5 Best Thermal Camera for Water Leaks Detection and Plumbing Issues

Best Thermal Camera for Water Leaks Detection PlumbingYou know it is true:

Water leakage such as plumbing leak and roof leaks can lead to major problems for entire building, while mold growth caused by moisture is also a health risk that may cause respiratory problems.

To make things worse, not all the water leak incidents can be easily detected with naked eyes.

If you ignore leaking pipes and other hidden water leak issues long enough, they can wreak havoc on the entire house.

This article is focused on the best thermal imaging camera for water leaks detection and plumbing, as well as the uses of thermal imaging technology in this sector.

Benefits of Thermal Imaging for Water Leak Detection

Based upon the science of infrared energy, thermal imaging capture heat signature emitted from objects and formulate images based on the differences of temperature measurements.

The application of thermal imaging camera in facility maintenance, building diagnostic, house inspection and property pre-purchase check is fast gaining popularity over the years –

because this non-invasive technology can really help to ensure early detection of water leaks and moisture issues to prevent asset damage, while the avoidance of major repair cost can easily make the thermal camera pay by itself!
 
 
Additionally, thermal imaging camera is an excellent tool that offers many benefits on the job site, allowing home inspectors and plumbers to work more safely and efficiently.

Plumbers can do their jobs quickly and easier by utilizing thermal camera to uncover hidden leaks, survey water damage not easily visible, and pinpoint the exact location for repairs.

For instance, this video shows thermal imaging case studies that helped home inspector to identify hidden water and water damage issues that cannot be seen with naked eyes:


 

How to Choose Thermal Camera: Key Factors to Consider

When it comes to choosing an infrared thermal imaging camera for house inspection and home improvement activities (such as identifying area with moisture and water leakages), here are some key factors you should consider:

1. Thermal imaging sensor resolution determines the quality and clarity of the image. Higher sensor resolution will produce sharper image, as more pixels and data points are captured per unit of area.

2. Display: In addition to display resolution, some people prefer thermal cam with bigger screen size, whilst some would like to have touchscreen feature.

3. Frame rate, which refers to the rate at which the infrared detector creates images.
Most of the thermal cameras on the market today have 9 Hz refresh rate, means they create/refreshe image at a rate of 9 times per second.

4. Cost: Assess the price versus your actual needs and budget. For instance, a house owner who perform DIY home inspection once in a while may not want to spend over $1000 for a high resolution professional thermal imaging camera.

Depending on your intended application, other factors to consider include the thermal imaging camera’s measurement accuracy, temperature range, thermal sensitivity, battery life, and special features such as Wi-Fi connectivity.
 
 
Certified thermographer Devin Flynn shares more insights in the video footage below:


 

5 Best Infrared Thermal Camera for Water Leaks Detection and Plumbing

Thermal imaging camera can not only detect hidden water leaks and their origin, but it is also capable to detect moisture that cannot be physically reached with moisture meters.

We’ll start with professional thermal cameras used by building inspectors, equipment maintenance specialists, and plumbing service providers –

and then we’ll cover the more budget friendly alternatives for those who just want a thermal imager with basic features to perform simple DIY home inspection.
 

#1: Best Professional – FLIR E50bx Thermal Camera

This professional FLIR infrared camera with high IR resolution of 43,200 (240×180) pixels is a very useful gadget in detecting and spotting water leakage, leaks in flanges, water pipe leaks, clogs in piping, plumbing leaks, water intrusion, moisture, roof leaks etc.

It can rapidly scan large areas and pinpoint areas of interest where there is a leakage in real time, without the need of interrupting the facility operation and equipment.

As one of the best thermal imaging cameras in monitoring plants that an building expert finds it difficult to reach with contact measurements tools, this high-end infrared inspection camera is there to reduce repair downtime and also provides easy verification of the whole process.
 
 
This powerful tool for building industry is equipped with MSX (Multi-Spectral Dynamic Imaging) technology that superimpose thermal images over the digital photo to generate superb quality images – shown on its large 3.5″ color LCD touchscreen display.

The METERLiNK technology connects this professional thermal device via Bluetooth and wirelessly records meter readings directly into the infrared images, whilst you can also utilize its built-in Wi-Fi to mobile devices and FLIR mobile app for easy sharing and reporting.

Check out the video below that shows FLIR E-bx series thermal imaging camera overview, in which you can even consider the top-notch FLIR E60bx as upgrade if it is within your budget.

FLIR E50bx, with 60Hz frame rate and high thermal sensitivity at <0.045°C alongside 4X continuous digital zoom feature, is highly recommended in gas and fuel leakage detection since it can detect points of leakages from a safe/far distance. It can improve your work safety by avoiding leakages that could potentially pose a danger to the observer, while at the same time make the whole process of leakage detection and repair easy.

With temperature range of -4 to 248°F -20 to 120°C, FLIR E50bx is great for air / gas and water leakage detection.

It has embedded GPS data into the image to help you spot the leakage and realize the problem area easily. You will be able to deduce leakages from a safe distance, get real time data on the leakages, and therefore be able to respond swiftly to correct the problem.
 
 
For example, the following video gives a FLIR E50bx thermal camera’s view of leaking water from a faulty pump on a circulating industrial water heater machine.

According to the video owner SwarfWorks, it was quite dark where this was in an enclosure, and this powerful thermal imaging camera surely helped to show what was going on.

The professional FLIR E50bx thermal imager also comes with built-in RH/Dew Point alarms feature that show areas with risk of surface condensation and mold growth.

Get this powerful device and you will spend significant less time in identifying potential issues.

Check out its excellent user reviews and latest price >> here

If FLIR E50bx is not within your budget, then you can consider the next in this list.
 

#2: Fluke Ti100 Infrared Camera

This 9-Hertz general purpose thermal imager with an ergonomic grip is designed for one-handed operation. If you are using it on the field – you can wear gloves, adjust the strap, and still be able to maneuver and operate it easily.

The Fluke Ti100 IR camera comes with 3.5 inch LCD display and ≤0.10°C thermal sensitivity.

It is lightweight; Its battery is easy to remove and replace.

This camera with rugged design can display an array of open images for convenient selection and analysis. You can select color patterns, reference images, markers and emissivity.

Fluke Ti100 thermal imaging camera comes with a free and easy to use software package called SmartView. Once the images have been imported to the Fluke software package, you can then create or edit each individual image, as well as create professional-looking report.

You can also use the Fluke Connect app to share images and data with remote team members via smart phone to resolve issues while still in the field.
 
 
Compared to FLIR E50bx with IR thermal sensor resolution of 240×180 (43,200 pixels) –

Fluke TIS20 with 160 x 120 (19,200 pixels) resolution is a relatively cheaper professional thermal camera option for building inspector and plumbers.

You can check out the price and user reviews of Fluke Ti100 via the link/button below.

FLIR E50bx

Thermal Camera

240x180 Sensor (43,200 pixel)

3.5-inch LCD Touchscreen

60Hz frame rate

Flir MSX technology


–20 to +120°C (–4 to +248°F)

<0.045°C thermal Sensitivity

±2°C thermal Accuracy


Wi-Fi Enabled

5 Hours Battery life

For Professional

FLUKE Ti100

Thermal Camera

160x120 Sensor (19,200 pixel)

3.5-inch LCD display

9Hz frame rate

Fluke IR-Fusion technology


-20 to +250°C (-4 to to 482°F)

<0.10°C thermal Sensitivity

±2°C thermal Accuracy


Wi-Fi Enabled

4 Hours Battery life

FLIR C3

Thermal Camera

80x60 Sensor (4,800 pixel)

3" LCD Touchscreen

9Hz frame rate

Flir MSX technology


–10 to +150°C (14 to 302°F)

<0.10°C thermal Sensitivity

±2°C thermal Accuracy


Wi-Fi Enabled

2 Hours Battery life

Best Value

#3: Best Value – FLIR C3 Thermal Imaging Camera

FLIR C2 is an excellent handheld thermal camera option with great balance between its features and price point, which positions it in a ‘sweet spot’ between professionals and DIY home improvement lovers.

While most people love its slim pocket-sized profile for convenience and easy storage –

It is also a full featured thermal imaging system that is equipped with high resolution digital camera of 640 x 480 pixels, 80 × 60 infrared thermal sensor, alongside 3 inch color LCD touch screen with auto rotation feature.

Powered by FLIR’s proprietary MSX technology that generates high quality thermal image by adding key details to the infrared image in real time –

this durable compact thermal imager is capable to detect hidden water leakage problems, sewage leak, moisture in walls, plumbing clogs in pipes, electrical hot spots and faulty wiring etc without resorting to destructive testing.
 
 
The following video compares FLIR C3 vs C2 model, with their differences explained.

In short, FLIR C3 is a newer version with WiFi enabled that allows instant sharing of images, whilst C3 model also has other additional features like picture-in-picture image mode and hot/cold spot indicators.

Compared to high-end professional thermal imaging devices that cost a few thousand dollars, the FLIR C3 at under $1000 appears to be a more affordable solution for most people – and this is one of the most popular thermal camera for a plumber!


 
FLIR C3 is easy to use, just as the video below that shows an example of how FLIR C3 thermal inspection camera detected plumbing leak at the ceiling below a master bathroom.

You can also use it to trace underground pipe and pipes behind the wall, without the needs to dig or drill holes to find leakages.

Once thermal images are captured, they can be opened in the free FLIR Tool software which is compatible with Windows and MAC. You can then edit the images, and create inspection report if you want to.


 
Another good feature that people usually find helpful is its built-in LED spotlight, which can be used as a flashlight or for photo illumination.

The operating time of this thermal camera is 2 hours, and the device can be charged with USB cable that comes together with the purchase of FLIR C3 – which also includes a battery, power supply/charger, lanyard, pouch, and user guide.

Check out the user reviews of this best value thermal camera >> here
 

#4: HTI HT-18 Infrared Thermal Imager

This is a lesser-known brand, however user reviews show it is a hidden gem that is worth to be considered – especially if you are looking for a cheap thermal imaging camera under $500.

HTI HT-18 thermal imager has ± 2°C ± 2% temperature measurement accuracy, 9Hz frame rate, 3.2″ color display screen, alongside 5 different color palettes for users to choose from.

This lightweight handheld thermal camera also comes with 3 GB built-in memory card, lithium-ion battery, and a protection bag.
 
 
The video below shows an unboxing overview of this low-cost thermal camera and its application for home inspection:

This handheld thermal camera has received very positive review rating, with many users like its image quality and reckon its price point is good value for money.

You can check out the latest price and user reviews of HTI HT-18 via below, and see how it helped home improvement activities to achieve great results.

While the infrared image resolution of HTI HT-18 is 220 x 160 (35,200 Pixels) –

the upgraded HT-19 version more than doubles the resolution to 76,800 pixels (320 × 240), for even better image quality.

HTI HT-18

Thermal Camera

220x160 IR Resolution

9Hz frame rate

–20 to +300°C (–4 to +572°F)

±2°C / ±2% thermal Accuracy


Standalone Handheld

FLIR One PRO

Thermal Camera

160x120 Thermal Sensor

8.7Hz frame rate

-20 to +400°C (-4 to +752°F)

±3°C / ±5% Thermal Accuracy


Mount to iOS/Android Device

Best Budget

FLIR One

Thermal Camera

80x60 Thermal Sensor

8.7Hz frame rate

-20 to 120°C (-4 to +248°F)

±3°C / ±5% Thermal Accuracy


Mount to iOS/Android Device

#5: Best Budget – FLIR One PRO for iOS / Android

This is a highly portable thermal camera designed to be used conveniently on iOS / Android devices; It is simple to use, and easy to set up.

Just mount the FLIR ONE Pro thermal imaging camera on smart device, and it will display thermal images on the screen of your iPhone / iPad or Android smartphone / tablet.


Equipped with 160 × 120 thermal resolution and 8.7 Hz frame rate, this thermal device is capable to cover temperature range of -20 °C to 400 °C.

Unlike Seek Thermal Compact Imager that uses the iOS / Android smart device’s battery to operate –

FLIR ONE Pro is equipped with its own built-in battery, so its operation will not reduce the battery life of your handset or tablet.
 

 
The Flir One App will provide all the instructions that you need to use this thermal camera appropriately, and you can enjoy its vast range of features –

such as color mapping and temperature scale adjustment, image edit, time-lapse video etc.

You can use this thermal leak detector for home improvement activities like detection of shower leaks (as shown in video below), water damage, plumbing problems, hot water leak under floor slab, indoor/outdoor pipe issues, moisture behind walls, and much more.


 

Review Summary: The Verdict

Leaks can’t be fixed if they can’t be found.

With undetected leaks could be costing hundreds of dollars in water bills, alongside the potentially significant repair cost required to remedy the damage caused by water leaks –

getting an infrared thermal inspection camera for home improvement is one of the best investment decision you can make.

We’ve covered 5 best thermal imaging cameras for detection of plumbing problems, water leaks, moisture infiltration, roof leaks and water pipe leaks etc issues that can cause serious damage to a building.

Our top recommendations are:

  • Best Professional: High resolution FLIR E50bx Thermal Camera for building industry, with pro-level 240 × 180 (43,200 pixels) thermal infrared sensor and large 3.5″ color LCD touchscreen display.
  • Best Value: Full featured pocket-sized FLIR C3 Compact Thermal Imaging System with 3 inch color LCD touch screen, and Wi-Fi enabled.
  • Best Budget: FLIR One PRO with 160 x 120 thermal sensor, designed to be used conveniently on Android and iOS devices.

It’s your decision to select a good option that best fit your needs and budget, with below shows the top 10 ways you can use the thermal imaging camera for your building inspection and house improvement projects.

Is the infographic useful? If so, please share it.
 
 
(Thermal house image source: Adapted copy from Wikimedia.
 
Featured picture credit attribution: Black Hills Professional Home Inspections LLC, Black Hills Thermal Imaging located in Rapid City, South Dakota. 605-209-6766)
 
IR Thermal Imaging Camera For Home Inspection
 

One Response

  1. Shailendra Mathur November 17, 2020

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