Calgary homeowners have a new high-tech tool to help them save money and reduce their impact on the environment.
Aimed at improving urban energy efficiency, the HEAT (Heat Energy Assessment Technologies) project visualizes the amount and location of waste heat leaving homes and communities by using thermal imaging.
By showing homeowners where their homes are wasting heat, how much it’s costing them, and how to fix it — all on Google Maps and all for free – the tool can help residents improve their home’s energy efficiency, save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Led by U of C professor Geoffrey Hay, the project was chosen for the $10,000 grand prize at the MIT CoLab Conference over 400 submissions from more than 30 countries in 20 competitions.
“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,” said Hay. “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 take action, and we want to show them how.”
The HEAT maps show grades ranging from red to blue (hot to cold) that represent differences in the amount of wasted heat leaving residential buildings, with blue representing a relatively waste-free home and red representing a home where waste heat is high. Homes are also given scores ranging between 0 and 100, which helps compare one or more houses.
By clicking on an individual home, users of the site can also see where heat is being lost in the home and even what the estimated financial and equivalent carbon dioxide (CO2e) savings per year would be.
Currently, the HEAT pilot project has gathered information on 37,914 homes in northwest Calgary, although the intention is to map the entire city.
“By scaling up the heat consumption results from 37,000 Calgary homes to the full city of Calgary with over 330,000 individual singledwelling residences, we estimate total municipal savings (for natural gas) of $33,564,386 and a reduction of 198,216 tonnes of CO2 per year,” said Hay.
Typically escaping through poorly insulated doors, windows, walls, ceilings, ductwork and electrical fixtures, waste heat represents expensive heated air that is leaving a home, instead of staying and keeping the house warm.
Interestingly, Calgary’s newer neighbourhoods ranked worse than older communities under HEAT’s rankings. With an average ranking of 25, Dalhousie was the “coolest” community in the city while Patterson was the “hottest,” with an average score of 73.
In Canada, buildings account for 35 per cent of all emitted green house gasses (GHG), generate 10 per cent of airborne particulate matter, 33 per cent of Canada’s total energy production and 50 per cent of Canada’s natural resources, of which the majority is used for space and water heating.
For Calgary home inspector Kevin Sixsmith, the ability for homeowners to visualize inefficiencies in their home is a big step forward.
“This type of tool is always good as people act quicker when they can visually see that there may be a problem or that improve their homes and save money,” said Sixsmith. “People are slowly learning the importance of how homes are built so they may save energy which in turn save themselves money.”
Comparing the energy efficiency of their future homes is just one of the new tools available to homebuyers. Along with hiring a REALTOR®, homeowners can now browse listings that come complete with professional photos and video. The power to virtually walk prospective neighbourhoods via Google Street View and criteria such as Walk Scores can help educate buyers about the area without ever leaving their home, while EnerGuide ratings, available through CREB®’s HomeSmarts website (www.creb.com/homesmarts) help them better understand how to save money.
“The additional information available to REALTORS® through programs like HomeSmarts enables them to customize the home buying experience and meet the expressed needs of their clients. If energy efficiency is a priority for a client, HomeSmarts enables a REALTOR® to meet that need,” said CREB® Member Services Manager Lisa Roberts. “Connecting with the University of Calgary on the HEAT initiative is another way for us to expand our view of what energy efficiency looks like for REALTORS®.”