Thermal Cameras Guide
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using thermal imaging to detect water leaks

Best Thermal Imaging Cameras For Leak Detection: Top Picks & Reviews

Looking for a thermal camera to detect HVAC and water leaks in your house?

We have you covered. 

As a homeowner, you can save a significant amount of money by thoroughly inspecting your property. 

Energy loss and thermal leaks are possible issues around the house, but you can only deal with them once you know where they are.

This is where thermal imaging cameras for leak detection come in. It’s impossible to see thermal leaks with the naked eye, but thermal leak detectors can help spot cold/hot spots in your home. By addressing them, you can reduce the overall energy loss, make your home energy-efficient, and reduce the overall bills.  


What's In This Guide?

This buying guide compares and reviews the best thermal imagers you can buy for leak detection in your home.  Many of these work just as well in a commercial or industrial setting. 

If you prefer a smartphone-based solution, check out our reviews of the best thermal imagers for your smartphone.

If you want a dedicated imager and have a limited budget, take a look at our reviews of the best cheap thermal imaging cameras. 

best thermal leak detector

Top 5 Thermal Imaging Camera for Water Leak Detection 

PerfectPrime IR0001 Infrared (IR)
  • PerfectPrime IR001

  • Best for Multiple Uses
  • Temperature Range:
    -20 to 300°C

  • Screen Size:
    2.4 inches

  • Warranty:
    2 Years

FLIR E5 Compact Thermal Imaging Camera
  • FLIR E5 Thermal Imaging Camera

  • Best for the Money
  • Temperature Range:
    20°C to +250°C

  • Screen Size:
    3 inches

  • Warranty:
    10 Years

Seek Thermal Revealpro
  • Seek Thermal RevealPro

  • Best for Convenience
  • Temperature Range:
    -40F° to 626°F

  • Screen Size:
    N/A

  • Warranty:
    N/A

HT-19 IR Infrared Thermal Imaging Camera
  • HTI-Xintai HTI-19 Infrared Thermal Camera

  • Best for Beginners
  • Temperature Range:
    -20°C to 300°C

  • Screen Size:
    3.2 inches

  • Warranty:
    Money-back guarantee

FLIR Pocket Thermal Camera
  • FLIR Pocket Thermal Camera

  • Best in Portability
  • Temperature Range:
    N/A

  • Screen Size:
    3 inches

  • Warranty:
    N/A


1. Best for Multiple Uses: PerfectPrime IR001

camera to detect water leaks

The IR001 is a great option for both homeowners and technicians. It is easy to use, highly efficient, and quite precise, too. Plus, it is quite versatile and can be used for several purposes. Thus, it is ideal for both residential and professional needs.

Pros

  • Works fairly quickly and fluidly displays data.
  • Lightweight and easy to use.
  • Comes with a plethora of features.
  • Also allows you to store and delete photos and videos.
  • Long battery life.
  • Features ¼-inch standard screws to place. the camera on a tripod.

Cons

  • Poor resolution.
  • Overlay camera and infrared sensor are out of sync .

Our Review

The PerfectPrime IR001 comes with a 2.4-inch full HD screen that ensures detailed and precise image data. The data on the screen is quite fluid, and the thermal imager converts the reading into visual images that you can understand easily. 

The 4GB microSD card present in the thermal imager stands out the most. You can store videos and photos in it, and it even allows you to recover deleted files in case you want to refer to them later. The remote sensing function is also fairly accurate.   

Moreover, PerfectPrime IR001 is quite budget-friendly and promises reliable and consistent performance. It also comes with a drop-resistant rope that allows for convenient fastening and a protection bag to safely store and transport the device.

Limitations

The only major problem with this device is the lower resolution of the images. The visible image resolution is only 0.3 megapixels, which is hardly the best you can get with other thermal imagers available on the market. So, you will get pixelated images, making things difficult. 

Bottom Line

All in all, the PerfectPrime IR001 comes with a 4GB memory card and a 2.4-inch full HD screen. It is quite handy and easy to use and is good for professionals and homeowners alike. It comes with accessories like a protection bag and a drop-resistant rope, making it a great purchase.


2. Best for the Money: FLIR E5 Thermal Imaging Camera

best thermal leak detector

The FLIR E5 is quite impressive; it promises accurate results and comes with user-friendly controls. It is rugged and lightweight and comes with great features. 

Pros

  • Well-built and packed in a sturdy case.
  • Decent image resolution and image updates quickly.
  • Long battery life with up to six hours of operation on low brightness.
  • Simple button layout, and you can use it with gloves on, too.
  •  Camera has multiple modes: 120x90 thermal imaging camera and 60x480 color camera.

Cons

  • Thermal imager and digital camera are offset.
  • Wide-angle lens doesn’t allow the user to focus on objects.

Our Review

The E5 has 120x90 infrared resolution and features MSX technology. MSX or Multi-Spectral Digital Imaging highlights a number of problems, including overheated circuits, water leaks, and energy loss. So, apart from leaks, it can quickly detect industrial, mechanical, and electrical issues.

Moreover, the Flir E5 comes with a downloadable mobile app that makes it easy to share images and reports from anywhere via laptops, smartphones, or tablets. This feature comes in handy, especially for professionals who need to transfer some information from the job site to the workplace in real-time. 

The E5 comes with a range of exceptional features. Despite that, it is quite simple to use. In addition, it comes with a number of accessories, such as a universal power charger, battery charger, and a USB cable. There’s also a reliable carrying case to make transport and storage easier. 

Limitations

There are no complaints regarding the features and design of this thermal imaging camera. However, the resolution could be better. Plus, the focusing ability for viewing close objects is not up to par. 

Bottom Line

Keeping its features in mind, the Flir E5 has superior functionality and precise detection abilities, and you can share images and data across different devices. This is something you don’t generally get at this price point.


3. Best for Convenience: Seek Thermal RevealPro

thermal imaging moisture detection

The Seek Thermal RevealPro is best known for the customization it offers. You can choose from a range of power usages, light levels, and image settings based on your preferences. So despite being a compact handheld device, it is suitable for both home and professional use. 

Pros

  • Battery lasts for a long time.
  • Built-in flashlight is quite useful.
  • Highly portable and is very useful for travelers and homeowners.
  • Allows you to easily find air and water leaks.
  • Very sensitive and can even register a minor difference in temperature.
  • Promises a large thermal sensor and good display resolution at a low price.

Cons

  • Screen size could have been bigger.
  • Doesn’t record videos.

Our Review

A number of things make the Seek Thermal RevealPro better than most other units present on the market. The highly functional features help obtain, store, transfer and share thermal images. Moreover, the device comes with an ergonomic grip that doesn’t put pressure on the hands and allows you to use the device for long.   

Since it comes with professional measurement tools, it is ideal for use on the job site. It helps identify building problems that you might not be able to see with the naked eye, like water damage, energy loss, mechanical failures, etc.

Another noteworthy feature of the RevealPro is the robust construction. A protective rubber casing houses the device, making it highly durable, so you can keep it in your toolbox along with other items. The battery life is also impressive and can last for up to ten hours, so you don’t have to worry about the device dying while you’re in the middle of an inspection. 

The Seek Thermal RevealPro features a 300 lumen LED light that allows you to clearly see while working in a dark or unlit space to provide further convenience. 

All these features make the RevealPro a convenient thermal image camera. So whether you are just an electrician looking for hotspots or a DIYer trying to solve home insulation problems, this model is worth the investment.           

Limitations

The small screen size is a bit of a problem and tends to inhibit the device’s thermal imaging capability. Moreover, the screen orientation can be a problem since it makes it difficult to inspect tight spots. 

Bottom Line

To sum up, the Seek Thermal RevealPro is a compact, handheld device that allows you to store, transfer, and share thermal images. It is fitted with a rechargeable battery that can run for up to ten hours. It also comes with additional features like a built-in 300-lumen flashlight. 


infrared water leak detection tools

The HTI-Xintai Infrared thermal camera is one of the best choices for DIYers and homeowners. It is highly efficient and comes with a functional design that allows you to detect leakage or energy loss sources within seconds.

Pros

  • Resolution is good, especially considering the price it is available at.
  • Relatively small, making it easier to carry around.
  • Can capture a wide range of temperatures.
  • Comes with adequate documentation.
  • Quite easy to use.

Cons

  • Images don’t have thermographic data.
  • Doesn’t allow you to record videos.
  • Small lens and sensor tend to capture noise in the images.

Our Review

The HT-19 is quite famous for its superior performance. It features a heat sensitivity detection range of -20°C to 300°C. Plus, it is a very basic and easy-to-use device that is quite intuitive and user-friendly. The 320x400 screen resolution ensures the result is easy to read and provides great detail. Further adding to the ease of use are the five color scale palettes. These make it easy to visualize the readings. 

We also like that it does the job in a relatively short time. This is because of the integration of real-time thermal imaging and surface temperature. Another useful feature is the built-in 3GB memory card for convenient storage. You can also connect it to a TV, laptop, or any other device and display the results there. 

The HTI-Xintai model also doesn’t have a learning curve. Thanks to the simple push buttons, you can immediately start using the device and get more accurate visualization. It is also lightweight at just 389 grams and comes with a rechargeable battery that allows a continuous operation of two to three hours per charge. 

The HT-19’s precision in delivering results is also noteworthy, which helps reduce energy bills significantly. It is also quite versatile; apart from finding hidden energy leaks around walls, windows, doors, pipes, and windows, you can use it for many other purposes. For instance, you can use it to check ceiling insulation around lights and if your HVAC system is working properly, and to diagnose engine misfires, too!

Lastly, it comes with a travel pouch so you can store and transport it without worrying about damaging it. Plus, the 100% money-back guarantee promises a no-risk purchase, making this worth a try. 

Limitations

The problem is that while the HT-19 stores the thermal images as a JPG format, it doesn’t store the temperature for the pixels. It shows the coldest and hottest pixels in live viewing, but it doesn’t save that data, which can be quite frustrating. 

Bottom Line

Overall, the HTI-Xintai HT-19 is a reliable unit that comes with all the features necessary for home thermal imaging applications, but you can use it for many other purposes, too. With its heat sensitivity range of -20°C to 300°C, it can detect leaks quite accurately. 


5. Best in Portability: FLIR Pocket Thermal Camera 

thermal imaging moisture detection

Flir is well-known in the thermal imaging industry for its thermal cameras, and this pocket thermal camera is no different. It is a pocket-size device that you can use for multiple purposes like electrical repair, HVAC maintenance, and building inspections. 

Pros

  • Comes with a picture in picture feature. 
  • Has a nice big button that allows you to take photos even with the gloves on.
  • Small, durable rubber body.
  • Main menu is easy to navigate.
  • Shows hot and cold spots.
  • Allows for a number of uses, such as checking hot electric circuits .

Cons

  • Onboard memory is insufficient.
  • Desktop software isn’t user-friendly.
  • Doesn’t have a memory card slot.

Our Review

The compact pocket thermal camera is a small, portable device that promises MSX enhanced images. The onboard visible light camera adds great detail to the final infrared image so you can easily identify and tackle problem areas before they become a big problem and cost you more. 

The camera promises undiluted thermal pictures that provide sufficient data. With these, you can determine the location of hot fuses, problematic heat patterns, plumbing issues, and cold issues. You can also view all the readings in real-time, whether you are streaming the video via USB or just looking at the camera's LCD. 

Its ability to detect the coldest or hottest spot in the house is incredible. This is possible because of the minimum or maximum temperature detection feature. The spotmeter is quite impressive, too. Moreover, the Flir pocket thermal camera comes with Wi-Fi connectivity, so you can share images wirelessly to your laptop, TV, or other devices.

It is a low-cost but excellent thermal imaging camera that comes with a number of accessories, including a tripod mount, storage pouch, a lanyard, and a USB cable. All of these add to the camera’s convenience.  

Limitations

There are two main problems with the unit. First, the battery life is quite limited and dies down pretty quickly even if the camera is on standby. There’s also no indication of when the battery is full, and the proprietary charging cable makes things a bit difficult. Plus, the battery isn’t removable, so you can’t carry a spare. Second, the Wi-Fi capability only works with an iPhone, so Android users looking for something similar will have to look for other options.   

Bottom Line

The FLIR thermal pocket camera is a small portable device that offers PSX enhanced thermal images and allows real-time streaming with the Wi-Fi feature. It also comes with a bunch of accessories like a lanyard, USB cable, and a pouch for further convenience. 


How to Use a Thermal Imaging Camera to Detect Water Leaks 

using thermal imaging to detect water leaks

Moisture infiltration and water leaks can lead to severe damage to a building or house and can be hard to detect until it’s too late. By using a thermal imaging camera under the right circumstances, you can find hidden moisture and water issues without taking any drastic measures like destructive testing. 

Moisture build-up can be due to a number of reasons, including rain and snow, pipe leaks, condensation, and humidity. A low level of moisture isn’t generally an issue, but heavy condensation and leaks can lead to severe issues. 

While a thermal imaging camera cannot actually see the moisture present in walls, it can detect patterns and subtle temperature differences that indicate the presence of water. 

Moisture in buildings spreads in a distinguished pattern, depending on where water is present.

  • On walls, an inverted triangular shape forms as the water spreads downwards. 
  • You will see water making its way up the wall into the insulation and over the wall studs in case of flooding.
  • Leaks in the hot water pipe show up as a warm area.
  • You will see an amorphous shape on the ceiling with areas of moist, damp, and wet material spreading outwards. The temperatures will vary, too. 

Here’s how you use a thermal imaging camera:

Step 1: 

Switch on the thermal camera and adjust the temperature sensitivity range. The range is based on both the outdoor ambient temperature and indoor temperature. 

Step 2:

Start to scan the room from any one wall. Continue around the room and end by scanning the ceiling. Pay close attention when scanning the bathrooms and windows. 

Depending on the environmental conditions, water present in the wall will either be warmer or cooler than the normal temperature of the wall’s construction material. So, if you use a thermal imaging camera with a color display, you will see different colors that indicate temperature variations and the possible presence of water. This temperature variation is due to the evaporation of water. 

Step 3:

If you think there’s a leak due to plumbing, switch on the water supply to that particular area. Meanwhile, if you think it is a roof leak, then you’ll have to use the camera during rainfall. 

Step 4:

Now focus on the areas where you think there’s a leak and look at the thermal image. A big difference in temperature in the ceiling means that there’s a water leak for sure. Similarly, if you observe a temperature difference below windows and at the bottom of the wall framings, then you should know there is a leak. 

Step 5:

To confirm the presence of moisture in the walls, you will need a moisture meter. Set it to wall type and put it against the wall. The moisture content of more than 18% is a problem that you must address immediately.


Features to Look for in a Thermal Camera for Leak Detection 

Choosing the correct thermal camera for leak detection can be quite difficult if you don’t know what to look for. Some things to look out for include:

Cost

The money you should spend on a thermal imaging camera depends on your frequency of use. If you want one only for personal need and won’t be using it daily, then you can opt for a cheap one. Such a thermal imaging camera would offer only basic detection.

On the other hand, if you are a building inspector and want a camera for professional use, then you’re better off with one that gives crystal clear images and accurate results. So, you should look for a high-end model that features high resolution, durability, and sensitivity and is suitable for daily use. 

Use 

It’s also important to consider where you will use the camera. If you’ll be working in different environmental conditions, then it’s better to opt for a heavy-duty, rugged, and strong camera that features decent drop protection. 

Service providers, in particular, should look for wear and tear-resistant models that can handle rough use. Homeowners will be fine with inexpensive basic leak detectors, too.    

Reporting software

While homeowners don’t need custom reports, service providers need to submit the final report to customers. For this reason, a camera with reporting and sharing software is the better choice.

User-friendliness

Thermal imaging cameras usually come with advanced functions and features. However, they should be easy to use. Intuitive buttons and menu control are particularly convenient for professionals and homeowners.

If you’re an inspector, it’s better to opt for a large screen camera, so you determine the exact problem without guessing. 

Accuracy 

Of course, a high-quality thermal camera is important to get accurate temperature readings and a clear picture. So, look for models with high thermal sensitivity so you don’t miss any defects that might later lead to energy loss. A camera that can detect small anomalies is even better so that you can pinpoint the problem long before it escalates into something bigger. 

Extra features 

While having additional features isn’t essential, it can surely make the task easier. For instance, if you want to know the moisture content data, you will need a moisture pen. Most thermal cameras for leak detection come with this pen. Similarly, a camera with a laser pointer makes it easy to see where you are pointing. This is particularly helpful when looking for hidden pipes. 

Apart from the room temperature, humidity can help determine if moisture is present on or not in the walls or roof. A humidity sensor in a thermal camera can tell you if the humidity is normal or not. 


Care and Maintenance of Thermal Cameras 

The primary purpose of cleaning a thermal camera is to remove the excess oils and dirt that reduce image accuracy. However, remember that you should only clean the lens when necessary. Regular cleaning or cleaning before every use isn’t necessary; only do so when you see fingerprints or dirt. 

When cleaning, here’s what you must do:

  1. 1
    Remove the dust by gently blowing on the lens. You can also use a lens cleaning brush to dust it. 
  2. 2
    Use a lens cleaner with 96% isopropyl alcohol. Alternatively, you can use a commercial lens cleaner with 30% isopropyl alcohol.
  3. 3
    Take a lens tissue or a cotton ball and dampen it with the cleaner.
  4. 4
    Start wiping from the center of the lens to the outer edges in a rolling motion. Make sure only the fresh cloth comes in contact with the lens as you continue to clean.
  5. 5
    Once done, dispose of the tissue/cotton ball; don’t re-use it.
  6. 6
    Finally, don’t rub-dry the lens. Instead, let it air dry. 

Remember to be gentle when cleaning. Excessive cleaning can wear the anti-reflective coating, which can result in more transmission loss and calibration errors. Ultimately, you will incur high service costs. 

Lastly, remember not to use the following materials to clean the camera as they may damage the anti-reflective coating:

  • Shirt cuff.
  • Hand towels and rags.
  • Paper towels.
  • Toilet paper and tissues.
  • Wet naps.
  • Microfiber cloths.

Thermal Imaging Cameras for Water Leak Detection: Frequently Asked Questions

Can thermal imaging help detect mold?

Thermal cameras help to identify problem areas that you cannot see with the naked eye, such as hidden water leaks. While it can detect hidden water leaks and where they originate from, it doesn’t detect mold directly. However, it can detect moisture where mold might cultivate. 

Can you use thermal imaging during daylight?

Thermal imaging cameras feature a special lens that focuses the infrared energy given off by an object onto a heat-sensitive detector. So, since that is unaffected by light, thermal imaging works as well in daylight as it does in darkness.

Can thermal imaging help see through walls? 

You cannot really use thermal cameras to see through walls. Walls are generally thick and insulated enough such that they block infrared radiation coming from the other side. So, if you aim the camera towards a wall, it can detect heat coming off from the wall, but not what’s behind it. 


Final Verdict: What is the Best Thermal Imaging Camera for Leak Detection? 

If this is your first time getting a thermal imaging camera, then your best bet is the HTI-Xintai HT-19 camera. 

Meanwhile, if your work involves you traveling to different job sites frequently, then the ideal option, in this case, is the FLIR pocket thermal camera, given its small size. 

If you’re looking for something precise and versatile, check out PerfectPrime IR001.