FLIR MR176 Imaging Moisture Meter: A Versatile Tool for Moisture Detection and Building Inspections

Published on Aug. 2, 2023, 9:41 p.m.

Introduction to Thermal Imaging Technology

Thermal imaging technology captures the heat emitted by objects and converts it into a visual image, allowing for non-invasive and quick detection of temperature variations. This technology is instrumental in various fields, including construction, healthcare, and industrial monitoring, providing valuable insights that are not visible to the naked eye. The FLIR MR176 leverages this technology to offer precise moisture detection, combining it with advanced moisture measurement techniques to deliver comprehensive diagnostics.

Moisture intrusion is a common problem in residential and commercial buildings that can lead to structural damage, mold growth, and unhealthy indoor air quality if left unchecked. The FLIR MR176 Imaging Moisture Meter combines high-quality thermal imaging with advanced moisture detection technology in one compact handheld tool, making it easy to identify moisture issues quickly.

This review will examine the key features of the FLIR MR176, including its design, image quality, moisture detection capabilities, battery life, accessories, and ease of use. Read on to learn why the MR176 is an ideal moisture meter for building inspectors, contractors, and homeowners concerned about excess moisture.

Overview and Design

The FLIR MR176 has an ergonomic design that fits nicely in one hand. It weighs just 11.4 oz and measures 6.9 x 2.9 x 1.7 inches, so it’s easy to maneuver into tight spaces. The rugged exterior can withstand a 3 meter drop test.

The back of the device houses a FLIR Lepton thermal imaging camera with 80 x 60 pixel resolution. Images are displayed on a bright 2.3” LCD color screen with five selectable color palettes. A laser pointer and crosshairs aid in targeting moisture issues identified in the IR image.

The MR176 runs on a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery that provides up to 10 hours of continuous operation per charge. It can be conveniently recharged via the micro USB port using the included charger.

Moisture Detection Features

The MR176 offers two methods of moisture detection:

Internal Pinless Sensor: This capacitive sensor integrated into the back of the device can detect moisture through non-invasive scanning. It detects moisture up to 0.75 inches deep, with readings displayed as relative values from 0-100.

External Pin Probe: The included MR02 pin probe can be attached to take intrusive moisture content readings, which are displayed as %MC (moisture content) for wood or %WME (wood moisture equivalent) for non-wood materials. The probe allows testing deeper into materials.

The meter automatically recognizes which sensor is in use. For pinless scanning, the user simply holds the back of the device to the surface. For pin probing, the pins are inserted into the material.

An excellent feature of the MR176 is Infrared Guided Measurement (IGM). When using IGM Moisture mode, the thermal image is shown alongside the moisture reading, allowing you to see the exact location of moisture issues.

The meter also has a Reference Mode that lets you set a baseline reading on dry materials and then shows differential readings comparing wet and dry areas. This makes it easy to pinpoint moisture intrusion.

The MR176 is equipped with a FLIR Lepton thermal imaging camera, a microbolometer focal plane array that provides a thermal sensitivity of less than 150mK. This high sensitivity allows for detecting subtle temperature differences, which is crucial for identifying moisture presence accurately. The device’s ability to blend thermal imaging with moisture measurement offers a powerful tool for professionals, ensuring that moisture-related issues are not just detected but are also visually represented for a more informed analysis.

Image Modes

In addition to IGM, the MR176 offers several image mode options:

  • IR mode - View only the thermal image

  • IGM Custom mode - View the thermal image with readings for temperature, humidity, dew point, and other parameters

  • Psychrometrics mode - View temperature/humidity readings without the thermal image

  • Moisture mode - View just the digital/graphical moisture reading

The thermal images can be saved and reviewed right on the device. They are stored as BMP files and can also be transferred to a computer via USB.

Technical Parameters Analysis

The FLIR MR176 features an 80 x 60 pixel resolution for its thermal imaging camera, which, while not the highest available in the market, is sufficient for detailed moisture detection. The device’s thermal sensitivity of <150 mK ensures that even small differences in temperature are captured, which is vital for accurate moisture detection. The meter’s pinless measurement depth of 0.75 inches and the pin moisture measurement range of 7-30% in wood provide flexibility and precision in various measurement scenarios, catering to the needs of different industries.

Ease of Use

Navigating the on-screen menu and various modes is simple with the responsive 5-way navigation buttons and center selection button. Readings stabilize quickly, and a handy environmental stability indicator lets you know when temperature and humidity readings have acclimated.

The MR176 has 18 pre-programmed material groups when using the pin probe, making it easy to select the appropriate setting. An audible/visual high moisture alarm can be configured to alert when readings exceed a set threshold.

Image capture is straightforward with the single screenshot button. The auto power-off function prevents accidental battery drain if you forget to power down the device.

Versatile Applications

The FLIR MR176’s advanced features make it suitable for a wide range of applications. Building inspectors utilize it to identify moisture sources and potential mold growth areas. In roof inspections, it helps in detecting water penetration and insulation issues. HVAC professionals use it to locate condensation and leaks, ensuring systems are operating efficiently. Additionally, its portability and intuitive design make it an essential tool for emergency responders, who rely on it for quick and accurate moisture detection in critical situations.

Image Quality

The thermal images on the MR176 are reasonably detailed given the compact 80 x 60 Lepton sensor. The five palette options (Iron, Rainbow, Ice, Gray) allow you to tailor the appearance as needed.

The 51° x 38° field of view is suitable for most inspection applications. While the images are not as sharp as higher-end FLIR cameras, the MR176 thermal visuals are perfectly adequate for moisture intrusion detection and very convenient given the integrated moisture meter functions.

Durability

The MR176 has an IP54 rating, meaning it is protected from dust ingress and splashing water. The 3 meter drop rating indicates it can withstand some rough handling.

The Li-ion battery can be recharged hundreds of times and should provide years of use if cared for properly. However, the battery is not user replaceable.

FLIR offers a 2-year warranty on parts and labor, indicating confidence in the construction quality. The MR02 pin probe is covered for 2 years as well.

Applications

The FLIR MR176 is ideal for building inspectors, contractors, and maintenance professionals who need to identify moisture issues and potential resulting problems like mold, decay, and energy loss.

It is well suited for:

  • Residential/commercial building inspections - Find leak sources, wet insulation, moisture behind walls

  • Roof inspections - Check for interior roof leaks and moisture under roofing materials

  • HVAC and mechanical inspections - Find condensation and leaks around ductwork, vents, and equipment

  • Claims adjustments - Document moisture damage for insurance providers

  • Water/flood restoration - Quickly identify the extent of moisture intrusion for remediation

  • General home maintenance - Locate water leaks, plumbing issues, permeated siding/walls

Its small size and ruggedness also allow the MR176 to be easily used in tight crawl spaces and other hard to reach areas. The IGM feature ensures you know the exact locations of moisture discovered in the IR image.

Accessories

FLIR offers additional accessories to expand the capabilities of the MR176:

  • Extra pin probes such as a heavy duty model for dense materials

  • Longer pin probes that can measure deeper into surfaces

  • Wider field-of-view infrared lenses for broader scanning of larger areas

  • Protective cases and lanyards for safe storage/handling

User Feedback Analysis for FLIR MR176

Overall Satisfaction

The FLIR MR176 enjoys a commendable 4.4 out of 5-star rating, indicating a high level of user satisfaction. Users appreciate the device’s integration of thermal imaging with moisture measurement, finding it invaluable for quick diagnostics and precise moisture detection.

Design and Ergonomics

Users frequently commend the MR176’s ergonomic design, noting its ease of handling and operation. The compact form factor is highlighted as particularly beneficial for accessing tight spaces, a crucial aspect for professionals in fields like construction and HVAC. The rugged build, capable of withstanding a 3-meter drop, is also a significant plus, reinforcing the tool’s durability in demanding work environments.

Thermal Imaging Capabilities

The integrated FLIR Lepton thermal imaging camera receives positive feedback for its functionality, despite its relatively modest resolution of 80 x 60 pixels. Users find the thermal sensitivity of less than 150mK to be sufficient for most moisture detection tasks, appreciating the clarity it brings to identifying damp areas.

Moisture Detection Features

The dual moisture detection modes—pinless and with a pin probe—are well-received, offering flexibility in how users approach different measurement scenarios. The intuitive interface for switching between modes and interpreting results is often mentioned as a standout feature, streamlining the diagnostic process.

Battery Life and Charging

The device’s battery life is lauded, with up to 10 hours of continuous operation fulfilling the needs of a full workday without the necessity for frequent recharging. The convenience of the micro USB charging port is a welcomed detail, allowing for easy and accessible charging.

Software and Image Analysis

While users appreciate the ability to capture and store thermal images, some feedback suggests a desire for more advanced image analysis tools within the device. The transfer of images to a computer for detailed analysis is straightforward, yet an on-device enhancement could streamline users’ workflow.

Areas for Improvement

Some users have pointed out the non-user-replaceable battery as a potential limitation, expressing a preference for the ability to swap batteries in the field. Additionally, while the image quality is generally satisfactory for moisture detection, a minority of users express a wish for higher resolution to facilitate more detailed inspections.

Market Position

Despite the relatively high price point, the consensus among users is that the MR176 offers substantial value for its cost, especially when considering the integration of advanced moisture detection with thermal imaging capabilities.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Excellent combination of thermal imaging and professional-grade moisture readings

  • Built-in non-invasive moisture scanning plus pin probe measurements

  • Laser pointer and image freezing simplify targeting specific areas after IR scanning

  • Rugged and portable

  • Intuitive menu system with multi-language support

Cons:

  • Battery not user replaceable

  • Image quality lags higher-end thermal cameras

  • Does not save images to standard image formats without using a computer

Pricing

The MR176 has an MSRP of $1119. This positions it at the higher end of handheld moisture meters but lower than most dedicated thermal imagers. Given its dual-function capabilities and accuracy, the price is reasonable for commercial use. It is also an affordable DIY tool for homeowners that provides excellent value given everything it can do.

Conclusion

The FLIR MR176 makes moisture detection quick and easy with its integrated thermal imaging and multiple moisture measurement modes. It produces high-quality data while being rugged and simple to operate.

For anyone who needs to identify excess moisture in structures, the MR176 provides excellent value as a standalone tool, outperforming single-function moisture meters. Its versatility, accuracy, and intuitive use make it our top choice for a combination infrared and moisture imaging camera.

Conclusion and Future Outlook

The FLIR MR176 stands out as a comprehensive tool that combines thermal imaging and moisture measurement, offering a robust solution for detecting and analyzing moisture issues. As technology advances, we can anticipate further enhancements in thermal imaging resolution and sensitivity, expanding the MR176’s applications and making it even more indispensable across various industries. Its current capabilities already set a high standard, and its future iterations will likely continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible in moisture detection and thermal imaging.

Specifications

  • Thermal sensitivity: <150 mK
  • Thermal resolution: 80 x 60 pixels
  • Field of view: 51° x 38°
  • Pin moisture measurement range: 7-30% in wood
  • Pinless measurement depth: 0.75 inches
  • 9 material adjustment groups
  • Built-in rechargeable battery
  • 10 hour battery life
  • Storage capacity: 9999 images
  • Operating temperature: 32°F to 122°F
  • Size: 6.9 x 2.9 x 1.7 inches
  • Weight: 11.4 oz
  • Drop test: 9.8 feet
  • Image palettes: Iron, Rainbow, Ice, Grayscale
  • Laser pointer: Class II, 1mW power

What’s Included

The FLIR MR176 comes with the following items in the box:

  • MR176 moisture meter
  • MR01 replaceable temperature and RH sensor
  • MR02 standard pin moisture probe
  • USB charging cable
  • International USB wall charger
  • Wrist strap
  • Carrying case
  • Quick start guide
  • Registration card

How to Use

Here is a brief overview of how to use the key features of the FLIR MR176:

  • Power on by pressing the center power button
  • Select moisture or thermal image mode using on-screen menu
  • For pinless scanning, hold sensor flat against surface
  • For pin measurements, connect probe and insert pins into material
  • Set reference readings on dry areas as needed
  • Adjust color palettes and settings in on-screen menu
  • Press the dedicated screenshot button to capture IR images
  • Use laser pointer to target areas of interest
  • View and manage saved images on the device
  • Transfer images to a computer via USB for further analysis
  • Recharge battery by connecting the USB cable to the charging port