UK heat seeking spy in the sky

By Peter Law |

A LIGHT aircraft fitted with a military-style infra-red camera took to the skies at the weekend to expose Hampshire’s worst heat wasters.

Clear and cool conditions allowed the crew to soar 3,000ft to capture a series of aerial photographs of almost every home in Southampton, Eastleigh and Gosport.

The thermal images, taken with cameras similar to those used by police to pinpoint cannabis factories, will highlight how much energy individual houses and businesses are wasting.

Southampton City Council, Eastleigh Borough Council and Gosport Borough Council will overlay the images with their Ordnance Survey data to create a unique “heat loss map”.

The digital maps will then be published on council websites to encourage homeowners to turn down their central heating and improve their home’s insulation.

Officials from the councils last night downplayed accusations that the £34,000 project, funded with Government and council cash, was a Big Brother-style invasion of privacy.

The surveys were carried out in the late evening hours over the weekend, when weather conditions were fine and heating was most likely to be switched on.

Every building photographed will be given a colour-coded rating to indicate how much heat it was losing at the time of the spy-in-the-sky survey.

Shades of reds and blues are used to show grades of heat loss. Homes that are losing the most heat are represented as bright red or yellow, while the least wasteful households are in deep blue.

Residents in homes emitting the most heat will be given information on how they could benefit from energy-saving grants to better insulate their homes and reduce their fuel bills.

Councillor Phil Williams, cabinet member for Housing and Local Services, said: “The council is adopting an exciting scheme to create a heat map of the city, so that residents can go online and see how much of their hard-earned cash is being lost through poorly-insulated homes.

“Many people may be shocked once they see the map and how much heat they are actually losing. We have a lot of help and guidance for anyone who wants to contact us.

“We would also encourage private landlords to use this facility and to ask how they get their free roof and wall insulation; which will not only improve the quality of life for their tenants but add value to their properties.”

An Eastleigh Borough Council spokesman said that the scheme was “far from being Big Brother” and that the council would target problem areas, rather than individual homes.

He said: “We will use the information to reduce the borough’s carbon emissions and help residents’ fuel bills. It is not designed to target individual homes.”

Cavity wall insulation could save about £160 a year on fuel bills, according to the Energy Savings Trust, while loft insulation could save £205 and double-glazing £140.

Aerial survey firm Geoinformation Group was commissioned to capture the images. Further sky camera flights may need to take place this month or next if the thermal images captured at the weekend are not of a sufficient quality.