We are relatively new to this Residential Home Assessment industry and while we have all the needed certifications, we still need to buy equipment.
Any feedback on certain Blower Doors and IR Cameras? Consumer Reports is not really a place we can go and I think this equipment information might assist everyone on this board.
Really good advice. My 2c behind it...
I have Minneapolis. Get whatever your friends have as you may need to borrow equipment, and learning the other type during an audit will not be fun.
I have the testo 510 also. Get one, and get 2 probes. If you start to learn equipment you'll find yourself in situations wondering about ESP, filter drop, coil restriction, etc. "I wish I knew system static" is an unpleasant thought. Understanding how the current equipment matches to duct work often will lend to a broader understanding of homeowner complaints, and how to cure them.
The cameras themselves are not an end all without proper training they simply take pretty pictures. I would recommend Level I training.
I'd agree with that, even take it a step further. Don't bother with a camera. Unless you are going to spend additional thousands going to classes it's more of a sales gimmick. It will help diagnose specific problems, but that's not what you'll get paid for. It will "prove" to the homeowner top plates and rim joists leak, but you already knew that and smoke shows it too. You really only have so much time in the house, with the homeowner. At some point another gee wiz item becomes too much.
Most importantly, unlike the blower door it does not really help quantify savings opportunity. IMO it is more important as a QC tool than an auditor tool. Fantastic tool for the install crew to insure they've filled/sealed/etc, whatever they were supposed to fill.
You can't go wrong with either the TEC or Retrotec blower door or duct testers/blasters. I teach using both brands, but I find the TEC DG-700 slightly more intuitive for new users because of the layout of the input and reference taps on the face of the device.
For my auditing business, I have a Retrotec blower door and a TEC duct blaster. That gives me two manometers to do zonal pressure tests. Other's may find it a little odd using a Retrotec blower door and a TEC duct blaster hooked together to the outside when doing a duct leakage test WRT to the outside but the air doesn't care what brand you use. If you only have one device, then the Testo 510 makes a nice, relatively inexpensive 2nd manometer. And, with a pitot tube, you can measure air velocity coming out of air supplies, if you want to get into air balancing a little.
When I got into the business, I rented the equipment from another auditor for a few weeks so that I felt comfortable with it. Then, I bought used once I felt confident enough to evaluate the equipment. (My first day, I did a ton of blower tests on an apartment, so I got real practiced real quick.) The only issue I found buying used is getting the equipment calibrated by the manufacturer. I used escrow.com for the transaction, so I felt protected from problems.
I did purchase a Fluke TiR thermal camera. It has 160x120 resolution, which is just barely enough...you'll find you'll always want more resolution with a thermal camera. I chose Fluke because it's rated to withstand a 2meter drop. I know someday it's going to slip out of my hands. Training is mandatory, otherwise you'll take pretty pictures, but you'll misinterpret what you're seeing. Better to take the training, first, then buy the camera.
I always charge extra when pulling out the thermal camera. RESNET has standards for thermal imaging which requires a delta T of 18 degrees between the inside and the outside. It also requires a blower door, with thermal imaging before and during use of the blower door so you can see where the air is infiltrating. RESNET has IR standards, BPI doesn't.
With the exception of insulation and duct work in the walls, I believe I find 90% to 95% of all the problems in a home with the blower door, smoke stick, and experience, so I don't tend to sell the thermal camera hard, especially in homes around 2,000 sf or less. Then again, I know how a blower door and experience stacks up to a thermal camera because I've spent a good amount of time practicing with both. Training and a rental can get you that same experience.
Where a thermal camera comes in great is in a larger house (3,000+ sf) at least 20 years old that has inaccessible attics. In that instance, a thermal camera was the only way to convince a particular homeowner they needed to cut accesses into their sealed off attics so we could weatherize. It also showed the fallen insulation on a 20 foot wall, which was a major cause of the drafts they felt in the room in the winter due to convective loops...and leaky duct work in other walls.