Promoting energy conservation through thermal imaging

When I posted the suggestion that adding thermal imaging capability to the cameras on ordinary smart phones would boost energy efficiency, I did not know there was published research offering some support for claim. As it turns out….

Julie Goodhew, Sabine Pahl, Tim Auburn, and Steve Goodhew, “Making Heat Visible: Promoting Energy Conservation Behaviors Through Thermal Imaging” Environment & Behavior, December 2015 vol. 47 no. 10 1059-1088

Abstract: Householders play a role in energy conservation through the decisions they make about purchases and installations such as insulation, and through their habitual behavior. The present U.K. study investigated the effect of thermal imaging technology on energy conservation, by measuring the behavioral effect after householders viewed images of heat escaping from or cold air entering their homes. In Study 1 (n = 43), householders who received a thermal image reduced their energy use at a 1-year follow-up, whereas householders who received a carbon footprint audit and a non-intervention control demonstrated no change. In Study 2 (n = 87), householders were nearly 5 times more likely to install draught proofing measures after seeing a thermal image. The effect was especially pronounced for actions that addressed an issue visible in the images. Findings indicate that using thermal imaging to make heat loss visible can promote energy conservation.

In a quite literal fashion thermal imagery helps consumers visualize the efficiency losses caused by cracks or damaged insulation or other issues.

The research considers the effects of a thermal image created by an expert in thermography using professional equipment. I still think, as I said in the earlier post, that easy consumer access to thermal imagery would be even more powerful.