Mal Brewer of Termite Solutions in QLD believes thermal cameras are a must-have tool for pest inspectors.
Infrared technology has a wide variety of applications in domestic settings as well as for industry. Termite Solutions in Queensland, Australia has been specialising in termite inspections and treatments since 1996, and started utilising FLIR thermal imaging cameras in 2005. “For our company it began an odyssey in innovation. It has become a standard part of our equipment now and we couldn’t imagine doing our job without it,” states Mal Brewer, proprietor of Termite Solutions.
A homeowner’s worst nightmare
Termites that attack houses are almost exclusively subterranean species that need to maintain very specific environmental requirements. “When termites enter a dwelling they rapidly humidify the galleries they inhabit and actively regulate the temperature,” explains Mr Brewer.
Depending on atmospheric conditions, termite infestations can appear as hot in winter, or as cold in summer, spring and autumn. In many types of houses termites will attack the unseen wall framing and can operate for months undetected, causing significant structural damage as they do so. They are truly amongst a homeowner’s worst nightmare, so discovering termites long before they become visually apparent can potentially save homeowners thousands of dollars. The advantages of thermal technology are obvious.
Discovering the world of infrared
“Back in 2004 I heard that thermal imaging was being used by a few interstate pest inspectors for detecting termites, so I called some of them. Operators back then had no qualifications and indicated they would use their cameras from time to time, but basically they were for gaining a marketing advantage over their competition,” explains Mr Brewer. “I bought my first camera in 2005 and quickly established that not only did I have a marketing advantage, but they are actually an invaluable detection and diagnostic tool. We detected termite issues that other inspectors had simply not seen and walked past.
“The financial outlay for my first camera was quickly recovered. I found that clients appreciated our professionalism of investing in the latest technology, and the acceptance rate of quotes was considerably more, once we started using thermal cameras. Right from the start.”
Keeping the customer in the picture
“We always try to involve our clients at the start of the inspections to show them the visual advantage we gain in using thermal imaging. Our catch phrase is ‘If you haven’t seen thermal, you’re only seeing half the picture’. Our clients generally ask us to bring the thermal cameras for their annual inspections. They’re not happy with an inspection without a thermal camera, and this ensures repeat work for us.” Termite Solutions also use thermal imaging for condition monitoring by checking current images against those taken on previous inspections.
The thermal advantage
The required tools for pest inspectors include a torch, binoculars, tapping tool and moisture meter. “We look for damage with the torch, we check the visible timbers with a tapping tool looking for structural integrity or soft spots in the timber, but with thermal imaging we can see the small temperature differences caused by termites, leaks, moisture issues, rodents or insulation anomalies. FLIR thermal imaging cameras can find low levels of termite infestations, often much earlier than their presence can be detected with our eyes or the conventional methods of using tapping tools and moisture meters.”
A thermal camera allows inspectors to scan buildings quickly, and scan areas that are out of reach of the inspector, such as high ceilings. Termite Solutions’ inspectors can each inspect as many as five houses a day. “We can scan large areas of buildings very quickly and with much more certainty than we had before using thermal cameras,” said Mr Brewer.
Increasing the service thanks to thermal
“During pest inspections we would often discover maintenance issues while using the thermal imaging camera. At times during our inspections we have identified electrical issues in buildings that could have had serious consequences.”
Now Termite Solutions offers not only pest inspection but also building inspection services, diagnosing building faults including leaking showers and roofs, moisture and waterproofing issues, and insulation irregularities.
A win-win for business and client
The use of thermal imaging cameras not only allows Termite Solutions to save time on the job – a saving it can pass on to its clients – it also saves the client money by not missing termites and spotting them sooner, before they can do too much damage. Termite Solutions’ investment in the FLIR cameras was quickly offset by the increase in business they generated, and the increase in the number of buildings the technicians could now complete in a day.