Drive-by identification of energy-leaking homes


So the whole point of this is targeted marketing?

I mean I used to live in a 100 year old bungalow…let me tell you, there was no efficient use of energy anywhere to be found. Now I live in a much, much new home and guess what, I can keep it a reasonable temperature in the winter and not fear the gas bill.

This is not to say that an old home can’t be made more efficient, but there is only so much that can be done with single pane windows that make up 30-50% more wall space than in modern houses. Not to mention the lack of sheathing under the siding, or wall insulation, cracks, ect… I mean all it takes is MONEY. /s


Yeah. Our old house would probably look like the brick one in the picture.

Ours has concrete block exterior walls, covered in stucco. The inner finished wall of gypsum board covered with plaster is attached to furring strips nailed to the concrete blocks. There is a wall cavity between the inner wall and the outer wall that is between an 1/8 of an inch and 3/4 of an inch thick depending on how sloppy the mortar joints are at that point. Basically, there’s no easy or affordable way to insulate those walls effectively.

So I’d hope that there wouldn’t be automatic shaming of people living in older houses that waste some energy. I wonder if their software would identify me as someone who won’t be using thier services?

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It would be pretty cool if the city mailed you the info once a year sometimes with a recommendation for a full heat audit.

Im in a 100 year old apartment and after watching some heart inspections on TV managed to make some very noticeable improvements for about 50 dollars.

Mainly plugging some holes that were letting heat go up through my walls into the upper floors. (Sloppy vanities were the worst).

If I owned the place I’m sura a real inspection and some thousands could do a lot more.

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Is this based on the same technoloy as the cat-detector van?

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Commonweath Edison (the local electric utility in Chicago) does that, actually. They also tell you what is average for your neighborhood and where you stand in comparison. They’ll even do the heat audit for free.

I live in a 130+ year old building, so the effort to quash energy-leakage is a constant battle.

But keep in mind: from cost and environmental standpoints, a little annual energy loss in an old (well maintained) building is almost always much less wasteful than tearing it down and building a new one.

(Speaking as I am from the frigid Midwest, with current wind chill around 30ºF BELOW ZERO. Geez, is it cold! This is what winters used to be like here…and it’s the second one in a row. I’m getting too old for this.)


This tech should be more available. The FLIR One for iphone (and a subsequent model for androids that will be released within half year or so) is finally an affordable-ish thermal cam. So no more expensive audits, just fire the thing up and take a look.

Too bad it is only 64x64 pixels. :frowning:


Huh. that’s. . . interesting. The last time drive-by thermal imaging was in the news was

So far as I know, that decision hasn’t been overturned or revisited, but if a public utility is doing thermal imaging, I wonder if that will change the legal landscape for cops who want to look for grow ops without a warrant, as your expectation of privacy for your thermals has to be basically zilch now


Beat me to it! I was going to post this same question: when the cops do it, it’s bad, but when your local regulated utility does it, it’s OK?

This sums it up nicely. I still get a 100% annual return on the insulation project I did years ago. New windows would give me roughly a 2% return.

There are still things you can do.

Air-sealing the top of that cavity between the brick and the gypsum (which I nearly guarantee is open to your attic) is cheap and turns that air space into more of an insulator. Then air-sealing and insulating the attic to a high r-value will save lots of energy even if your walls are cold.


Oh, cool. Sounds like a good candidate for some super-resolution work.

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I suppose huge amounts of time could be wasted selling refrigerators to eskimos if that seems less cynical to you?

This is cool (pun not originally intended).

Also, I love my (adopted) state - in MA, everyone pays a charge on their energy bill so that home energy assessments are free, air sealing is free, CFLs and LEDs and programmable thermostats are free during the assessment, adding insulation is heavily subsidized, and other efficiency upgrades like heating systems, water heaters, central air, solar power, ground source heat pumps, and more efficient windows are eligible for 0% interest no money down financing. Sadly the system shortchanges renters, which I was for a number of years.


It all depends on the windows. I took aluminum framed single panes out and replaced them with double pane gas filled wood frames. At the same time we sealed the gaps in the original window installation. I can’t calculate the return, as there are too many variables in play, but the house is more efficient and street noise is nearly non-existent.

Ceiling insulation and air sealing the rest of the house basically paid for itself in a matter of days, it was pretty bad. Wall insulation was about a 35 year payback though, so that’s not happening.


Our local electric company does the same thing; every month or two, we get a nastygram from them showing how much less energy efficient we are than our neighbors, judging by the amount of electricity we use. Problem is, we have a server farm for our business on-site; we don’t run anything but the absolute necessities when we aren’t around to use them (we already have a monitor on our hot water heater, and I’m not turning off the fridge); and we already do all the helpful hints in the flyer. I doubt we can cut down our usage any more, at least until we can install the solar panels on the roof. I also want to see what they consider ‘normal’ usage in our neighborhood – a single room shack with a dorm fridge and hotplate?


Well, they’re already leak shaming by referring to “the worst culprits.” Fuck them and the SUV they rode in on.

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In Massachusetts a company called Sagewell has been doing this for a few years. In Acton, MA, for example, our local environmental umbrella group teamed up with Sagewell & the Town to get a lot of the houses scanned. The information wasn’t public, but you could write in and get a password-protected link to your house image and some automated analysis.

Sounds like a good application for image stitching, except they’d have to drive by really slowly. Along with the 64x64 imager in the cheapest cameras, nearly all consumer thermal imagers are limited to 9FPS, some are slower than that.

FLIR does sell a “SR” series of outdoor rated 640 x 480 “webcam” style devices with 30fps, but these are a little more expensive than the FLIR One. I’m still waiting for their $499 thermal security camera.

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That’s chiefly because the UTTER CRAP of “dual use”. Export restrictions on faster imagers. I am all in favor of public hanging of those suit’n’tie types who come up with such nonsenses.

A possible workaround could be a camera head with more sensor chips (for resolution) and mechanical stabilization to avoid motion blur (so the objects in the distance-of-interest are kept more stable). And driving slowly.