One day, Geoffrey Hay was surprised to come home and find his brand-new house cold. He was puzzled because he and his wife had loaded the place up with “energy-efficient everything we could think of.”
Hay, an associate professor in UCalgary's Department of Geography in the Faculty of Arts and co-director, Foothills Facility for Remote Sensing and GIScience, realized energy was pouring out of his house. But how? And where? He wished he could just haul out his iPhone, pull up Google Maps and see where the energy – the heat – was leaving his home and then get connected to the right people to stop it.
In an instant, Hay realized he could do all that. He just had to build it. “I was tingling,” he says of the vision that started MyHEAT. “The idea came so fast, and I saw it all in just a millisecond.”
Ten years later, MyHEAT is helping millions of Canadians make their homes more energy efficient, save money and reduce urban greenhouse gas emissions. Using research developed in Hay's lab, MyHEAT is also helping companies, utilities and other organizations understand their buildings’ invisible heat loss and how to stop it.
Using state-of-the art thermal cameras in aircraft, large scale data processing and leading-edge proprietary Geographic Object-Based Image Analysis (GEOBIA), MyHEAT shows a map where energy is leaking out of your house (in red for a lot, to blue for a little). MyHEAT also links you to local service providers to help you plug the leaks, from installing windows to weather stripping.
“We could save something like $25 million in energy costs in the city of Calgary alone, if people reduced their energy consumption by three per cent,” says Hay. “The items we’re talking about will help you reduce consumption by seven to 10 percent based on doing very simple things.”
One of those simple things is checking to see whether the hatch to your attic is insulated. If it’s not, more than 20 per cent of the heat in your home may be just flowing out of the top of your house. “We can see this from space,” says Hay. “Energy wants to be lazy, it wants to do as little work as possible, so it’s literally flowing out of doors and windows from hot to cool places.”
MyHEAT has generated heat maps for homes in cities and towns in Alberta and Ontario. By the end of 2017, it will visualize, quantify and web‐enable heat loss maps for nearly 1.3 million single detached houses in 19 cities and four towns across Canada.
“I have a very simple mantra,” says Hay. “I believe people are inherently good and if they knew they were wasting energy, if we can tell them where and make it simple for them to do something about it, then they will do something about it.”
Things to remember:
- Go to MyHEAT.ca to see what energy may be leaking out of your house and find providers who can help you fix the leaks.
- Attic insulation is one of the simplest and least costly upgrades, so fix that before moving to bigger improvements such as getting new windows or new furnace
- Older homes with fewer upgrades have the most opportunity for energy savings
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ABOUT OUR EXPERTS
Geoffrey Hay an associate professor in UCalgary's Department of Geography in the Faculty of Arts. Geoffrey leads an active graduate and post-doctoral research program titled Thermal Remote Sensing and GEOBIA for Urban Energy Efficiency. View Geoffrey's publications