While recently searching our laptop we came across a PDF copy of our 2008 home inspection report. The voluminous document seemed archaic in light of how technology and digital media have since evolved. It caused us to ponder:
What new technologies have emerged in the home inspection industry which give homeowners a better, more comprehensive picture of the property they are considering for purchase?
This resulting article explores creative technologies that innovative home inspectors are using to provide comprehensive home inspections that are cost-effective, quicker, safer, and more thorough. All of these benefits will ease your concerns about potentially not being able to discover both major and minor defects before purchasing a new home.
It goes without saying, when using any technology, the home inspector needs to be adequately trained in both the use of the equipment and the interpretation of findings.
Table of Contents
- How Home Inspections are Evolving with Technology
- Critical Components of a Home to Inspect
- Two Critical Questions to Ask a Home Inspector
- Technologies that are Changing Home Inspections
- Additional Home Inspection Resources
How Home Inspections are Evolving with Technology
Several newer home inspection technologies are making a difference for best-in-class home inspectors, as they are enabling more comprehensive examinations that are more affordable, quicker and safer, including:
- Thermal Imaging
- Inspection Robots
- Leak Detection for Pool Inspections
- Home Inspection Software
Though the clinical definition of a “Home Inspection” is a visual review of a property, technology can enable qualified inspectors to “see” more, and most importantly, “interpret” more about an existing or prospective new home. We suspect that, historically, the emphasis on “visual” helped to underscore the prohibition of performing destructive or intrusive inspections, such as opening walls.
However, with emerging capabilities of technology, we strongly contend that the scope and procedures of home inspections should evolve in tandem with this new reality. By nature, the best home inspectors are always learning, adopting and leveraging new technologies, as they know it is good for their business and their clients.
Critical Components of a Home to Inspect
Keep in mind that home inspection technologies should be used to focus especially on the most critical components of a home, as they represent the highest purchase risks:
Two Critical Questions to Ask a Home Inspector
Asking these two important questions of prospective Home Inspectors will not only help determine their thoroughness, but they will also elicit an inspector’s level of technical acumen and adoption:
- How are you going to inspect the roof?
- How are you going to inspect the attic space?
If your prospective inspector does not plan to enter these spaces physically or use technology (e.g. drones or inspection robots) to inspect these areas, you should choose another professional for the job.
Technologies that are Changing Home Inspections
- Thermal Imaging Inspections
- Drone Inspections
- Inspection Robots
- Videoscope Inspections
- Leak Detection for Pool Inspections
- Home Inspection Software
Thermal Imaging Inspections
How Thermal Imaging Can Detect Major Issues in a Home Inspection
Thermal imaging cameras, also referred to as infrared cameras, can augment the visual inspection by providing color-coded temperature maps of surfaces inside and outside of a house. In other words, infrared cameras take photos of temperatures. These maps can then facilitate early detection of costly future defects, such as water leaks, mold, defective insulation, HVAC duct leaks, leaky windows and doors, faulty circuits in electrical panels, as well as foundation fractures.
Thermal imaging can also help find locations of pests inside a home, such as the attic and inside walls. The key is that the animal or insects must produce sufficient heat that propagates to a surface in order to be detected. This technology, for example, has proven to be able to detect large bee and wasp nests inside walls.
Infrared cameras can also be attached on drones and inspection robots to check for issues in hard to access areas. Anyone providing professional thermal inspections should be an ITC Certified Thermographer.
How Drones Can Detect Major Issues in a Home Inspection
Drones are ideal for quickly and safely reaching difficult-to-reach areas of a house, including: steeply pitched roofs, chimneys, eaves, fascia, windows, gutters and skylights. With thermal imaging infrared cameras, drones can detect moisture, leaks and poor insulation. Using Optical Gas Imaging (OGI) cameras, drones can also detect gas leaks.
Due to not using ladders, walking on perilous roofing, or stepping on fragile tiles, drones reduce the risk of injury and lessen the chances of incurring damages. Drones are especially helpful during unfavorable weather conditions, such as wet conditions and high temperatures. Given that home inspectors are not required to walk on roofs, inspectors that do use drones are able to provide a more thorough inspection with video of hard to see areas.
Drone inspections are also quicker than “ladder inspections”, as they eliminate the laborious process of setting up and scaling ladders throughout various points of the inspection.
Home Inspectors that use drones must have a Remote Pilot Certificate (RPC), register their drone, and follow certain FAA requirements when operating the drone, such as not operating it at night or near restricted air space.
For more information on using drones for your home see Home Drone Technology: 7 Drone Uses For Homeowners.
How Inspection Robots Can Detect Major Issues in a Home Inspection
Inspection Robots can reach small, hard to reach areas, like attics and crawl spaces, while sending live, recordable video to enable the inspector to thoroughly inspect the given area from a safe distance, using a controller and video display. Inspection robots are ideal for spaces that are filthy, snug or dangerous.
Readily available features include: rugged “4-wheel” or “2-track” drive; onboard lights; roll cage to protect camera equipment; low-profile height to fit in shallow spaces; light weight for easy carrying; wireless control; video streaming; and hi-res HD video recording; and 2-hours of operating battery life.
Thorough inspections of attics and crawlspaces are imperative for checking for issues pertaining to energy efficiency and pests. Inspection robots can also locate foundation cracks when accessing crawlspaces. Not all home inspectors may have the will or means to thoroughly check hard to reach spaces, but those with inspection robots will already be prepared for the challenge. The GPK-32 by SuperDroid Robots is a popular model used by home inspectors for attics and crawlspaces.
How Videoscopes Can Detect Major Issues in a Home Inspection
A videoscope (also referred to as a video borescope) used for home inspection applications typically are small cameras (image sensors) attached to a flexible cable that can be extended and retracted into narrow and long spaces. An inspector is able to view video imagery in real-time, record it and control the location of the camera through a control device and display.
Videoscope technology is ideal for inspecting exceptionally narrow spaces such as pipes and ducts. For residential inspections, videoscopes are most commonly used for inspecting sewer lines, chimney flues, and HVAC ductwork.
Although performing a sewer scope inspection is not required or typically included by most home inspectors, the information it yields can be very valuable to prospective home buyers. The process typically takes approximately 30 minutes to perform, with pricing ranging between $150 and $300.
A sewer scope is a video inspection of the lateral sewer which is a privately-owned pipeline that connects the home to the publicly-owned main sewer line, HOA tap, or septic tank. Sewer scoping can discover blockages and pipe system damage, and other problems.
Leak Detection for Pool Inspections
An unfortunate scenario for buying a home with a pool is discovering a leak after purchasing the home that requires a costly repair in order to get the pool functioning properly. According to InterNACHI’s Home Inspection Standards of Practice, an inspector is not required to inspect swimming pools or spas.
If purchasing a home with a pool, we highly recommend getting an in-depth pool inspection. Many home inspectors may only include visual inspections of a pool, so it is vital to hire a well-qualified professional pool inspector that uses advanced technologies to detect water leaks, as well as stray voltage.
Regarding leaks, the key is not just detecting the existence but also locating the specific locations of the problem, which is imperative to estimate the type of repair and cost that would be required. The traditional method to determine whether a pool has a leak is referred to as “the bucket test”. This test takes 24 hours, requires two trips to the pool, and can be effected by changing conditions during the period of the test.
A modern method is to use a rapid water-loss sensor, which measures water loss very precisely to one ten-thousandth of an inch. Water loss trends can be measured within five, 10 or 15 minutes, and then extrapolated to daily or weekly timeframes. Hydrophones are also highly effective at pinpointing the exact location of a leak, once a leak is known to exist. Leaktronics and Anderson Manufacturing are leading manufacturers in the swimming pool leak detection space.
Home Inspection Software
How Home Inspection Software will make your inspection more helpful
As a homeowner, you should choose your home inspector carefully based on experience and current adoption of technology, especially as reflected in the Home Inspection Report. Gone are the days of flat, 100-page PDF documents with hard-to-decipher details on defects and issues. As part of the vetting process of selecting an inspector, be sure to request and review a sample inspection report. From a homeowner’s perspective, home inspectors should be using software that will produce inspection reports with the following features:
- Platform agnostic: works with Windows, iOS or Android devices
- Available in multiple formats: PDF, MS DOC, HTML
- Easy to navigate sections with highlighted findings
- Video with voice-over narration to provide appropriate detail and explanations
- Clear photos with sufficient resolution to view details and defects
- Ability to search reports
- Comment sharing between inspector and buyer
- Sufficient personalization to take advantage of the uniqueness of properties
- Secure storage of report in the cloud for easy retrieval and availability
- Formatted to help homebuyers make informed next-step decisions (purchase and repairs)
- Sufficiently comprehensive to serve as a visual “user guide” for future use
Here is an example online Home Inspection Report produced by Spectora to explore.
Additional Home Inspection Resources
- Find a Certified Master Inspector® in Your Area
- The Inspector Services Group: Add-On Benefits that Home Inspectors can Offer Homeowners
- International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI)
- American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)
- California Real Estate Inspection Association (CREIA)
- Inspector Outlet
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