Thermal cameras for home inspection are incredibly diverse. From handheld cameras connected to your mobile device to thermal drone cameras, today’s technology offers inspectors a wide range of thermal imaging devices.
So, how do you choose the best thermal imaging camera for your home inspection business? Are there specific specs and options that you need? Is it better to buy an expensive camera vs. being budget conscious? And are there cameras in specific price ranges that are better than others?
These are a few questions we’ll answer in the information below. We’ll introduce you to the different types of thermal imaging cameras, what to look for when shopping for one, and the top 4 cameras for 2023.
Why You Need an Infrared Camera for Home Inspectors
A quality thermal camera is crucial because it can detect even the most subtle temperature difference. Thermal cameras are also handy in various settings and situations. Some Home Inspectors offer thermal imaging as an upgraded inspection service, while others include it for all their clients.
Listed below are some examples of where you may find them helpful.
Reason #1 — Moisture Detection
The most common use for thermal cameras is to detect moisture in hard-to-see areas of residential or commercial properties. Every Home Inspector understands that most plumbing pipes and lines are hidden behind walls or above ceilings.
Thermal imaging cameras can identify leaking pipes based on temperature differences. This permits the Home Inspector to discover and report issues to homeowners and future buyers to make repairs before the property sale.
Reason #2 — Termites and Other Insect Damage
Thermal cameras will not detect degradation in your property with no temperature difference. But they will pick up the heat signatures from a swarm of insects. Termites are common in older structures and travel in large swarms that are easy to spot with a high-quality thermal camera. Before damage occurs, termites and other pests may be detected and prevented through detection.
Reason #3 — Stucco, EIFS, and Flat Roof Inspections
Leaks are nearly impossible to detect under flat roofs, behind stucco and EIFS walls, and in damp or rotten regions. A thermal camera may save homeowners a lot of money by detecting little leaks before they can grow. Because wet and decaying places are generally colder than other locations, they will appear on a thermal imaging camera. This allows the Home Inspector to identify the position of a water leak and document it accordingly.
Reason #4 — Electrical Inspections
Thermal imaging cameras can detect heated electrical circuitry. They may also identify high heat in electrical outlets and other appliances. Excessive current flow or high resistance is generally the source of abnormal heat signatures in electric devices and wires. If they are not promptly addressed, these issues can be damaging.
3 Types of Home Inspection Infrared Cameras
Technology advancement over the past few years has made products smaller, lighter, yet more durable and robust. The selection of thermal imaging cameras is exceptionally diverse – ranging from a few under $600 that are highly user-friendly to professional-level cameras exceeding a few thousand dollars.
Generally, they fall into three different categories.
Type #1 — Handheld Thermal Cameras
Handheld thermal cameras are similar to any other type of camera that you might use. You can hold them with one or two hands and take pictures or videos, depending on the camera size.
The handheld thermal camera is often the preferred choice for home inspectors because it is slightly more extensive and expensive than smartphone attachments and has more capabilities.
Type #2 — Smartphone Attachment Cameras
Smartphone attachments that act as thermal cameras are becoming more popular yearly. By plugging into your phone’s USB port, these smartphone-compatible cameras let you record images and videos like you would with your iOS or Android phone camera. Even though they’re affordable and easy to use, we don’t think they should be a serious home inspector’s only tool.
Type #3 — Thermal Drone Cameras
While a thermal drone camera may not be required for every home inspection, it can make the inspector’s life much easier in specific cases. For example, roof inspections and locations high up where there is difficult access. Drones have been used for thermal imaging for a few years. Still, the technology is becoming smaller and more portable, making them easier for home inspectors.
When choosing the right thermal camera for your business, remember what you will use it for. A smartphone attachment might be the right option if you only need to inspect small areas infrequently. However, a handheld dedicated thermal camera is likely a good investment if you offer this service with all inspections.
What’s the best thermal camera for home inspections in 2023? Top 4 Best Home Inspection Thermal Imaging Cameras
Picking the correct thermal imaging camera for a Home Inspector breaks down a few essential points. First, what is the scope of your home inspection services? Will you be using this camera daily or just for specific inspections that require a thermal imaging inspection? And obviously, your budget is likewise an essential factor.
There are some great manufacturers, like Fluke and Teledyne FLIR – many of which are sold on Amazon for easier purchase and delivery methods. To give you some options, we’ve compiled this list of four thermal imaging camera devices to consider in 2023.
FLIR E8 XT Thermal Imaging Camera
The FLIR E8 and the FLIR E8 XT are excellent cameras, but they’re expensive, each over $3,000. The FLIR E8 XT is slightly more affordable than its counterpart, so we’ll focus on that one.
The FLIR E8 XT is one of the most accurate and reliable thermal cameras on the market, perfect for professional home inspectors. This camera offers exceptional thermal sensitivity and can detect issues such as moisture damage, electrical problems, and structural defects. With a pixel resolution of 320 x 240 and accuracy within 2 degrees, this camera provides top-quality images that you can rely on.
It’s a trigger-style, handheld infrared thermal imaging camera that can upload your images to multiple devices via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or USB cable connections. It also has very good battery life and can seek thermal conditions with ease.
While it’s a bit pricey, it’s arguably the best value on our list.
- Exceptional resolution at 320 x 240
- MSX image enhancement technology within the thermal sensor extends the temperature range to 1022 degrees
- Easy image uploading via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or USB
- Extreme sensitivity to temperature differences and exceptionally accurate
- Lightweight and easy to use with one hand
- Not the cheapest thermal image camera — pricing at over $3,000
FLIR C5 Thermal Imaging Handheld Camera
The FLIR C5 Thermal Imaging Handheld Camera is quickly becoming a favorite for home inspectors. It boasts many of the same features as a smartphone, including Wi-Fi connectivity and a sleek design.
The FLIR C5 is effortless and lightweight, making it perfect for home inspectors starting out. With a 160 x 120 pixels resolution and a temperature range of -4 to 752 degrees Fahrenheit, the FLIR C5 outperforms most other thermal cameras on the market.
- The 6.7-ounce camera is one of the lightest thermal cameras available, rivaling only those that act as smartphone attachments.
- It’s small enough to fit in your pocket, making it easy to transport.
- Features built-in LED displays.
- Connect to Wi-Fi for quick and easy image uploading.
- Whether you have Wi-Fi or not, this device is still compatible with USB and micro-USB cords.
- Even though it’s small and lightweight, you’ll need two hands to take precise pictures.
- The resolution is good, but there are better cameras out there.
- This may not be the best option for those who want to use it on a circuit board.
HTI Xintai Higher Resolution Infrared Thermal Camera
The HTI Xintai Infrared Thermal Camera, unlike the other trigger-style cameras, can be easily operated with one hand. With a temperature range of -4 to 572 degrees and an impressive resolution of 320 x 240 pixels, this camera is budget-friendly without compromising quality.
Weighing only one pound and with a 3.2-inch screen, this compact pro camera is easy to carry around and use. This easy-to-use thermal camera is one of the most durable – meaning that it’s less likely to break if you drop it during an inspection (a nice feature for Home Inspectors).
Plus, uploading images onto your desktop or laptop is a snap. This permits you to review image quality with enhanced capabilities.
- Lightweight and easy to use visual camera.
- This is the perfect tool for home inspectors with only one free hand during lengthy inspections.
- High-resolution and significant temperature differentials.
- Holds up to 3 GB of data.
- This product is an excellent bang for your buck.
- Without a tripod, you must hold it with a hand, which can be difficult.
FLIR TG267 Thermal Camera
The FLIR TG267 Thermal Camera is one of the best cameras in the thermal industry, which makes it perfect for new home inspectors. It’s an excellent smartphone camera attachment and is perfect for commercial or residential inspections. This camera can quickly check HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems.
It’s a handheld trigger-style camera that you can operate comfortably with one hand. The temperature range is from -13 to 716, and it’s accurate to within 4 degrees. The thermal resolution is good but not great at 160 x 120.
- This product has a considerable storage capacity to save 50,000 images at a time.
- This product has Bluetooth connectivity and a built-in laser for improved accuracy.
- This product is an excellent value for the price.
- The resolution is average when compared to other, higher-quality IR cameras.
- Many competitors come with a carrying case, but this product does not.
Four Tips to Choose the Best Thermal Imaging Camera for Home Inspections
All four cameras for thermal imaging above will get the job done for Home Inspectors of varying expertise. However, when shopping for the best thermal image camera for home inspections, there are a few important practical factors to consider.
Tip #1 — Consider the Size
Often, Home Inspectors neglect to consider the size of their thermal camera – something that is very important. Depending on your strength, agility, the close quarters you inspect, and how often you’ll use it, you don’t want a camera that’s too large to handle comfortably. You also want one that is easy to pack up when you aren’t using it, though convenience should never come at the expense of quality.
Tip #2 — Make Sure it has Great Resolution
The number of pixels in an image is called the resolution, and it’s a critical aspect of any high-quality thermal camera. The more pixels a thermal camera has, the better its ability to precisely locate leaks and tiny temperature changes. Low-resolution cameras might identify issues but won’t be able to show you where they are precise. This feature will make it easier to identify trouble spots and better serve your clients.
Tip #3 — Factor the Camera’s Temperature Range
The temperature is a significant area that sets handheld thermal cameras apart from smartphone attachments. Handheld cameras’ temperatures range from -13 to 700 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas smartphones only range from -4 to 250. These extreme temperatures detect electricity, plumbing, and HVAC problems.
Tip #4 — Put Accuracy Above Pricing
Accuracy knows the temperature of an object you’re measuring. An excellent thermal camera will precisely detect temperature differences and show you the exact number. For example, a homeowner’s water heater should be 120-140 degrees. Your thermal camera can tell you the precise current temperature, so you can inform the seller and buyer how the unit is performing.
Final Points on the Best Home Inspection Thermal Cameras
Every Home Inspector understands the value of using the right tools for the job. A high-quality home inspection thermal camera can make a huge difference in your ability to accurately serve your customers.
Once you complete the home inspection, you’ll need to upload and document your findings during the reporting phase. A great tool that allows all Home Inspectors to complete all their business functions is powered by HomeGauge. This includes being able to upload images and videos completed by the best thermal imaging cameras.
How to read thermal images from an infrared home inspection camera?
Most infrared home inspection cameras have software that allows you to read and interpret thermal images easily. However, suppose your camera does not come with its own software. In that case, there are a few free thermal image processing software programs available online that you can download and use.
What’s the average cost of thermal imaging cameras for home inspectors?
The average cost of thermal imaging cameras for home inspectors ranges from $600 to $2000. However, some high-end thermal imaging cameras can cost upwards of $5000. Most of the lower-cost thermal imaging cameras connect with smartphones – and are used as an extension to the mobile device. However, with lower price comes less reliable results.
How far can a thermal imaging camera see?
Most thermal imaging cameras can see up to 1000 feet. Still, the range and accuracy of thermal images decrease the further away an object is. However, most home inspections searching for temperature variances in walls or other home areas are completed next to the tested area. This makes the range of the camera irrelevant when properly used.
Can thermal imaging cameras see through walls?
Not exactly. A thermal imaging camera is designed to detect variances in temperature. While they can penetrate a wall to discover temperature differences, thermal imaging cameras cannot see through walls. They can, however, see thermal anomalies on the other side of a wall. These thermal anomalies could be caused by leaks, electrical shorts, or even hidden mold.
Can thermal imaging cameras detect mold?
Yes. Thermal imaging cameras can detect mold by finding thermal anomalies behind walls, in ceilings, or under floors. The thermal camera will show a warmer area where the mold is present. However, it’s important to note that thermal imaging cameras cannot see through walls, so you may need to use other methods to confirm the presence of mold.
Can thermal imaging cameras detect water damage or leaks?
Yes. Thermal imaging cameras can detect water damage or leaks by finding thermal anomalies behind walls, in ceilings, or under floors. The thermal camera will show a warmer area where the water is present. However, it’s important to note that thermal imaging cameras cannot see through walls, so you may need to use other methods to confirm the presence of water leaks.
Why are thermal imaging cameras so low resolution?
The thermal images produced by thermal imaging cameras are lower resolution because the sensors in thermal cameras are only sensitive to infrared radiation, not visible light. This means thermal cameras can’t see details like color or small objects. Still, they can detect thermal anomalies that may be invisible to the naked eye.
Is there a thermal imaging camera app?
A few thermal imaging camera apps are available for smartphones and tablets. However, these apps are not as accurate or reliable as dedicated thermal imaging cameras. This is because the sensors in thermal imaging cameras are designed specifically for thermal imaging, while the sensors in smartphones and tablets are not.
What’s the best digital camera for home inspections?
The best digital camera for home inspections is the one that fits your budget and meets your specific needs. However, we recommend thermal imaging cameras for home inspectors because they can see things that regular digital cameras can’t — like thermal anomalies behind walls, ceilings, or under floors.