Inspiring people to act - or spying on them?
Posted by Cathy Debenham on 1 April 2009 at 1:41 pm
I'm not sure if two councils makes a trend, but last week Exeter City Council and Broadland District Council both reported that they've been taking aerial pictures of homes their areas (of Devon and Norfolk respectively) with thermal imaging equipment. This allows them to see which homes and businesses are losing the most heat.
As insulation is one of the easiest ways to save energy and a very cost-effective way of lowering your energy bills, this could be an effective way of identifying which properties need help most. Or, as some of the people commenting on Exeter's Express & Echo website and the Daily Mail infer, just another way for governments to spy on us.
I guess the answer depends on how the councils use the information, and whether the follow up involves education and inducements (ie grants, and in Exeter's case free insulation for pensioners on low income), or harrassment and haranguing.
I'm a bit too far from Exeter to have been included in the aerial photo, but I'd love to see a thermal image of my house at night. If they sent me the picture of my house, comparing it to the norm and telling me what help there was to improve it, I'd be interested to know. Heat and power are somehow intangible (except when the bill comes), but a picture that shows where the heat was leaking out just by the colour would simplify everything and allow me to focus on where the problems are. In fact, Exeter residents can check their rating (high, medium or low) on the council's website.
Exeter City Council found that 22 per cent of properties have a high heat loss value and so, are an immediate priority for better insulation. Another 67 per cent have a medium level of heat loss, so could do with some topping up. It looks as though there's plenty of room for improvement then. Broadlands Council is still analysing the data from its research. Both councils have grants available to help with installing insulation.
Exeter's survey was done in the evening, so we can't tell how the city council building, or the county council's, score on heat loss. While this makes sense for getting the picture when most residents are at home with their heating on, it would be good to see if the councils are practising what they preach.By Cathy Debenham
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