­su­la­tion lev­els or de­tect build­ing en­ve­lope de­fects.”

A sur­vey, which costs from around £100 to £450, will de­tect miss­ing or in­ef­fec­tive in­su­la­tion, air leak­age, damp and ther­mal bridg­ing is­sues. Ther­mo­g­ra­phers will also iden­tify where im­prove­ments can be made to en­sure bet­ter en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and lower fuel bills.

“In­su­la­tion tends to be the big­gest is­sue. You’ll of­ten find ar­eas that haven’t got any or haven’t got enough.

“Ther­mal bridg­ing is also quite com­mon, so if you have new win­dows, fit­ters can some­times dam­age the cav­ity wall in­su­la­tion by drop­ping ce­ment in and that will act as a con­duc­tor, trans­fer­ring heat out of the build­ing.

“The cam­eras will also show if win­dows have in­ef­fec­tive seals” says He­len, who adds that the cam­eras also re­veal wa­ter leaks and show ex­actly where they are com­ing from.

This is es­pe­cially use­ful for those who have flat roofs and those who have in­vested in un­der­floor heat­ing. In­stead of dig­ging the whole floor up, you can just re­move the rel­e­vant sec­tion to ac­cess a leaky pipe.

Ben Davis, of Mytholm­royd, com­mis­sioned a sur­vey af­ter mov­ing in to his newly-ren­o­vated home to find it was still freez­ing cold de­spite its high lev­els of in­su­la­tion.

“We just couldn’t get the house warm enough, how­ever high we had the heat­ing on it was still cold,” says Ben.

The sur­vey re­vealed that the grade two listed house, built in the 1800s, was suf­fer­ing from sec­tions of com­pro­mised in­su­la­tion, cold bridg­ing, and cold air in­fil­tra­tion at the win­dows and ex­trac­tor fans.

He­len says: “The ther­mo­grams ef­fec­tively il­lus­trated the main ar­eas of heat loss.

“The vari­able thick­ness of the orig­i­nal sand­stone walls had re­sulted in the in­su­la­tion be­ing in­stalled to the in­ter­nal sur­faces in dif­fer­ent thick­nesses.

“In some ar­eas this in­cluded stonework pro­trud­ing through the in­su­la­tion, form­ing cold bridges, this means that the cold is con­ducted through the solid wall to the in­ter­nal sur­face.

“It was also noted that the win­dow and door re­cesses were not in­su­lated be­hind the plas­ter fin­ish.”

As the build­ing is listed, the non-de­struc­tive na­ture of a ther­mal sur­vey was help­ful in iden­ti­fy­ing heat loss with­out drilling any ex­ploratory holes or re­mov­ing stonework.

“It also re­vealed that some low cost im­prove­ments would make the house warmer.

“We were able to take bal­anced de­ci­sions on how to limit the heat loss from our house,” says Ben.

“For ex­am­ple, we had all the win­dows in the house dou­ble glazed but the ther­mal im­ages showed all the trickle vents were open.”

The prop­erty is in an ex­posed, windy lo­ca­tion so this in­creased the amount of cold air get­ting into the house by a sig­nif­i­cant amount.

The house also had miss­ing draught proof­ing on ex­ter­nal doors and dam­aged lou­vres in the ex­trac­tor fans, which meant they were never closed.

Study­ing the in­fra-red pic­tures, He­len also no­ticed that the pitched roof at first floor level ex­posed the orig­i­nal wooden beams and trusses but this meant that heat in the house was mi­grat­ing to the roof apex.

A sim­ple ceil­ing fan was sug­gested as a way of push­ing the warm air back down.

“It’s not all about how much money you can save on en­ergy bills,” says He­len.

“It’s about mak­ing a home more com­fort­able.”

MONEY SAV­ING: Ther­mal imaging cam­eras re­veal a prop­erty’s hot and cold spots and can help pri­ori­tise ren­o­va­tion work.

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