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.
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.