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HEAT Project takes grand prize at conference on global climate change

Geography team maps waste heat emissions in nearly 38,000 Calgary homes


Researcher Geoffrey Hay is usings a high resolution airborne thermal camera to meticulously measure waste heat leaving nearly 38,000 Calgary homes.

By Heath McCoy

An ambitious project spearheaded by Geography associate professor Geoffrey Hay, which uses a high resolution airborne thermal camera to meticulously measure waste heat leaving nearly 38,000 Calgary homes, received international acclaim Thursday, winning the $10,000 grand prize at the Climate CoLab Conference in Cambridge, Mass.

Hosted by the MIT Centre for Collective Intelligence in Mass, The Climate CoLab Project, dedicated to crowd-source global climate change solutions, saw over 400 contestants – businesses, climate experts, scholars and non-profits – participating in 20 competitions. Hay and his graduate research team signed up for a competition which focused on the reduction of greenhouse gas consumption.

Having emerged as finalists in September, Hay and his team were declared the grand-prize winners at the Thursday conference and webcast.

The team won based on the HEAT (Heat Energy Assessment Technologies) Project, a free web service (www.saveheat.co) that shows homeowners where their homes are wasting heat, how much its costing them, and how to fix it – all on Google Maps and all for free. The invention will help residents improve their home energy efficiency, save their money, and reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The idea for the project took root four years ago, says Hay, when he came home to his newly built house – complete with triple paned windows, high-efficiency furnace and top of the line attic insulation – only to find that his abode remained cold.

He thought to himself: “Wouldn’t it be great if I could pull out my mobile device, click on Google Maps, tap on my house and automatically bring up a thermal image, showing me where the waste heat was leaving my house, how much it was costing me (in terms of money and greenhouse gases), where I could get it fixed, and, how much I could save if it was done correctly? And, what if I could make it free to use, so everyone would have access to it?

“This is my vision,” he says.

By flying a state of the art thermal camera over the City of Calgary, Hay and his team have precisely measured the heat leaving 37,914 Calgary homes, the technology pinpointing the amount of wasted heat per home, (to 5/100 of a degree C). This figure is then used to estimate the amount of GHG’s being generated for specific fuel types (for example: oil or natural gas).

“The way we define energy efficiency is by finding areas of inefficiency,” says Hay. “In a home, inefficiencies are the areas in your house where all the hot air is escaping. Most people are not engaged in energy efficiency because they can’t see it. It’s invisible. But using our thermal camera, we can see this invisible energy leaving the buildings, and the interactive HEAT website provides residents with location-specific information to help them better understand problem areas.”

Hay adds that Canadians are among the world’s highest consumers of energy per capita. In Canada, buildings account for approximately 35 per cent of all emitted greenhouse gases, 33 per cent of Canada’s total energy production and consume 50 per cent of all Canada’s natural resources.

Currently, Hay and his team are working with various partners with the goal of scaling up the HEAT Project to map the full City of Calgary and its more than 350,000 individual homes. From there, they plan to conduct the project in other cold-climate cities and to promote “save heat competitions” between homeowners, communities and cities.

Hay adds, throwing down the gauntlet: “Edmonton, are you up for the challenge?”