Moisture Meters vs. Thermal Imaging Cameras for Home Inspections

moisture meter vs thermal imaging

There are some tools that seem like they’re just meant to be together.

Take the knife and fork(s) in a place setting at a formal dinner, for instance. 

Both types of cutlery serve different purposes, and there are several variations of each for more nuanced uses. But when paired together, making short work of a meal is no problem -- and a lot less messy. 

There’s a similar misconception when it comes to moisture meters vs. thermal imaging cameras for home moisture inspections. With each device type so different from the other in both function and purpose, it may seem like they’re meant for independent use. 

Put simply, that’s not the case. 

During a home moisture survey, using moisture meters and thermal imaging cameras together improves efficiency and preserves the integrity of findings. 

Moisture Meters vs. Thermal Imaging Cameras: An Overview 

As tools that complement each other, moisture meters and thermal imaging cameras go hand-in-hand in completing a moisture survey within a home.

Moisture Meters 

A moisture meter is the obvious first choice for a device to locate and measure moisture’s presence during a home inspection. To conduct thorough and accurate moisture surveys, it’s best to have both types of moisture meters involved: pinless and pin-type.

  1. Pinless: A non-invasive device, a pinless moisture meter is made for taking quick measurements to locate moisture. Using radio frequencies, pinless meters confirm moisture’s presence within its depth of measurement. Pinless meters’ readings are qualitative and help you quickly zero in on areas of concern. 
  2. Pin-type: Providing quantitative readings, pin-type meters are damp testing equipment that measures actual moisture content within a material. After making contact with the material being tested, a pin-type meter gauges moisture by measuring the electrical resistance between its pins. A pin-type meter’s readings are representative of moisture content in wood, or wood moisture equivalencies in other materials. 

Resource: Using a moisture meter -- both a pin-type or pinless -- to check walls shouldn’t leave a mark. Check out our article on how to test for moisture in walls damage-free.  


Thermal Imaging Cameras

In a way, thermal imaging cameras are not dissimilar to pinless moisture meters in that they help you locate moisture’s presence. 

A thermal imager does what a moisture meter can’t: detect differences in surface temperature. These cameras are most useful in zeroing in on areas that might require testing with a moisture meter.

Areas affected by moisture appear cooler -- usually blue -- on the camera’s screen. In instances of a hot water leak, the area affected will appear red on the device’s display. 

Thermal imagining cameras are not a foolproof way to locate moisture in a home inspection -- they’re another tool to help make an inspection easier. Nor do they give you quantitative readings beyond temperature differences. An identified cool or hot spot is not indicative of moisture -- the reason for the temperature difference could be as simple as missing insulation. 

Moisture Meters vs. Thermal Imaging Cameras: Better Together  

Despite their differences, there’s no reason a home inspector should opt for one device over another. In fact, moisture meters and thermal imaging cameras pair well together in a home inspection. 

At its core, a home moisture survey is a scan of the building envelope to identify moisture-related issues. Using a moisture meter and thermal imaging camera in tandem lets you do both. Their readings are interdependent on each other and speed up the process of elimination in determining where an inspection should focus. 

After an initial visual inspection during a home moisture survey, use the devices in this order to maximize your efficiency: 

  1. A thermal imaging camera is up first. With its ability to display surface temperature differences in real-time, you’ll quickly locate areas of concern to investigate further.
  2. A pinless moisture meter is on deck next. Using its radio frequencies, you’re able to determine if moisture is present within the cool spots identified by the thermal camera. 
  3. With its primary function of measuring actual moisture content inside a material, a pin-type meter comes last and can confirm the findings of the previous two devices. 

Regardless of what the readings of all three devices show you, your last step in checking an area for moisture is to check it again. Giving a space another once-over verifies your findings. 

Thermal Imaging Cameras & Moisture Meters: Not an Either/Or 

Sometimes what may seem like an unlikely combination makes for the best results. 

Such is the relationship between moisture meters and thermal imaging cameras during a home inspection. Used together, both devices help you inspect spaces more quickly and with better results. 

Add a Moisture Meter and Thermal Imaging Camera to Your Toolkit 

Our Thermal Survey Kit contains both devices. Learn more:

Thermal Survey Kit