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Why heat the outdoors? To assure you don’t, you’ll need to track down hot air leaking out of the house. You could drop megabucks to have a pro bring out a $5,000 infrared camera and perform a home energy audit. But hey — we’re talking about saving money, not spending it. Black & Decker offers a cheaper (and somewhat simpler) solution: their Thermal Leak Detector. And it’s just $40.

Starting with the pro’s camera, Black & Decker’s engineers asked “What don’t you need to get the job done?” First to go: the camera’s expensive CCD chip. Do you really need to see a thermal picture of the house just to find hot air? Instead, they replaced the CCD with a simple laser pyrometer — and a brilliantly simple interface.

When you turn on the TLD, it shines a green spot wherever you’ve aimed the pyrometer. It also displays the temperature of the spot on its LCD. The temperature of this initial spot becomes the standard, and as you move the spot around, the TLD changes the color of the light when the temperature climbs or drops. Red indicates hotter, blue colder. You can select the sensitivity — 1, 5, or 10 degrees F — via a switch.

It’s incredibly easy to use. Point it at the floor and turn it on. Walk around the house shining the light on various spots, and you’ll quickly discover whether or not, for example, the electrician pulled all the insulation out around outlets on exterior walls, whether windows leak, or whether your heater is venting into your attic, heating it instead of your house. Try it outside on a cold day to look for hot air escaping, or indoors to find cold air leaking in.

The TLD isn’t new. It’s been out for quite a while now, and I’ve written about it for multiple publications. But as temperatures finally start to drop I couldn’t help but bring it up again. We use ours around the office regularly, both for its intended purpose and for fun. $5,000 is way too much cash to blow on maybe finding some spare dough this winter. But $40 isn’t bad at all.

Thermal Leak Detector [Black & Decker]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]
Street Pricing [Google Products]


10 Responses to Save This Winter By Hunting Down Heat Leaks

  1. ToolGuyd says:

    So basically this is just a more home-owner-friendly IR pyrometer? If so, then the TLD is better compared to everyday $15-$55 IR thermometers instead of $5k FLIR imaging cameras.

    Nevertheless, it looks pretty darned dandy. Your positive

  2. ToolGuyd says:

    [Sorry for the chop off, I hit the wrong key]

    Your positive take on the TLD has convinced me that I “need” one. Hopefully there will be some decent discounts on it during the upcoming holiday shopping season.

  3. ThermalGuy says:

    So, if I wanted to map the exterior walls & ceilings of my 2500 sq ft house, it would take about forever to do it. And I couldn’t save any images of the problem areas. This tool may be adequate to look at limited areas, but not practical to try to perform what I can do in about an hour with an infrared camera. Remenber the old saying “A picture is worth a thousand words”, any worthwhile imaging has saved pictures for reference.

  4. Geoff K. says:

    @ThermalGuy: If you have an IR camera, then by all means that’s a more sensible solution. However, very few folks have such a gizmo, and this Thermal Leak Detector seems far more likely to fit one’s budget than would an IR camera.

    You’re right, it would be great to capture an image, but for a quick check at a relatively small price, this tool looks interesting.

    I wonder about other IR pyrometers that show actual temperature readout and how much they cost. Does anyone have any experience they could share? How about price range?

  5. rick says:

    i pucked up a small ir thermometer for $9. It would definitely do the job, and I should do it this winter. $5000 will be hard to recover, however, if you can pick up something like this for <$100 I think you would likely recover it in the first year!

    Speaking of efficiency, dont forget to close the doors and heating vents to the rooms you are not currently using. And for those that useheating oil, take a look into bioheating oil. I have seem prices that are the same (sometimes lower) then regular heating oil. I havent tried it, but it claims to work the same..

    I think a few heating articles would be good to have a few heating related artcles. Woodstoves/natural gas/heat pump/oil heat/electric.

    good writup!

  6. rick says:

    oh, and to continue the above post, I have a woodstove supplemented by a heatpump and then oil. I highly reccomend a heatpump if you have to change out your central AC. I did the math and it was worth it, in practice it actually saves a lot more money than i caculated. Very cheap to heat the house (not as cheap as my wood stove though).

  7. David Bryan says:

    You might be surprised at how much you can find out just using a candle flame.

  8. Toolhearty says:

    David Bryan Says:
    You might be surprised at how much you can find out just using a candle flame.

    …but this has a freakin’ laser beam.

  9. David Bryan says:

    I’m going to have to work on putting a laser on my draft-locating candle.

  10. Robert Cox says:

    Accuracy and sensitivity of this device and similar falls of greatly with distance.

    This is because it has a large “spot size” (minimum resolution) and no optics.

    And for $5,000, an inspector has a lower quality instrument.

    We currently have a 17,000 dollar FLIR and a $30,000 Fluke that perform at very nice resolutions.

    I did a friends 3,000 sq ft house one evening in less than an hour and found major heat losses.

    Doing it with a device like this would have been impossible, because you can’t get close enough in some areas to overcome spot size defiencies, therefore the temp deltas are masked.

    (Certified Thermographer)

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