Spotting missing insulation

A couple of groups have asked about how to check whether they have insulation and specifically about thermal imaging. We’re happy to receive improvements to what we’ve told them.

Some of our more modern buildings are asking about how to check whether they have insulation. It’s fairly common to have installation marked on the architectural diagrams for buildings from, say, the 1990s onwards but for it never to have been installed. Often the people putting the building together are hired by the day by subcontractors to the main contractor. They still needed to get their job done even if the pile of insulation wasn’t there or was somewhere hidden on the day, and if a job was running late, they may have only thrown it in the easy bits. That won’t always be obvious to the main contractor or the local authority when they sign off on the building.

We’ve already provided information about the pitfalls in interpreting thermal images and suggest you read that:

Thermal imaging – is it useful? – HeatHack

Given care, though, they can be used to spot missing patches in the insulation. As long as you keep in mind that this link is biased – it’s funded through affiliate links – this discusses insulation specifically:

The main points are avoiding windy days and that you need about a 10C difference between inside and outside – so you may want to wait until autumn if you’re borrowing a camera. Unfortunately, this isn’t something we have available for loan. Some local councils and green networks do.

We don’t know if cameras are useful if the insulation could be missing completely. We know in theory how the thermal modelling to make an educated guess would work, but it’s tricky to pull off, especially without access to the expensive software the professionals use. It also probably takes a more detailed site survey than what we have the groups do in session 2, and it certainly takes good meter readings. That’s all way beyond the call of duty for our engineers!

If you can find no mention of insulation in original building documentation or in the property committee or finance archives, that’s pretty clear evidence that there isn’t any. Groups that were organised about getting insulation retrofitted are generally also good at record-keeping. If there should be insulation and you think there isn’t, we think there are some other tricks that get used to look, like having an electrician look behind the electrical sockets and in access hatches. Perhaps this is something where our engineers can make suggestions to us. We don’t want anyone to violate our Health and Safety rules, though. In our programme, the group’s planning process would note the concern and action it for a professional.