FLIR MR160 Thermal Imaging Moisture Meter - A Versatile Tool for Detecting Hidden Moisture

Published on Aug. 2, 2023, 4:42 p.m.

Before delving into the specifics of the FLIR MR160 Thermal Imaging Moisture Meter, it’s crucial to understand the significance of thermal imaging technology. Thermal imagers capture the heat emitted by objects, converting it into a visual image that represents temperature variations. This technology is invaluable for identifying areas of heat loss, detecting moisture, and diagnosing electrical or mechanical issues.

Moisture intrusion can cause serious damage to buildings if left undetected and untreated. From mold growth to structural damage, excess moisture poses both health hazards and expensive repairs. The FLIR MR160 Thermal Imaging Moisture Meter is an innovative tool that uses infrared technology to identify moisture issues quickly and accurately. With its built-in thermal imager, pinless sensor, and external pin probe, the MR160 provides a versatile solution for assessing moisture in a range of applications.

 FLIR MR160 Imaging Moisture Meter

Overview of the FLIR MR160

The MR160 moisture meter from FLIR Systems combines a thermal camera with moisture measurement capabilities in one rugged, handheld device. It features FLIR’s patented Infrared Guided Measurement (IGM) technology that visually guides users to areas of potential moisture intrusion for further analysis. Once a cold spot is identified with the thermal imager, the integrated pinless sensor and external pin probe can take precise moisture readings at the surface and below to determine if excess moisture is present.

With its compact size and rechargeable battery, the MR160 is designed for portability and continuous use in the field. It has an intuitive interface and color display for easy targeting and analysis. The MR160 can store up to 9,999 thermal images, which can be downloaded to a computer and reviewed with FLIR’s reporting software.

Key Features and Benefits

Built-in 80 x 60 Thermal Imager

The high-resolution thermal imager detects temperature differences that may indicate moisture intrusion. It displays a real-time thermal image on the color LCD screen to guide users to problem areas.

Infrared Guided Measurement (IGM) Technology

IGM technology sets the MR160 apart from standard moisture meters. It lets users visually identify moisture issues before taking measurements, improving accuracy and eliminating guesswork.

Integrated Pinless Sensor

The built-in, non-invasive pinless sensor measures moisture below the surface using radio frequency technology. It provides instant readings without damaging materials.

External Pin Probe

In addition to the pinless sensor, the MR160 comes with a detachable pin probe for taking contact moisture readings. The probe can test deeper into materials like wood.

Automatic Image Calibration

The MR160 automatically calibrates each thermal image to ensure accuracy. Users can get crisp, focused images from as close as 4 inches from the target.

Rugged, Portable Design

With its durable housing, the MR160 is built to withstand daily use in tough environmental conditions. It runs for up to 18 hours on a single charge for extended use in the field.

Technical Background of Thermal Imaging

Thermal imagers detect infrared radiation, transforming it into a visual representation. Key performance indicators for these devices include resolution, temperature range, and sensitivity. Understanding these factors is vital for choosing the right thermal imaging equipment for specific applications.

Operation and Ease of Use

Despite its advanced capabilities, the MR160 is designed to be user-friendly. The ergonomic body fits nicely in one hand, and the interface uses intuitive menus and function keys. To take a moisture reading, users simply pull the trigger or press the measurement button while aiming at the target surface. The built-in laser and crosshairs precisely guide where measurements will be taken.

The MR160 automatically detects when the external pin probe is connected, allowing seamless switching between contact and non-contact readings. Up to nine different material groups can be selected in pin mode for customized reference values. Users can easily adjust settings like image palette, emissivity, alarms and more on the LCD display.

Downloading thermal images is a straightforward process using the included USB cable and FLIR’s reporting software. The software allows full analysis of the IR images, moisture readings, and temperature data. Images can be embedded into detailed inspection reports.

Image Quality and Thermal Sensitivity

Featuring FLIR’s Lepton microbolometer detector, the MR160 produces thermal images with a resolution of 4800 pixels on its 80 x 60 array. The images clearly highlight temperature variances down to less than 0.15°C. This high level of accuracy and sensitivity enables tiny moisture issues to become visible.

The MR160 automatically adjusts to ambient conditions but also allows manual adjustments to image settings. Users can tweak parameters like palette, level and span, and emissivity correction. Six different color palettes are available to optimize images for any environment. Overall, the MR160 delivers excellent thermal image quality for its compact size.

Moisture Measurement Performance

In pinless mode, the MR160 can accurately detect and measure moisture levels through non-conductive materials up to 19mm deep. It detects changes as small as 0.1 in material moisture content. The external pin probe extends the measurement depth and provides direct moisture readings with the probe tips inserted into the material. It has ranges up to 100% wood moisture equivalent (WME).

The MR160 moisture meter compares favorably to professional-grade moisture meters in terms of precision and repeatability. Its moisture readings are consistent with other calibrated instruments on both wood and building materials. The pinless radio frequency sensor provides accurate results without surface contact, eliminating variability from factors like wood density and temperature.

Applications and Suitable Uses

With its dual moisture measurement modes and infrared imaging capabilities, the versatile MR160 can assess moisture issues during:

  • Water damage restoration - Find the full extent of water intrusion behind walls and floors without destructive testing. Document moisture readings and thermal images to support insurance claims.

  • Mold inspections - Scan for moisture conducive conditions that contribute to mold growth. Identify hidden leaks before major mold colonization occurs.

  • Construction moisture mapping - Check for elevated moisture in building materials during construction that could impact performance if not addressed.

  • Roof leak troubleshooting - Pinpoint the exact location of roof and plumbing leaks before major damage can occur.

  • HVAC inspections - Detect areas of condensation or water ingress around ductwork, vents and AC units.

With the MR160’s wide range of features, both building inspectors and restoration contractors can benefit from owning this versatile diagnostic tool. It is also suitable for the occasional DIYer looking to diagnose moisture issues in their home.

Image Storage and Reporting Software

The FLIR MR160 comes with powerful, yet easy-to-use software for managing thermal images and analyzing data. FLIR Tools allows users to organize saved images, add annotations, adjust parameters, and select color palettes. Temperature measurement spots, humidity readings, and other meter values can be overlaid on images.

FLIR Tools also generates professional reports from the collected images and data. This documentation capability takes the MR160 beyond a basic inspection tool to a instrument that supports moisture claims and illustrates remediation requirements.

Battery Life and Charging

Powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, the MR160 can run continuously for up to 18 hours on a full charge. This allows for several days of typical use between charges. The battery charges via a micro USB port, and FLIR includes the required cable. A full recharge takes around 2 hours.

The portable design and long battery life make the MR160 suited for extended field work. Users don’t have to worry about constantly recharging like some thermal cameras. Just charge it overnight and it’s ready for a full day of inspections.

Durability and Support

FLIRSystems built the MR160 moisture meter to handle rugged use in tough environments. The hard plastic housing protects sensitive components from accidental bumps and drops. IP54 rating provides additional protection against dust and splashing water. With care, the MR160 will provide years of reliable service.

FLIR offers a 2-year product warranty and 10-year warranty on the thermal detector, demonstrating the company’s confidence in its design. Customer and technical support are available by phone and email in case any issues arise. Software updates are provided to continuously improve performance and fix bugs.

Drawbacks and Areas for Improvement

While the MR160 performs well overall, a few minor drawbacks are worth mentioning:

  • Thermal resolution is limited at 80 x 60 pixels. Higher end FLIR cameras offer better IR image detail.

  • Calibration shifts over time can affect moisture accuracy. Annual recalibration is recommended.

  • The micro USB charging port cover is flimsy. A sturdier protective flap would improve durability.

  • Menu navigation relies on small buttons and could be streamlined.

  • Pin moisture groups are fixed at 9 options. More material presets would be beneficial.

  • The free software lacks some analysis features found in premium FLIR software.

 FLIR MR160 Imaging Moisture Meter

Suitable Applications

  • Water and flood damage assessment
  • Mold inspection and prevention
  • Roof and plumbing leak detection
  • Finding moisture issues in floors, walls, and ceilings
  • Mapping moisture during construction

User Feedback

The MR160 rates 4.3 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with over 280 customer reviews. Positive feedback highlights the pinpoint moisture detection, intuitive controls, ruggedness, and excellent battery life. Users mention the MR160 provides invaluable thermal imaging to locate moisture issues. Negative reviews cite some accuracy shifts over time, mediocre image detail, and a steep learning curve.

Pros

  • Built-in thermal imager and dual moisture sensors
  • Infrared-guided moisture detection
  • Large color display with intuitive menu system
  • Rugged, portable construction
  • Rechargeable battery for extended use

Cons

  • Moderate thermal image resolution
  • Moisture accuracy degrades over time without calibration
  • Price is high for limited home use
  • Software is not as robust as high-end FLIR programs

  FLIR MR160 Imaging Moisture Meter

Pricing and Value

With an MSRP around $650, the MR160 hits the sweet spot of providing professional-grade features and accuracy without the high cost of industrial scientific instruments. For a combination moisture meter and infrared camera, it delivers outstanding value compared to purchasing separate devices.

Considering the MR160’s versatile inspection capabilities and long-term utility, the price is reasonable for serious building inspectors and contractors. Homeowners may find it expensive for occasional use and may prefer a more basic moisture meter. Overall, the MR160’s capabilities justify the investment for those who will leverage its full potential.

Verdict and Recommendation

The FLIR MR160 thermal imaging moisture meter represents a leap forward in combining moisture quantification and infrared diagnostics in one specialized tool. With innovative IGM technology and dual measurement modes, the MR160 locates hidden moisture issues with

Specifications

  • Thermal resolution: 80 x 60 pixels
  • Thermal sensitivity: <150 mK
  • Pinless moisture depth: 19 mm
  • Pin moisture range: 0-100% WME
  • Image storage: Up to 9,999 images
  • Battery life: 18 hours continuous
  • Size: 5.5 x 2.9 x 1.7 in (140 x 73 x 43 mm)
  • Weight: 11 oz (312 g)

What’s Included

  • FLIR MR160 meter
  • External pin moisture probe
  • USB cable
  • Power supply and plugs
  • Lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • Printed quick start guide
  • 2 year warranty card

How To Use

  1. Charge the MR160 fully before first use
  2. Turn on the meter and select moisture or thermal mode
  3. For pinless readings, place the sensor directly on the material
  4. For pin readings, connect the probe and insert pins into the material
  5. Adjust emissivity, palette, and other image settings as needed
  6. Use the laser guide and trigger to capture thermal images
  7. Download images and data to the FLIR Tools software
  8. Analyze results and moisture readings
  9. Create professional inspection reports (optional)