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Heat seeking camera used to assess home energy use

The quality of your home’s insulation can be hard to assess without tearing into walls or poking a hole in the roof to see what’s underneath. But a group of municipalities in Belgium have taken a creative approach to helping people learn about their roof insulation: they hired an airplane-mounted thermal imaging camera to photograph neighborhoods over a four-night period in winter.

The resulting map gives a detailed portrait of heat loss through the roofs of Antwerp. Through a website, residents can enter their address, the heating capabilities of their attic space, and even the type of roof they have to get a rough assessment of how effective their roof insulation is.

Coupled with the many energy efficiency and building retrofit grants that Belgium offers, this map provides a great way for local residents to both see where they can make improvements and receive the help they need to realize those upgrades.

I see endeavors like this as evidence that government efforts can be effective and helpful. Measuring the heat loss from your own roof is certainly possible with a thermal gun, but would give poor results and probably cost too much for the hassle. Government, on the other hand, can afford to produce a large-scale heat loss map, and provide that information to the people it represents. By supplying information home owners need to know – without mandating action if the cost is too high – these Belgian municipalities are fulfilling a concrete and useful role to the residents of Antwerp. This map, and the information and grants that link to it, are tangible evidence of what a good government can provide to increase energy efficiency across communities and decrease our individual energy footprints.

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