Build IR Blog

Building Envelopes Inspection: Identifying Air Leaks and Insulation Deficiencies with Thermal Imaging

What are Building Envelopes?

Building envelopes are one of the most important factors to assess when evaluating the energy efficiency of any property, big or small. A building envelope consists of the building’s walls, roof, windows, floors, doors, and foundations – essentially the full outer skin of the building which protects all occupants from the elements or is in direct contact with the outside world.

Thermography is the perfect tool when looking to review the performance of a building’s envelope. Professionals agree that instead of just measuring surface temperature, infrared (IR) thermal imaging offers a more precise window into a building’s hidden issues buried below the surface and potentially compromising the protective envelope.

When analysed by a trained professional thermographer, thermal images can reveal problems within a building’s envelope such as water leaks, air infiltration, and even gaps in insulation, which would otherwise be very difficult or costly to detect.

Not only are these issues costly and hard to detect, but they are unlikely to be discovered on a standard building inspection, meaning that unless you are actively investigating your building envelopes, you aren’t going to notice these until it becomes too late.

Identifying Air Leaks in your Building Envelopes

Thermal imaging is the ideal solution for identifying air leaks in your building envelopes. Air leakage refers to uncontrolled air movement into or out of your building, bypassing any heating, ventilation, or air conditioning (HVAC) system. This typically occurs through cracks or holes in the exterior walls, roof, or windows.

Air leaks cause energy wastage by causing uneven temperatures, leading to higher energy bills and worse living conditions. In conjunction with this, leaks may allow moisture from outside to enter into the building, which can damage materials and even lead to health problems for the occupants through black mould growth.

It’s clear how infrared scanning proves beneficial in assessing air leakage through capturing thermal images which highlight anomalies indicative of air infiltration or leakage on the building façade can be identified, much like detecting water ingress.

Armed with this information, appropriate measures can be taken to seal the façade and prevent further air leakage, stopping potential issues such as building damage and higher energy costs.

Thermal Bridging In A Building

One particular example which highlights the benefit of using thermal imaging for scanning the building envelopes for deficiencies is the identification of thermal bridging.

This is also known as cold bridging and is a weak point within the building’s envelope and allows heat to pass through easily, making your house inefficient in staying warm.

This typically happens when materials which are classed as better heat conductors form a bridge with the inner and outer face of the building. You will see this occur when there is a space in the insulation layer or something, such as a joist, has penetrated it.

This can be the result of excess mortar across cavities leading to a cold spot or thermal bridging through windows and doors where concrete lintels have been installed consecutively, bridging the cavity, and leading to a cold spot.

Building Envelopes

Benefits Of Drone Thermal Surveys For Air Leaks And Insulation Deficiencies

Alongside the use of handheld thermal cameras by qualified thermographers it is possible to use drone mounted thermal cameras for larger buildings and commercial thermal surveys giving a quicker overview and reaching places that may otherwise prove difficult on foot.

A drone thermal survey is particularly useful when scanning a building’s roof for any insulation deficiencies giving the thermographer a birds-eye view of the roof and clear image of any missing insulation or insulation defects.

Common Areas For Air Leakage And Insulation Deficiencies

When searching for missing insulation or defects within your building’s envelope, there are a few common areas which we highly recommend checking and these are:

Insulation Problems: Walls

A common issue for walls is not having enough insulation. Thermal surveys are a less invasive, cheaper and more efficient way of identifying this issue through temperature variance across the wall surface.

Thermographers are trained to identify any issues that may be present here whilst recognising that there may be common issues that aren’t a significant cause for concern such as the presence of studs in external walls which may be contributing to a thermal bridging effect.

Insulation Problems: Roofs

The roof space of a home is one of the key areas for maintaining and regulating the energy efficiency of a building – if there is a problem in this area it can be increasingly difficult to maintain a warm property without spending significantly more on energy bills.

Insufficient insulation in the roof space can lead to huge heat loss throughout the rest of the building which will end up impacting the comfort and energy costs for all occupants.

A thermal inspection can effectively identify where the heat is escaping and areas which are lacking in sufficient insulation – following this a comprehensive review and suitable suggestions ought to be provided on how best to seal any insulation gaps.

Air Leakage: Doors and Windows

Draughty windows and doors are a major source of energy loss. While visible gaps can be addressed with sealing, infrared cameras reveal much more.

They can pinpoint temperature differences around windows and doors, indicating not only air leaks but also potential deficiencies in the gas contained in pvc windows.

Gas improves insulation, and its loss creates areas of heat escape detectable by the camera – this information helps inspectors recommend targeted repairs to improve your building’s energy efficiency.

Air Leakage: Electrical Sockets

Don’t underestimate electrical sockets and the impact they can have on the air tightness of a building. While less common, air leaks can occur around them due to gaps in insulation and they can be likened to tiny holes in a balloon which aren’t observable immediately but over a longer period will cause noticeable changes.

Specialised infrared camera equipment can detect these leaks by revealing temperature variations around these outlets. In rare instances, these leaks can be major, especially in homes with negative pressure, leading to surprisingly high energy bills. A thermal imaging survey can identify these hidden energy drains so you can address them and save money.

If you have concerns about the thermal efficiency of your property and want to make sure that your home or commercial building is as thermally efficient as possible with the continued rising energy costs then reach out to us today – click here.

Our team is headed by one of the only Cat 3 thermographers in the UK – and we only use high quality thermal cameras to ensure we can detect even the smallest anomalies.


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