Q&A / 

Camera Inspection

DEAR TIM: I need to do a camera inspection of a concealed space in my home. Is there a micro inspection camera that will allow me to see behind walls, in ceilings and other places with minimal disruption? I know doctors use tiny inspection cameras to see inside a body as they do certain surgeries, and that's what I'm looking for. Are there inspection cameras made for homeowners? Can I use one to inspect my sewer pipe that clogs periodically? Lori L., Tampa, FL

DEAR LORI: Have I got great news for you. You can do a camera inspection with at least one of the several digital inspection cameras that are on the market. The technology has been around for several years, as the plumbing industry will frequently make use of a pipe-inspection camera that tells them the condition of sewer pipes. You can imagine how useful pipe-inspection cameras can be as they save the tremendous expense of having to dig up and expose a sewer line.

A sewer-inspection camera is a really handy tool. I doubt you would want to buy one, as they are so specialized. A camera for pipe inspection typically is equipped so that it can take a video of the entire journey through the sewer pipe. What's more, many are equipped with measuring devices that allow you to pinpoint where damaged pipes are, their location indoors or outdoors and often the depth to the broken or damaged pipe. It's best just to hire a plumber that has this equipment.

This micro inspection camera can identify problems quickly with little mess. You just need to insert the camera in a small hole. PHOTO CREDIT:  Brent Walter

This micro inspection camera can identify problems quickly with little mess. You just need to insert the camera in a small hole. PHOTO CREDIT: Brent Walter

However, you can now do your own digital-camera inspection with a handy tool that is equipped with a small camera head and a flexible 3-foot cable. This camera inspection system is hand held, and it sports a full color display. Not only can it take digital photos of what the camera is looking at, but it can also take videos. I can't tell you the number of times a tool like this would have saved me enormous amounts of time when I was still building each day.

This tool works great as a wall-inspection camera. All you have to do is drill a small three-quarter-inch hole in the wall for the camera head, and the tool slips into the dark cavity. The camera head is equipped with small LED lights to illuminate dark spaces so you can clearly see on the bright color screen what the camera is looking at.

This micro-inspection camera has a 3X zoom, and the picture on the screen is self-leveling. The lithium-ion rechargeable battery produces four hours of run time. That's more than enough to allow you to do whatever tasks you have.

The 3.5-inch color LCD screen produces 320 x 240 pixel resolution. The digital photos you snap or videos you shoot while the camera is in the concealed space are recorded on a common SD card. Once you're finished with the tool, you then can download these images to your computer to save, view and share them with contractors or anyone else who needs to see what's behind the wall, in the ceiling, in a duct or hidden in some other dark space you can't get to.

This tool is a great remote inspection camera. The flexible shaft gives you all sorts of options when trying to inspect something you just can't reach. The best part, in my opinion, is the imaging aspect. You can make copies of everything you see. You don't have to describe it verbally, as the photos and videos tell the tale.

While this camera inspection tool is somewhat expensive, if you have family that wants to share it, it might make sense to have several people contribute to purchase it. You won't use this micro-inspection camera each week, but when you need it, there simply is no substitute. I guarantee that you'll be impressed with the quality and versatility of this great tool.

Electronic tools like this need some tender loving care. You don't toss them around like a hammer, or leave them lying around in the open on a jobsite. This is why you should always store it immediately in the rugged carrying case. It only takes a few minutes to store, so there are no excuses as to why the tool should ever be out of the case other than it being in use.

Using this tool is easy. There is virtually no learning curve. You can even use it underwater! The manufacturer says it's waterproof down to 10 feet. Being able to see underwater to do some sort of inspection, and record it was something I thought would only be possible with professional equipment. To have that power in the hands of the average homeowner is indeed an amazing technological advancement.

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