HEAT Mapping Neighborhood Home Energy Waste with Aerial Thermal Imaging and GIS

HEAT Mapping Neighborhood Home Energy Waste with Aerial Thermal Imaging and GIS

A team from the University of Calgary has developed a GIS system to map waste heat emitted from homes to help identify neighborhoods that will benefit most from home improvements to save energy. The data is being made publicly available through an online geographic information system to influence community values about energy conservation.

map of calgary neighborhoods

The University of Calgary HEAT project has mapped energy waste from nearly 38 thousand homes across 15 neighborhoods in Calgary, Alberta.

So, who cares if your neighbor burns energy like there’s no tomorrow? After all, it’s their home, their money, should it be any of your business? It matters because your neighbor’s home has much in common with your home, including energy performance, comfort and health issues, and, building durability too.

American neighborhoods are typically constructed by production builders over a short time, using standard floor plans and many of the same trade contractors. People like similar architectural style that gives character to a neighborhood. Often restrictive covenants and design standards are enforced to ensure the neighborhood will retain its original flavor.

Likewise, the guts of these homes are also alike – foundations, windows, insulation, air leakage, duct systems, heating and cooling equipment are similar and often built by the same trade contractors. You don’t see it from the street, but you can feel it on the hottest and coldest days when rooms are too hot or too cold. You’ll also feel it later in the month when that fat utility bill gets stuffed into your mailbox.

Production building strategies are focused on delivering homes with the lowest purchase price because the real estate market only values asset cost, not operational cost. You may have noticed the billboards around town highlight new home prices with the lowest cost per square foot. The builder has no responsibility for a home’s operational cost – the light bill, gas and water, or maintenance costs.

The Calgary HEAT team is using aerial thermal images to make energy waste transparent in the community. The Calgary team is producing neighborhood HEAT maps that can guide prospective homebuyers and current owners about the relative energy waste between neighborhoods. They offer detail down to the individual home, which is less reliable than the neighborhood scale, but an interesting comparison, and certain to get people thinking about an economic issue that impacts every family.

Homeowners loved to brag about rising home values during the real estate boom that died with the sub-prime meltdown in 2008. The HEAT map may well change the conversation we have about our homes. Do you have a low electric bill? Let me tell you how much I’m saving every month! Now that’s and investment worth bragging about and HEAT maps may spur it on.

Neighborhood homes.

Captured during night flyover, rooftop thermal images are mapped into a city GIS database and Google maps. Relative heat loss is color coded from high (red) to cool (blue).

The project was recognized by the MIT Climate CoLab with a grand prize November 7. Dr. Geoffrey Hay and his team from the University of Calgary, took home a $10,000 award for their HEAT (Heat Energy Assessment Technologies) project.

The team’s proposal and documentation:

Behaviour research shows that effective feedback increases public awareness and helps to significantly reduce energy consumption and GHG emissions. This in-turn is supported by a host of in-home energy monitoring systems appearing on the market. But how can a resident know if her home (not the devices inside it), her community and her city is ‘energy efficient’; where are the inefficient areas located; what do they cost (financially and to the environment) and what can she do about them?

Solution: To address these issues, we present HEAT (Heat Energy Assessment Technologies): a FREE Geoweb Decision Support Service (GDSS) designed to help residents (i) improve their home energy efficiency, (ii) save their money, and (iii) reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by finding their HEAT Score and Hot Spots and visualizing the amount and location of waste heat leaving their homes and communities, as easily as clicking on their house in Google Maps.”

“… the great killer app of energy use will be letting people know how they’re doing relative to others. Comparison will change behaviours very quickly, because nobody wants to be the outlying energy hog…”  – Alex Steffen (2011)

Individual home heat loss is available along with Google Street View.

Individual home heat loss is available along with Google Street View.

Mission: HEAT’s mission is to integrate leading-edge Geospatial Technologies and key Behavioural Science findings to show ‘what urban energy efficiency looks like’, ‘where it’s located’, ‘what it costs’ and ‘what to do about it’. We believe that if people could see the waste heat they generate and if they knew how much it cost (financially and to the environment), that they would want to take action. We want to show them how.

Our Vision: HEAT’s vision is to Empower the Urban Energy Efficiency movement by providing free, accurate and regularly updated waste heat solutions for the world.

Our Results: Currently, interactive wasteheat maps for 37,914 single resident Calgary homes are freely available online.The HEAT GDSS integrates advanced geospatial technologies for residential waste heat monitoring and GHG estimation based on high-resolution thermal infra-red (TIR) airborne imagery (TABI 1800), geo-object feature detection, Web 2.0 technologies and City GIS cadastral data.

Key Features include:

  1. The ability to easily visualize and discover the wasteheat performance of individual homes, neighbourhoods, communities and (in the future) entire Cities;
  2. An interactive Hot Spot detection tool linked with Google Street view to visually confirm the 12 hottest location on each home – shown 3 at a time;
  3. A (newly implemented) VGI (volunteered geographic information) system for users to define roof material which encourages user participation, improves urban classification and supports temperature accuracy (through emissivity quantification).
  4. An energy-use model and interactive statistics/graphs (based on the NRCan Thermal Archetypes project and its 800,000+ home database) showing potential savings and GHG reductions.
  5. HEAT Scores for home and community waste-heat comparisons, competitions and monitoring. HEAT Scores range from 1 (blue: low wasteheat) to 100 (red: high wasteheat) and provide a relative descriptor for comparing the waste heat of mapped houses in and between communities and cities.
  6. A new link to a LEED and EnerGuide Certified Energy Advisor as well as a recent guide on‘Keeping the HEAT In’ by Natural Resources Canada, Office of Energy Efficiency.