Thermal Imaging Camera for Water Leak Detection and Moisture Damage (2023)

There are a number of areas where moisture can accumulate that are often overlooked in typical inspection processes or require extensive damage to the property to find them. That is why many are turning to thermal imaging as part of their building inspection regimen.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there is no practical way to eliminate mold spores in an indoor environment. The best way to control mold growth is to control moisture, which you can use thermal imagers to detect. Finding leaks or water damage before mold has a chance to grow and spread ccan save time and money.

Thermal Imaging Camera for Water Leak Detection and Moisture Damage (1)

With thermal images, insurance carriers can better detect water damage, reducing unforeseen conditions and later requests for more abatement. A thermal imager can show the presence of water below a surface because of properties such as heat capacitance which is the normal method of choice when looking for failures in flat or low slope roofs. The Evaporative Cooling effect is usually the most powerful indicator when moisture gets into studs, insulation, and other interior wall components.

In the past, infrared technology has successfully been used to detect roof failures as well as in the fire and water restoration industry. With the technology available today, building industry contractors can combine thermal imaging with their building inspection skills to make more meaningful and accurate assessments and have the added benefit of expanding their business.

(Video) How To Detect Moisture with a Thermal Camera

Thermal imaging in building inspections

Forensic investigation is the process of discovering building failures – whether it is for a homeowner complaining about a roof leak, a business that just had a flood, or collecting data for a lawsuit. Typical areas where defects can be found include:

  • Low, sloped roofs
  • Electrical problems
  • Plumbing or HVAC failures
  • Insulation failures
  • Water intrusion from any number of failing exterior components

There are many components of a building inspection and forensic investigation relating to building failure or moisture problems that could use a combination of traditional inspection techniques and infrared cameras. While infrared cameras may not be able to answer all your questions, it can save considerable time and expense for the building owner and help to pinpoint problems more quickly and more accurately.

Traditional water and mold tracking methods

If a building owner notices water on the carpet near a window, traditional investigative methods might include "tracking" with either an invasive or non-invasive moisture meter. This method would try to determine if the water is coming through the wall, from the window, or running down the wall cavity from some other entry point. Eventually this would require some means of invasive investigation like cutting open drywall to try and find the leak, opening exterior envelopes to look at flashing detail, and then adding water in order to duplicate the behavior.

With an infrared camera, such as the Fluke PTi120 Pocket Thermal Camera, you can quickly and non-invasively zero in on the probable area to easily identify the anomalies created by evaporative moisture cooling. In the carpet example above, if the water was coming from the roofline or some other ceiling transition area, you would see the anomaly either in multiple locations or as a continuous anomaly from ceiling to floor. Ultimately the investigation may still require invasive action, but the infrared camera gets to the leak or mold location much quicker and with less intrusion to the building envelope.

(Video) Can a FLIR C5 Infrared Camera Find Water Damage?

Thermal Imaging Camera for Water Leak Detection and Moisture Damage (2)

How to conduct a moisture detection investigation

Before starting an investigation

Often an infrared inspection request comes in after the fact, so you aren't able to see the problem at its optimal condition. When that happens, it may be necessary to reintroduce water to the probable affected area. Before you start, be prepared to ask and answer a few questions that your customer may have. The history you learn about the building will direct you to the area for starting the water test.

You should ask the following questions about the building:

  • How old is the building? (This gives an idea of the type of failure.)
  • When did you first notice a problem and was it during a rainstorm?
    • Was it a hard rain?
    • Do you only notice the problem after many days of rain?
  • If it is an exterior wall, and rain is not involved, is the landscaping running against the same wall? Is there exterior staining from sprinklers?
  • Is this a multiple-story unit? Is it directly below a bathroom or kitchen?
  • What kind of access is around the affected area? (i.e., is this a 3-to-4 story building?)
  • Does it have extensive landscaping?
  • Have you conducted any repairs recently? (e.g., reroofing, painting, HVAC).

Some of the most commonly asked questions of investigators include:

  • What if the leak dries before you are scheduled?
  • Can you only conduct IR camera investigations after it rains?
  • Can it see through anything (e.g., concrete, stucco, siding)?
  • How long does it take?
  • How much does it cost?

Beginning the investigation and water test

The next step is to prepare the interior to minimize any further damage and document the affected area in its existing "before test" condition using digital and thermal photographs accompanied by a brief description. Setting up your before test scans with a thermal camera like the Fluke TiS120+ Thermal Imaging Camera is a simplified process. Because the camera can not only take thermal images, but can take photos and voice notes to accompany them, so all of the information you need before, during, and after your test can be organized and stored together.

(Video) How Thermal Cameras Help You Recover from Water Damage

To reintroduce water to an affected area, always start at the bottom and work your way up, unless evidence from the preliminary investigation shows moisture coming from above (e.g., the roof and ceiling are the affected areas).

Always document the start and stop times and move the water to each new location in eight-to-ten-minute increments. You should not have to exceed 30 to 45 minutes of water testing on one specific area.

Once you have duplicated the leak, stop testing in that location. However, continue up the exterior wall to confirm there are not multiple locations. Take notes or voice record the steps you are taking and a brief description of every thermal photo. This is important since digital photographs may be easily identifiable, thermal photos may not make sense later without the notes. You can use IR PhotoNotes® on Fluke’s thermal cameras to store photo and voice notes with the thermal images.

Weather watching for success

It is also important to pick the optimum time for testing and to maintain proper temperature control. Keep in mind that the greater the span in temperature from outside to inside the building envelope, the better the thermal results. To ensure a successful thermal test, adjust your investigation to accommodate the weather conditions. For example, if the weather is very cold outside, manipulate the temperatures of the building's interior temperature and turn up the heat.

(Video) Thermal Imaging locates water leak for plumber

A warm/hot climate is excellent for thermal investigations, since air conditioning is cooling the building interior. The water used in testing also tends to be cooler, creating greater variance in temperature and therefore generating better thermal images.

Keep an eye on the type of materials as well. Exteriors such as stucco are more porous, absorbing and retaining moisture, providing better exterior shots than siding, which hides water behind the thick planks. You can also use hot water on a cold exterior, but it is more difficult to apply enough to locate the problem.

Count on building industry experience

Even when you pinpoint areas of concern, it doesn't hurt to talk to the experts. Anomalies in building envelopes may appear fairly easily, but if you don't have construction experience, consider teaming up with a construction expert to help interpret the results. Save your comments for the report, since any spoken comments can easily be misinterpreted by the layperson or homeowner, resulting in problems later.


Can a thermal imaging camera detect water leaks? ›

A thermal imaging camera cannot “see” moisture in walls, but it can detect subtle temperature differences and patterns that reveal the existence of water. Moisture is one of the most difficult issues to detect in a building - the signs are subtle and easy to miss until water starts dripping from the ceiling.

What can a thermal camera not see through? ›

In all cases, thermal cameras can never see “through” metal objects, but conductive metals might reveal hot spots, cold spots, or the level of a substance inside a metal container.

How far can a thermal camera detect? ›

Depending on the camera configuration chosen it may be possible to detect humans beyond 15 km distance, ground vehicles or small boats beyond 20 km, larger ships or vessels and aircraft beyond 30 km.

Can an infrared camera detect moisture? ›

An IR camera can detect moisture located behind interior walls under the right conditions. The temperature difference created by the presence of moisture on the inside surface of a wall will appear differently than the surrounding area.

Does thermal imaging work in the rain? ›

Fog and rain can severely limit the range of a thermal imaging system due to the scattering of light off droplets of water. The higher the density of droplets, the more the infrared signal is diminished.

Can a thermal camera see through a house? ›

Thermal imaging devices can't “see” through walls. But pointing a thermal camera at a building still reveals sensitive information about what's going on inside. Thermal cameras read the heat radiating off of an object.

Can a thermal camera see through clothes? ›

Can Thermal imaging cameras see through clothing? No, thermal imaging cameras can detect the temperature of the cloth but will not see through it.

How deep into the ground can a thermal camera see? ›

The subterranean limit for most radar is about 30 feet, El-Baz said. Infrared imaging, which detects surface-level heat differences above buried objects, is most effective to a depth of about five feet, he said, though it, too, has been used to track objects 25 feet down.

Can a thermal camera see through windows? ›

Glass is a highly reflective material and acts as a mirror for infrared radiation. Testing the thermal imaging camera with water inside the glass heater. If a thermal camera is pointed at a window, only a reflected temperature of the objects can be seen rather than seeing through it.

Does thermal camera can see through walls? ›

No, it can detect heat from the wall near the surface that there is an issue, but not what is behind the wall. However, if there is something that is causing a difference in temperature in the wall, it will pick it up.

Can a thermal camera see mold? ›

Thermal imaging can not detect mold but can detect variations in temperatures behind walls, which assists in cold spots that can become potential moisture or water intrusion issues. Moisture meters are used after the hot and cold spots are found.

What does moisture look like on thermal camera? ›

A thermal imager does what a moisture meter can't: detect differences in surface temperature. These cameras are most useful in zeroing in on areas that might require testing with a moisture meter. Areas affected by moisture appear cooler -- usually blue -- on the camera's screen.

Does moisture in camera go away? ›

Moisture in your phone screen, charging port, camera lens, the headphone jack will dry out naturally if you can wait patiently.

Does water absorb near infrared? ›

Near infrared (NIR) light includes wavelengths between 700 and 1,100 nanometers. Water absorbs NIR, so these wavelengths are useful for discerning land-water boundaries that are not obvious in visible light.

What is the difference between infrared camera and thermal camera? ›

Active IR systems use short wavelength infrared light to illuminate an area of interest. Some of the infrared energy is reflected back to a camera and interpreted to generate an image. Thermal imaging systems use mid- or long wavelength IR energy. Thermal imagers are passive, and only sense differences in heat.

Does thermal imaging work at night? ›

Thermal imaging detects minute differences in heat when detecting game. Thermal scopes detect radiation and do not require any visible light to produce an image. Thermal imaging devices can be used equally well day and night.

Can thermal imaging see through drywall? ›

No. No thermal camera can see through a wall or any solid object. The common misconception is that thermal camera can see heat and nothing else therefore if there is a heat source behind a wall or solid object it should pick up the heat.

Can my camera in my house record the inside my bedrooms? ›

Security cameras are allowed on your own property. However, it is illegal to record anyone without their consent in places where there is an expectation of privacy. That includes places like bathrooms, changing rooms, private bedrooms, etc.

How do you tell if a hidden camera is in your room? ›

7 Ways to Spot Hidden Cameras
  1. Look for Odd Objects. It's a good practice to thoroughly scan your surroundings whenever you enter a new room. ...
  2. Use a Flashlight. ...
  3. Use Your Smartphone Camera. ...
  4. Scan the Wi-Fi Network. ...
  5. Use a Phone Call to Detect Interference. ...
  6. Use a Hidden Camera Detector App. ...
  7. Use a Specialized RF Detector.

Can police helicopters see through houses? ›

Thermal From The Air

The helicopter high above isn't limited by buildings, foliage or other aspects of the land getting in the way - instead it can see everywhere around and can accurately track a criminal's movements through an environment.

Is there a device that can see through walls? ›

The Xaver 1000 system up against a simulated wall at the Eurosatory 2022 defense exhibition. The Xaver 1000, developed by Israel's Camero Tech, is the latest in the company's line of “through wall imaging systems.” The Xaver line uses millimeter wave (MMW) radar, or radar in the range of 30 - 300 gigahertz.

Can a thermal imaging device see a person in the dark? ›

Thermography, or thermal imaging, detects infrared radiation to help see objects in the dark. Thermal cameras distinguish the relative temperature of objects around us to help us see warmer objects – like people and animals – against cooler backdrops, even at night.

Can a thermal camera see through dirt? ›

Well, no - but to be fair, they don't 'see through' anything at all. A thermal imaging camera detects the surface temperature of the first object in its line of sight; point one at a wall or other solid surface, and it will register the heat being radiated outward by that surface.

Can thermal cameras see through ceilings? ›

There is one more urban myth: infrared cameras that look through the walls. Contrary to the popular belief, thermal detectors cannot do anything like that. Even a layer of frosted glass or plywood is not transparent for an infrared detector.

What can you see with a thermal camera? ›

They are a great tool because thermal imaging can see what your eyes can't. You'll see hot and cold spots where insulation is missing, identify where air is getting in or out of your house, and more.

What camera can see people through walls? ›

The latest version of a 'sense through the wall' camera, developed by Israeli company Camero, can detect any object, wire, or even shallow breathing of a human, from a distance of over 50-meters (164 feet).

Can thermal see through fog? ›

Can thermal imaging see through fog? Fog and rain have the potential to severely limit the range of a thermal camera due to the scattering of radiation off water droplets. However, in many circumstances, thermal cameras can penetrate fog much more successfully than visible light cameras or the human eye.

Can I get a thermal camera on my phone? ›

The first way, and also the best way is, to buy a thermal camera phone. This type of smartphone comes with integrated thermal camera and built-in APP, just tap the APP to make it work. Blackview offer this type of products with most affordable prices, meets the needs of those who have limited budget.

Is infrared and thermal the same? ›

Heat (also called infrared, or thermal, energy) and light are both parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, but a camera that can detect visible light won't see thermal energy, and vice versa.

Can police see through walls? ›

Per the company's press release, “For the first time, military forces, law enforcement agencies, and first responders are able to detect live objects beyond the wall from a long range of over 100 meters.” With a quick metric check, 100 meters is the equivalent of 328 feet (109 1/3 yards).

Do bugs show up on thermal camera? ›

Insects are cold-blooded, but they do generate heat. The heat of a wasp nest, beehive, or other large cluster of social insects will usually generate enough heat to be detected by a thermal camera. Even if you know what to look for, pests are not always obvious.

Will snakes show up on thermal imaging? ›

Against the background of other objects, humans, animals, or cars have higher temperatures, and they show up more clearly on the device's screen. However, cold-blooded animals like snakes, for example, would be virtually impossible to detect with a thermal imager.

How do I find a thermal leak in my house? ›

Light an incense stick and carefully pass it around the edges of common leak sites. Wherever the smoke wavers or is sucked out of or blown into the room, there's a draft. You can also use a damp hand to locate leaks; any drafts will feel cool to your hand.

Can infrared detect mold in walls? ›

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.

How do you dry out moisture in a camera? ›

One of the most common solutions and also the most effective to remove moisture in camera lens is to make use of silica gel. Silica gel helps to pull moisture out of electronics and even camera lenses. It is easily available at departmental stores, art and craft stores and other similar places.

How do you remove moisture? ›

Let's jump right in!
  1. Utilize Fans. This is the simplest, and easiest thing you can do to combat humidity. ...
  2. Proper Ventilation. ...
  3. Colder, Shorter Showers. ...
  4. Leave the Firewood Outside. ...
  5. Cover Your Indoor Plant's Soil. ...
  6. Change the Carpet. ...
  7. Waterproof Basement Walls. ...
  8. Dehumidifier.
12 Oct 2020

How do you remove moisture from inside a security camera lens? ›

To remove security camera condensation, you may simply wipe the outer lens covers (not the lenses) with a micro-fiber cloth, which will not leave any water spots. Another feasible way to get condensation out of security camera is using a hair dryer to heat up slightly and the fog on security camera will disappear soon.

What color is water in infrared? ›

Water, on the other hand, absorbs near-infrared wavelengths and appears black in the image. Water with varying amounts of suspended particles appears as shades of blue. Also, near- infrared wavelengths penetrate atmos- pheric haze and result in clear, crisp images.

What blocks out infrared? ›

A simpler yet effective method of blocking infrared radiation is the usual thermal blanket made of Mylar foil. that will block the infrared signature.

Can infrared pass through mirror? ›

Infrared light and visible light interact with materials in different ways. Near-infrared light passes through clear glass and will reflect off metal surfaces, including mirrors.

Is there a device to detect water leaks in walls? ›

Bottom Line: The Kangaroo Water + Climate Sensor is a Wi-Fi-enabled sensor that will send a push alert when it detects a water leak and will also monitor temperature and humidity conditions.

How do I find out where my water leak is coming from? ›

How To: Find a Plumbing Leak
  1. Monitor the Water Bill.
  2. Watch the Water Meter.
  3. Check for Patches of Greener Grass.
  4. Investigate Appliances and Fixtures.
  5. Dye Test the Toilet.
  6. Stay Alert to Leaking Clues.
  7. Leak Detectors Offer Immediate Notification.
22 Sept 2020

What can a thermal camera detect? ›

Thermal cameras detect heat given off by a person or other object and can capture the variation in temperature of objects around us. They create images of that radiation called thermograms, which display the relative temperatures of different objects with different shades or colors.

What can a thermal imaging camera see? ›

An infrared camera (also known as a thermal imager) detects and measures the infrared energy of objects. The camera converts that infrared data into an electronic image that shows the apparent surface temperature of the object being measured.

What are three leak detecting devices? ›

Typical devices used include acoustic emission detectors, fiber optic sensors, negative pressure detectors, ultrasonic technologies, and infrared thermograph. Software-based methods use computer software packages to constantly monitor data of pressure, temperature, and flow rate for detecting leaks in a pipeline.

How do plumbers find water leaks in walls? ›

Plumbers have leak detection equipment that can quickly and accurately find the source of leaks. Even if the leak is under concrete or behind a wall. Ground microphones or listening discs are acoustic listening devices that a plumber uses to find leaks.

How do you tell if water leak is inside or outside? ›

All homes should have a water valve that can turn off all water into the home. If you turn the water off and the leak stops shortly thereafter it is a good indication that the leak is coming from inside your home. However, if the leak continues to flow, there is a good chance the source is from the outside.

How do you tell if you have a hidden water leak? ›

5 Signs You've Got A Hidden Water Leak On Your Hands
  1. 1 – Pooling Water. Notice water pooling on your walls or ceilings? ...
  2. 2 – Dark Spots. Similar to pooling water, if you notice dark spots on walls or ceilings it's another red flag. ...
  3. 3 – Wet Grass. ...
  4. 4 – Low Water Pressure. ...
  5. 5 – High Water Bills.

Is a thermal camera worth it? ›

They are a great tool because thermal imaging can see what your eyes can't. You'll see hot and cold spots where insulation is missing, identify where air is getting in or out of your house, and more.


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2. How Check Your Home For Leaks Using an Infrared Camera
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3. Using the FLIR camera to detect water damage
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4. Water damage is more than you think. Thermal Camera finds hidden water.
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5. Water Leak Detection Explained. How Infrared Cameras & Ultrasonic Leak Detection Work
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