Achieving Dual-System Moisture Remediation

Combining thermal imaging cameras with moisture meter tools helps achieve rapid source detection and damage determination

Achieving Dual-System Moisture Remediation

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When you hear it, a sense of dread can compound with every drip. Where is it coming from? How bad is the damage?

Nearly everyone has experienced a leak at home, whether it be a blooming ceiling spot, a buckling floor, or a dripping pipe in a kitchen. But no matter where the leak is located, two goals remain the same: find the source and determine the extent of damage.

The same two goals — rapid source detection and damage determination — apply to major moisture remediation. While you may be able to accomplish these goals in a customer’s kitchen with just your eyes and ears, dealing with water damage on a major scale requires different tools.

Traditionally, moisture remediation specialists have relied on moisture meters to help find leaks and damage. While they’re easy to operate, hunting down the source of moisture leaks can be tedious, often requiring 30 to 40 readings of an area. The accuracy of these readings depends on users themselves finding and measuring every damaged spot, so identifying these spots quickly is key. Enter the thermal camera: Thermal imagers display a color-coded visual guide drawn from infrared radiation emitted by objects in the area. Tracking the source of the leak can be as simple as finding the low emission or “cold” spot in the scene.

For significant moisture remediation, neither a simple moisture meter nor a thermal camera is sufficient alone, but together they improve effectiveness, limit costs and ensure peace of mind.

Once Floodwaters Recede, the Restoration Begins

Whether it results from a burst pipe or an extreme weather event, flooding can cause extensive damage, especially if water levels rise multiple feet.

Once floodwater recedes, the primary objective is drying everything out and deciding for the insurance company what needs to be ripped out within the damaged area. While missing wet spots can lead to further untreated damage, removing everything in the area can also be inefficient if only some of it suffered moisture damage. It’s not cost-effective to rip out an entire sheetrock wall to the ceiling when water only reached up one-third of the wall.

Working with only a moisture meter is akin to a hunt-and-peck method. This inefficient strategy involves blindly testing areas with a moisture meter to see if they are wet. Being unable to see what the test is “pecking” at draws out the process and increases costs. 

It’s just as inefficient to use only a moisture meter to verify that everything is dry after remediation, as inspectors can miss spots using the hunt-and-peck approach. Working without a thermal imager almost guarantees that wet spots will be missed, increasing the risk of untreated damage spreading.

Insurance Verification

Another advantage of working with a thermal camera is the ability to record and share the thermal images. Damage from a flood or extreme weather event can be extensive and extremely costly. The more proof a customer can provide through proper photo documentation, the more likely insurance companies will accept the claim. Thermal images can both document and verify water-related damage, providing the type of evidence insurance companies need to determine an appropriate payout.

Tracking down a leak for insurance purposes is a joint effort. When inspectors pair a thermal imaging camera with a moisture meter they can pinpoint cold spots (due to the evaporative cooling process of water) with the camera and then confirm that moisture is indeed present with the meter. This useful combination prompted FLIR to create the MR176 Infrared Guided Measurement moisture meter, an all-in-one moisture meter and thermal imager. The MR176 is especially useful for insurance claims during the initial property inspection, as it helps the inspector identify the cold spots that indicate moisture and then immediately quantify the extent of the damage.

For example, in one instance a customer — finding water on the floor — assumed that water was leaking through a nearby window. The customer hired a company to seal the windows, but then discovered more water on the floor after another storm. Finally, the customer contacted the insurance company and soon a moisture remediation team arrived with a thermal imager. With this technology, the remediation team easily saw that moisture was coming from the vaulted ceiling around the fireplace, not the window. Rather than ripping out the entire wall, they only needed to replace the roof flashing around the fireplace, saving money and labor costs.

The Case for the Moisture Meter

However, mistakes can still occur when relying solely on thermal imaging. This type of imaging doesn’t distinguish what’s causing a cold spot: Air leaking in from outside or from an HVAC vent can look the same as evaporative cooling to the untrained eye, leading the user to assume the area is wet. This kind of error can lead contractors to remove sheetrock incorrectly identified as wet simply because the thermal camera detected cold areas. Only the addition of a moisture meter can verify if colder areas are indeed wet.

Combine Tools for Efficiency and Verification

FLIR recommends using a thermal imager in conjunction with a moisture meter for verification to ensure efficient remediation. 

A thermal imager and moisture meter combined in one device, such as the FLIR MR176 moisture meter, gets both jobs done with only one piece of equipment. While the technology in this device does not meet the standards of the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET), it does offer an integrated pinless sensor and an external pin probe that provide the flexibility to take either intrusive or non-intrusive measurements.

A second method for ensuring efficient water remediation is using a thermal camera and a separate moisture meter. Combining a camera such as the FLIR E5-XT with a moisture meter such as the FLIR MR77 offers dual verification of water-affected areas. In addition, the FLIR E5-XT meets RESNET standards for thermal imaging.

For large contractors, FLIR recommends the best of both options — the FLIR MR176-KIT6. This package includes the flexible MR176 moisture meter, the professional MR08 moisture meter probe kit, and the FLIR E6, which meets RESNET standards and is an ideal tool for building, electrical and mechanical applications. Knowing where to look for moisture is half the battle, but this adaptable combination provides a competitive edge.

After Water Damage, Peace of Mind is Possible

Combining the benefits of thermal imaging cameras and moisture meters ensures no water damage is left undetected. With both systems in play, rapid source detection and damage determination become easily reachable remediation goals. Together, these tools improve remediation effectiveness, ensure savings and help customers and contractors alike feel peace of mind that water damage can be reliably located and treated.

About the Author

Learn more about FLIR Systems products at www.flir.com.



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