Air Conditioning, Water Intrusion & Infrared Camera

Air Conditioning service is an often overlooked and yet fairly important item. Air Conditioning systems should be serviced every year, typically in the Spring and doing so has several benefits. The system can be kept in peak operating order, it can heat and cool more effectively and using less energy this way. Developing problems can be caught earlier, in many cases avoiding more expensive repairs later. There are also a couple things that people can usually do themselves which help the system stay in better shape and last longer. The most obvious is to change the Air Filter, for a system that is used frequently this means up to 4 times per year. Cheap filters are better than nothing but higher quality filters, which only cost a few dollars more, do a much better job keeping the system and the air you breath much cleaner and lower your cooling costs. Another item that is often overlooked since it is located outside is the Air Conditioning Condenser, frequently we find that these are overgrown and or surrounded by stuff. Keeping the plants or anything at least 3-5 feet away from these units will allow them to work more efficiently than dirty or smothered units. This helps extending their life, cooling more quickly while using less energy.

A lot of the issues that Home, Termite and Mold Inspectors find are caused by water getting into the home. It only takes a hole the size of a pencil lead to allow a considerable amount of water in a home. We have recently seen 2 different houses where the wall below a window was quite wet and the wood was rotted, thus requiring fairly extensive repairs. All of this was caused by a small hole in the caulking around the window. The trail of water was quite obvious from the hole when followed with the Moisture Meter and or Infrared camera that we use to find water and other related issues. A related issue is caulking and painting exterior wooden items, trim, siding or whatever. Paint will eventually dry out and crack in the corners of a window, door or trim. At first this will be a hairline crack and doesn’t seem important but it is. Once wood is exposed at all the exposed area will absorb moisture not only from morning dew and rain but also from the atmosphere. If ignored, in a couple years we can expect this area of the wood to be weakened and somewhat visibly damaged. Although usually at this point it will still be repairable it will never be quite as strong and making it look good and stay sealed again is more trouble and therefor more expensive than if the problem was addressed sooner.

After seeing how helpful these are at finding and tracking water and other issues we finally decided that this was must have technology for us. Infrared (also called Thermography or Thermal Imaging) cameras look at temperature and show temperature differences, which can be helpful in several ways. Since wet areas are usually cooler it helps to point out water problems. Since we started using a moisture meter about a year or so ago it has been surprising how many water problems there are that aren’t readily visible to the naked eye. When water problems are discovered an Infrared picture is often a good way to help the client see where and to what extent the area is wet. Using infrared technology also helps track down the source of a water problem because it often enables us to see the pattern and trail. A surprising additional benefit is that infrared technology helps point out are Air Conditioning ducting leaks that previously we wouldn’t even have suspected. On a recent inspection 2 areas of wall showed up much colder than the rest of the walls. Further investigation confirmed that the ducting was leaking badly in 2 areas. In one case it was leaking into the Air Conditioner closet, in the other case we tracked the duct leak to determine that the duct was leaking into a wall cavity. This cool air was then eventually escaping through a vent to outside the house. In other words they were Cooling the air in the back yard. These issues never would have been discovered without using an infrared camera during the home inspection.

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