12 May 2015 Practical identification of moisture sources in building assemblies using infrared thermography
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Abstract
Water, in its various phases, in any environment other than desert (hot or cold) conditions, is the single most destructive element that causes deterioration of materials and failure of building assemblies. It is the key element present in the formation of mold and fungi that lead to indoor air quality problems. Water is the primary element that needs to be managed in buildings to ensure human comfort, health and safety. Under the right thermodynamic conditions the detection of moisture in its various states is possible through the use of infrared thermography for a large variety of building assemblies and materials. The difficulty is that moisture is transient and mobile from one environment to another via air movement, vapor pressure or phase change. Building materials and enclosures provide both repositories and barriers to this moisture movement. In real life steady state conditions do not exist for moisture within building materials and enclosures. Thus the detection of moisture is in a constant state of transition. Sometimes you will see it and sometimes you will not. Understanding the limitations at the time of inspection will go a long way to mitigating unsatisfied clients or difficult litigation.

Moisture detection can be observed by IRT via three physical mechanisms; latent heat absorption or release during phase change; a change in conductive heat transfer; and a change in thermal capacitance. Complicating the three methodologies is the factor of variable temperature differentials and variable mass air flow on, through and around surfaces being inspected. Building enclosures come in variable assembly types and are designed to perform differently in different environmental regions. Sources for moisture accumulation will vary for different environmental conditions. Detection methodologies will change for each assembly type in different ambient environments.

This paper will look at the issue of the methodologies for detection of the presence of moisture and determination of the various sources from which it accumulates in building assemblies. The end objective for IRT based moisture detection inspections is not to just identify that moisture is present but to determine its extent and source. Accurate assessment of the source(s) and root cause of the moisture is critical to the development of a permanent solution to the problem.
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Gregory B. McIntosh, Gregory B. McIntosh, Antonio Colantonio, Antonio Colantonio, } "Practical identification of moisture sources in building assemblies using infrared thermography", Proc. SPIE 9485, Thermosense: Thermal Infrared Applications XXXVII, 948507 (12 May 2015); doi: 10.1117/12.2087407; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2087407
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