Best thermal imaging (infrared) camera for water leak detection

Infrared camera for water leak detection

Infrared imaging technology is becoming an increasingly popular method for detecting water leaks in both residential and commercial buildings. Thermal imaging cameras can identify moisture and temperature differences that are invisible to the naked eye, allowing leaks to be pinpointed quickly and accurately.

How Thermal Imaging Cameras Detect Leaks

Thermal imaging, also known as infrared thermography, captures radiation in the far infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum. This allows you to visualize tiny temperature differences on the surface of objects.
Thermal imaging cameras contain sensors that are sensitive to infrared radiation. The sensors convert infrared energy into an electronic signal, which is then converted into a thermal image.

When water leaks, moisture causes a change in surface temperature that can be detected by the infrared camera. Even very small leaks under the floor, behind walls and above ceilings result in subtle temperature differences that can be detected by thermal imaging.
How To Find a Water Leak with a Thermal Camera
The human eye is unable to see leaks that are in the ceiling. However, a thermal imaging camera is able to determine where leaking water is making the ceiling colder by detecting the leak.

Ceiling stains can be caused by gaps in the insulation or places where mice have chewed through the insulation. It takes a quick change in ambient temperature to "see" water. Inspectors using these devices are trained and certified so that they don't scare buyers with unnecessary worries about roof leaks.
An example of using a thermal imager to check for leaks in a home.

Using an Infrared Camera for Water Leak Detection

An infrared camera can be a useful tool for detecting water leaks because it can help determine the leak's source and the amount of damage. Thermal imaging makes the otherwise invisible world of heat energy visible to your eyes. Everything around you either emits or reflects heat energy. Thermal imaging cameras use color to show the relative temperature of objects: cold is purple, moderate is red, and hot is yellow.

When there is a water leak, the water can cause a temperature difference in the surrounding area, which an infrared camera can detect and display as a visual image. It enables the user to pinpoint the source of the leak by identifying areas of the image that are significantly warmer or cooler than the surrounding areas.
Here are some steps to detect water leaks with an infrared camera:
Camera setup
Charge and power the camera. Optimize the camera for leak detection if needed.
Check the suspected leak area first. Look for water spots or mold.
Scan the area with the infrared camera. Look for temperature differences that could indicate a leak.
Confirm the leak by using other methods, such as moisture meters or invasive testing
It's important to note that an infrared camera can only detect temperature differences and not the actual presence of water. Therefore, it's recommended to confirm the leak by using other methods.

Infrared camera can be a helpful tool for detecting water leaks, but it's important to confirm the leak by using other methods. If you're not comfortable using an infrared camera yourself, consider hiring a professional who has experience with leak detection.

Advantages of Thermal Leak Detection

Using a thermal imaging camera to find water leaks has several key advantages:
  • Non-invasive - Leaks can be detected without having to damage or destroy building materials. Thermal imaging can scan areas like floors, walls, and ceilings.
  • Rapid detection - Thermal cameras can survey both small and large areas very quickly, identifying even minor leaks.
  • Pinpoint accuracy - Thermal images make it possible to locate the exact position of leaks. This aids with repairs.
  • Find hidden leaks - Leaks in concealed areas like pipes inside walls can be found before major damage occurs.
  • Reduce water wastage - Catching leaks early reduces the amount of wasted water and water damage.
  • Lower repair costs - Fixing small leaks early is much cheaper than repairing the extensive damage major leaks can cause.

Applications of Thermal Leak Detection

Thermal imaging cameras are versatile tools that can be used to detect leaks in residential, commercial, and industrial settings. Typical applications include:
  • Roofs - Wet insulation is easily spotted on thermal images of roofs. Roof leaks are a major cause of water damage.
  • Plumbing - Thermal cameras can check pipes, joints, valves, and water heaters for leaks.
  • Pools and spas - Underground pipe leaks and liner leaks in pools and spas can be found with thermal imaging.
  • Windows and doors - Thermal imaging can identify air leaks and moisture around windows and doors to improve energy efficiency.
  • Wastewater tanks - Leaking tanks are hazardous and thermal imaging provides an efficient inspection method.
  • Data centers - Small water leaks in data centers can cause huge damage. Thermal imaging allows constant leak monitoring.

Implementing a Thermal Leak Detection Program

Organizations can implement an effective leak detection program using thermal imaging:
  • Select a high-resolution thermal camera suitable for building inspections. Handheld cameras provide portability.
  • Train personnel on proper camera operation and how to interpret thermal images. Experience is needed to distinguish leaks from normal temperature variations.
  • Survey the building, scanning walls, ceilings, floors, and the roof. Focus on areas prone to leakage like pipes and joints.
  • Inspect regularly, at least once per year, to catch new leaks early before major damage occurs. Keep detailed records of inspections.
  • Immediately repair any identified leaks. Confirm with follow up thermal imaging that leaks have been fully fixed.
  • Use thermal imaging to check repairs after major plumbing or roof work to ensure no accidental leaks were created.
Thermal imaging cameras provide an easy, non-invasive way to identify hidden water leaks in buildings. Regular inspections using infrared technology allows leaks to be fixed quickly, reducing water damage repair costs. Thermal leak detection helps organizations be proactive in maintaining their properties.