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Modern Tools for Termite inspection in inaccessible areas

Generally, there is no specific equipment required for termite inspections under standards in Australia, USA or the rest of the world. Only the presence of moisture has to be reported. Therefore, what tools should you use in order to inspect for termites?

The best inspection tools and results are dependent on different conditions throughout the world. The best detection tool still today is the Pest Control Technician; however the inspection should be backed up with the use of modern technology.

The biggest issue for Pest Control Technicians is to detect the existence and extent of inaccessible termites, then to track them to their entry point so that the correct treatment can be carried out. Many areas that are not inspected are identified as inaccessible visually. If wall coverings are not removed, it is impossible to reliably state that there are no termite infestations unless you use specialised inspection tools.

Inspection Tools

Non-destructive tools are the most important as they reduce damage and cost and leave no evidence of their usage. There are at least six tools that can be used as alternatives to visual inspections.

1. Moisture Meter

A capacitance meter is useful for surface measurement. Pin or conductance meter probe materials and can get measurements deeper inside the material being tested. Capacitance meters have the disadvantage of not being able to test small areas in comparison with conductance meters or the moisture sensor.

2. Thermal Imaging Camera

Infrared rays are invisible to the human eye; the infrared energy produced has a penetrating heating effect. Almost all objects, living or not, give off infrared heat, whether internally generated or reflected. These were used initially for military purposes in surveillance. Modern examples now in use are with binoculars, night viewing and measuring devices. Infrared rays are used in the thermal imaging camera system mainly in the building industry to locate defects.

Infrared thermal imaging cameras are used to find faulty electrical connections and heat and water leaks in walls and roofs. In recent years, to a limited extent in Australia and America, they have been used to include the detection of termites. Commercial termite detection models are now available. The thermal imaging camera detects heat at the surface area. It reads only the first 1/1000 of an inch of the surface, which means there has to be a congregation of termites within a nest in the void so that the heat generated actually penetrates to the surface. Detecting termites in voids therefore represents a challenge. They are complicated, require up to a five-day training course to learn how to use them, and are very expensive. As they only read the first 1/1000 of an inch of the surface, they should be used only with other equipment. Used on their own they will only be partially effective.

3. Optical Borescopes

These use visual light which travels through a hollow tube to see evidence of termites and damage within wall voids. They are best used in small and inaccessible areas. Usually a small hole has to be drilled so that it can be used. There are problems with fire insulation as this may block the view through the use of the fish-eye lens. Drilling can be avoided however where you get access behind wall points and any cavity gaps if available.

4. Electronic Odour Detectors

Electronic odour detectors detect methane gas which is produced by termites. One device in USA (Termitect II) was tested on subterranean termites and produce highly variable detection rates, 20 to 100%. It is questionable if electronic odour detectors are successful in locating termites.

5. Acoustic Emission Devices

Termites produce vibrations in wood and some can be heard by humans. Sounds made by termites are produced during feeding and by vibratory movements of workers. Newer technology, which amplifies and records termite-feeding vibrations, is acoustic emission (AE). Surface and subsurface probes are available that successfully detect termites in laboratory settings. Wall covering can impede sensor and AE performance. Detection is limited to ˜80cm along the length of a board and < 8cm across the grain. Excessive background noise can result in falsely identifying active dry wood termite infestations. AE detection equipment is commercially available, although availability is very limited. (This is an extract from Assessment of Devices for Inaccessible termite Infestations by Dr Vernard Lewis University of California, Berkley April 2010).

They are cumbersome and often difficult to hold still which is essential in order not to confuse with the sounds of the termites.

6. Termatrac® T3i

The Termatrac® T3i is the newest and most comprehensive advanced termite detection device. It is non-intrusive and provides pin-point accurate radar detection, remote thermal sensor and a moisture sensor as well as reporting – all in one easy to use tool. There is no physical penetration of walls, floors or ceilings, and will not disrupt and displace termite activity. This eliminates the need for post inspection repairs and inconvenience. It will not cause any damage to walls and will give the operator complete confidence knowing whether termites are present or not.

There is also a Remote Thermal Sensor with Laser Guide built in and this performs a similar role to a thermal imaging camera; however without the display of an image. This enables the operator to point and scan to identify sudden changes in building surface temperature which is a common sign of termite infestation. It is easy to use and takes only a few minutes to learn. A moisture sensor easily identifies termite risk areas by the concentrated risk of moisture. This moisture sensor is highly effective. Data readings are recorded and stored to specific locations within the building and reports produced. This is makes it easy to identify the location of past recorded termite activity for follow up and also helps prevent litigation. It is essential to have termite detection experience and get effective training in the use of advanced termite inspection tools.

Benefits of using advanced tools for termite inspections
•     The ability to confirm the presence of termites
•     Increased confidence in your knowing whether termites are present or not.
•     They will save you on a number of occasions when you may have walked away certain there were no termites.
•     Depending on the tools you use the reduction of or no damage to walls therefore reducing costs.
•     Customers will use your services ahead of others as you will be seen as more professional. Customers will be more confident of your                  services and your ability to protect their premises.
•     The increase in the number of termite detections plus the support of reports reduces potential claims and litigation.

Peter Baldwin
Director Sales & Marketing, Termatrac® Australia Pty Ltd

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