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Old 03-26-11, 10:29 AM   #1
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Default DIY thermal imaging camera & other options

During the energy audit of my house, I got to see a thermal imaging camera in action. It was amazing. With the flick of your wrist you can see exactly where cold is entering your house.

I have a normal IR thermometer as well as a somewhat more fancy black and decker IR thermometer & leak detector that has an LED that shines a light at whatever you're pointing at do. It turns blue when its colder and red where its hotter than your initial reference point. Its a neat device, but nowhere near as nice as a thermal imaging camera. Here is a quick review video on how it works:

Looking up prices on thermal imaging cameras looks like they start around $1200 which is a bit out of my range. However, here is a quick video on how they work.

So, how can we make our own thermal imaging camera? I did some googling and here is what I found:

DIY Heatmap "Infrared Thermal Image" using the Black and Decker TLD100
This is a somewhat manual way of making a 'thermal map' of an image. While it would work, it would be painfully slow and the resolution leaves a lot to be desired IMO.
This site seems to have the most complete set of instructions on how to make your own images from a normal IR thermometer. It uses a IR thermometer that automatically scans a portion of the room and then produces an image from that data. It still takes a while, but the resolution is much better.

Has anyone seen any other options?

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Last edited by Daox; 03-26-11 at 10:36 AM..
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Old 03-26-11, 04:43 PM   #2
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Wow! This idea crossed my mind once, but exited just as fast. It's good to see that someone has done it.

I'm surprised that there aren't cheaper thermovisioning options, even at the cost of lower resolution.
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Old 03-26-11, 04:58 PM   #3
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These things aren't cheap and I don't know how you'd possibly DIY one. I know that the ones that just show temp are about $2,000 for a decent one and the ones that also will take a picture of light can be thousands more. I'd love to have one as it'd make me money but the initial investment is a killer.
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Old 03-26-11, 08:38 PM   #4
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Just a crazy idea. What about using the Black and Decker IR thermometer and Light Painting time laps technique?

Look up "Light Painting" in wikipedia(i would post a link but I can't yet)

If you did it at the right speed you should be able to still see the parts of the wall and what was leaking. by doing a long exposer and moving the thermometer it should make the parts glow red, green or blue.

Last edited by Piwoslaw; 03-27-11 at 03:26 AM.. Reason: Added link
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Old 03-27-11, 11:35 AM   #5
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When I was surveying my attic insulation for leaks, there were a lot of areas that really
couldn't be seen from a central location in the attic.
Just the stuff stored in the attic obscures a great deal of the 'floor' area.

With the heat turned up high down stairs, I had to move down the center of the attic,
while scanning down each side, towards the eaves.
I had the openings (between the rafters) numbered and drawn on a floor plan/map.
As I scanned each section (with my Laser assisted IR pistola) , I marked the hot spots on my map..
After I was done, I used a long-handled tool to re-arrange the and/or add insulation.
Checking my work with the scanner as I went.

My point? Taking a few minutes to make your own map of the leaks,
is pretty accurate and easy to do.

I can see where an IR camera would be better for taking pictures from the outdoors,
But, I've found the IR pistola can locate air leaks and cold spots from inside
the house with very good precision.
It's great for quickly checking your insulation work as you go..

I highly recommend owning a scanner.. They work!

Last edited by Xringer; 03-27-11 at 11:37 AM..
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Old 03-28-11, 05:19 PM   #6
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I was at a friend's house a couple months ago and he had one he borrowed from work. It was so neat, you could even see where there had been water leaks from the roof and into the walls in the past.

It would be nice if you could rent those. It's not like you need them everyday. Just rent it on a very cold or very hot day, take pictures of every surface and you know where you need to work.
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Old 03-28-11, 07:00 PM   #7
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I wonder why it would show up past water leaks in the walls..?.

Unless, it was sheet-rock and some of the 'rock' got washed away (into the basement)
and now it's just thin cardboard over the water tunnels??

Humm, if it's mostly little air tunnels, maybe they would have a higher R-factor than
plain old solid sheet-rock?? Maybe those leaking areas were warmer than the undamaged walls?

Or, maybe it was the insulation between the studs that got washed down to the bottom..?.
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Old 05-27-13, 12:18 AM   #8
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Reviving an old thread in a search for thermal imaging;

I found this in a web search on the off chance there was a usable app for smartphones (yeah a long shot but it was late at night when I had the idea)
Smartphone Thermal Imaging Attachment Becomes a Reality
According to their website they're not due until August;
$160 for a kit & $195 for an assembled unit.
IR-Blue Kit | RH Workshop LLC
I would be interested to see if it was any good to find air leaks and thermal bridges in a house.

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