Without a doubt, having a strange van creep up and down your street or park in front of your home ranks pretty high on the menacing scale. However, paranoid U.K. homeowners peeking out behind drawn curtains in darkened living rooms needn’t fret about that ominous van. They’ve come to help.
They are the Heatseekers.
Last Friday when wrangling fresh green home news from around the globe, I linked to an article from The Guardian about Heatseekers, a British energy surveillance firm that snaps thermal images of homes to help illustrate the amount of heat escaping from a building. Considering the Big Brother/peeping Tom overtones of this venture — it's supported by local authorities across Britain — I thought it deserved more attention.

Here’s how it works:

The Heatseekers teams set out — during the winter at night when homes generally have the heat cranked up — in one of seven specially modified detection vans and cruise slowly up and down residential streets. Using a special thermal camera, they snap photographs of private homes. The resulting multicolored snapshots display heat leaking from specific parts of a home like windows, roofs, chimneys and garage doors. Whites, reds and yellows indicate a significant amount of heat exiting a home while blues and greens signal that the air around the home is cold and that little heat is escaping from the building. The team records the images — around 1,000 homes can be scanned in an hour when the van travels at 10 miles per hour — and then single out the greatest offenders, usually homes with no or improper insulation (check out this video to see the Heatseekers team in action).


After this, energy advisors take the photographic evidence along with them for a face-to-face visit with the unsuspecting homeowners. This doesn't take place that night, of course. During the consultation, the advisors provide energy-saving options, many of them government-founded programs. Essentially, Heatseekers’ goal is to use tangible evidence, the thermal energy images, to make lackadaisical homeowners proactive when it comes to energy-efficiency. You can't just tell someone that their home is wasting energy left and right. You have to show them. 

This tactic strikes me as being a tad confrontational, not to mention invasive, but as Heatseekers director Keith Hewitson points out, it’s all for the good of the homeowners:

"In the UK alone, there are probably eight million properties that require insulation of some sort. If you're looking at getting cavity wall insulation and good quality roof insulation, to a depth of about 250mm, you could save £200 to £300 per year on fuel bills."
So what do you think? Would you be more likely to take steps to better insulate your home if someone appeared on your doorstep brandishing a thermal image and asking to have a “word” with you? Or do you think this is an instance of the “green police” overstepping their bounds?  

I haven’t heard of local municipalities supporting similar efforts stateside. However, it isn't uncommon for homeowners, by their own volition, to hire companies providing thermal imaging as part of a home energy audit. I even stumbled across a Dayton, Ohio-based firm, also called Heatseekers, that provides a similar service as its U.K. counterpart (which by the way, is owned by Mark Group, a leading British insulation installer.)

Maybe those thermal detection vans will be crawling down Main Street USA sooner than we think…

Via [The Guardian]

Images: EnergyQue.com

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Feeling the heat
British eco-surveillance firm Heatseekers isn't out to get UK homeowners. They're here to help them save cash — and the planet.