Image Conscious

By Little, Darnell | Journal of Property Management, May/June 2007 | Go to article overview

Image Conscious


Little, Darnell, Journal of Property Management


Infrared imaging technology helps property managers discover energy losses

KEEPING

a lid on a building's energy costs is a top priority for nearly every property manager. Heated air escaping during the winter months and cooled air leaking out during the summer months are sure signs utility bills will soar.

Finding the source of energy loss - whether it's poor insulation in the walls and ceilings or shoddy construction around the windows and doors - can be a costly, timeconsuming and intrusive endeavor. Finding the source of water leaks in roofs can be even tougher.

Thanks to the increasingly affordable technology of infrared imaging, however, real estate managers can quickly and easily track the causes of energy loss without resorting to tearing open walls or pulling up roofing tiles.

X-RAYVISION

Infrared imaging is a diagnostic technology allowing users to instantly visualize and measure the thermal energy emitted from an object. Measuring thermal energy helps identify areas where energy is being wasted.

Because the human eye cannot detectthermal energy, infrared cameras are typically used to instantly display an area's thermal performance. While traditional cameras detect, record and display visible light, infrared cameras detect and record heat - or more precisely, the difference in temperature between surfaces - and display that information as a visible image.

Using an infrared camera is like having X-ray vision. Infrared cameras can reveal damaged insulation in ceilings and behind walls, uncover bad wiring and overloaded circuits, and pinpoint the source of roof leaks. They go beyond measuring surface issues, without requiring the demolition of walls or direct inspection of insulation.

Large industrial companies have used infrared imaging for decades. For years, the equipment involved was prohibitively expensive and extremely complex to use. Recent technological advances, however, have made infrared cameras smaller, easier to use and less expensive. These breakthroughs have put this sophisticated technology within the grasp of non-industrial professionals like real estate managers and residential property owners.

The benefits to managers and building owners can be tremendous. If a unit in a residential complex or the common area in an office building is losing a significant amount of heat during the winter months, an infrared camera can detect whether the insulation in the walls is moisture laden or otherwise damaged.

"The technology enables us to do things we were not able to do before without being terribly invasive," said Mike Sudano, president of Pro Chek, a Connecticut-based home inspection services company. "It made our inspection analysis considerably more advantageous for our clients. I no longer have to tell a client ? suspect the problem is this.' I will more often than not be in a position to resolve a problem on site."

SMOKING GUN

Most Pro Chek clients are managers and owners of residential homes, condominiums and apartment complexes. Sudano uses infrared cameras to look for damaged or inferior insulation behind walls, electrical and wiring problems, water leaks in the roof and even termite infestation causing wood damage.

"The majority of our customers have a problem with their home," Sudano said. "It's cold, it's drafty, and they don't understand why. By use of this technology, we can pinpoint the source of problems better than we ever could before."

Ron Isaacson, a certified thermographer for Chicago-based SPACEMAN Consulting, uses his infrared camera specifically to inspect roofs of residential units, office complexes and shopping centers.

Isaacson said many of his clients contact him after experiencing a leak in their roof, and repeated visits from roofers fail to fix the problem. By using thermal scans to find the source of a leak, Isaacson estimates he can save his customers several thousand dollars in potential ceiling and structural damage. …

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