08/12/2022

Warm Data

The cost-of-living crisis is hitting hard. And the cost of energy to heat our homes is a major concern. With wintry weather forecast in the coming days many people will struggle to make ends meet and maintain an acceptable living environment for their health and well-being.

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Increased energy costs are bad enough. But the poor insulation and poor airtightness of many of our homes – both new build and older solid wall properties – means that heat that should stay inside the home is lost to the atmosphere. It’s bad for our budget and bad for the environment.

A useful tool for understanding energy and heat losses in buildings is a thermal imaging camera. This captures light from the infrared spectrum – in effect it creates an image from the temperature of the objects in the viewfinder. Cooler objects are usually shown with cool blues and warmer objects with red, orange and yellow. The camera can provide spot temperatures for specific objects as well.

How is this helpful? Thermal imaging of the outside of a heated building shows where heat is escaping through the walls, roof, windows and doors. It gives an energy picture of the home – is it leaking energy or holding energy? Sometimes it reveals problems behind the surface, like areas of missing insulation and trouble-spots like leaky windows. Inside the building the same thermal imaging camera will show heat generated from electrical equipment – like a phone charger or TV on standby.

All this helps to build an ‘evidence base’ for action - what needs to be done to improve the insulation and airtightness and to reduce the energy bills. It shines a light on the problem.

Prospect Brixham wants to explore using this kind of data analysis in Brixham to provide an evidence base for change and improvement of properties. But rather than look at one home in isolation, we would like to recruit a cluster of similar homes from the same street. That way there’s room to compare results, learn from each other, try out different energy saving strategies or physical improvements (where available) and maybe negotiate favourable deals or grants for energy or retrofit work for a group of properties.

To get a good ‘energy picture’ of the performance of a home, participants would record at least gas and electricity consumption data (from meter readings or smart meters), weather data and some information about the construction of the building. The project objectives, methodology and parameters for the data collection will be co-designed and agreed with participants before the start, and participants will always be in control of their own data.

If you’re interested in this idea for using data for practical benefit on your street, please get in touch.

Contribution

Hero Credit: FLIR
Image Credit: Prospect Brixham
Author: Prospect Brixham

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