Thermal imaging finds a costly problem

As a home inspector my job is to educate the client and find any costly problems associated with the home I am expecting. This inspection did both, I was called to inspected a small 1600 sq. ft. ranch, built in 1974, on a slab foundation. At some point the house had electric heat, two electrical meter boxes. One meter was missing so I assumed the house was upgraded from electric heat.

The buyer is also the tenant of the property and has been living in the home for approximately one year. The owner of the property purchased the home in 2005 and the electrical heat sources were already removed prior to sale.

During the inspection I start scanning the interior of the home with my thermal imaging camera. I notice radiant heat in the ceiling. Since the buyer has been living in the property I asked her if she knew she had radiant heat in the ceiling. Her response was no, and surprise, she informed me her electric bills were extremely high, more than $250 a month.

More important, she wanted to know why she couldn’t feel the radiant heat. The problem has to do with vaulted ceilings, and lack of ceiling fans. Radiant heat in ceilings was a flawed design because as we all know warm air rises. Therefore, the heat the ceiling tiles give off stays trapped along the ceiling.

After a thorough inspection of the home I was unable to find the power source for the radiant heat. The only thermostat in the home is for a gas stove. The second heat source is a space heater in the master bedroom. No additional thermostats, no empty junction boxes on the walls, no marked circuit breakers. Marked or not I started terminating circuit breakers in the main panel to no avail. This leads me to believe that the radiant heat is hardwired somewhere. Worse it may be on 24/7, 365 days a year.

The owner of the home has known of the high electric costs and hired electrician to review the main panel years past. Unfortunately the electrician was unable to find any problems.

I think you can agree this is a perfect example of how thermal imaging is an asset in a home inspection identifying problems that cannot be seen by the naked eye. This problem has been ongoing for approximately 8 years costing the homeowner and now the tenant high electric bills.

While I was unable to find the circuit causing the problem I was able to find the problem. The buyer of the property will follow up with an electrician to find the power source and rectify the problem.

Update May;

My client called me back to help the electrician see the radiant heat. Appears the electrician wanted to leave without fixing it. Using my thermal camera in the attic space the electrician saw the radiant heat and killed the circuit saving the homeowner/buyer more than $100.00+ a month in electric bills.

As the saying goes “your only as good as the tools you use”.

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Submitted by StephenGaudet