‘It’s fffffffrrreeezsing, ….thought thermal imaging might shed some light as to where the heat's going!’ Can visualisation shed a light on heating?

Panel: 9. Dynamics of consumption

This is a peer-reviewed paper.

Julie Goodhew, Plymouth University, United Kingdom
Christine Boomsma, Plymouth University, United Kingdom
Sabine Pahl, Plymouth University, United Kingdom
Steve Goodhew, Plymouth University, United Kingdom


This paper approaches the phenomenon of energy visualisation (eviz.org.uk) by investigating visualisations through the expectations of building occupants. It can take something of an ‘act of faith’ for occupants to believe that energy efficiency actions will translate in to greater comfort and lower energy use (Shove, 1997). Technologies that visualise energy (specifically heat) can be used to infer and locate building defects in order to improve energy efficiency. Thermal imaging is of interest as a communication tool; offering occupants an ‘independent’ analysis of building performance, providing an image outside of the human visual field. The image of radiant surface temperature can be used to infer where unwanted heat loss or cold air ingress occurs in a building. Recent research has shown that using the images as a behavioural intervention can trigger efficiency actions and reduce the carbon footprint of a home (Goodhew, Pahl, Auburn & Goodhew., 2014). The present paper aims to understand householder expectations of thermal images, in order to develop better protocols and address potential misunderstandings. We discuss occupant expectations of thermal images, drawing on findings from a UK study. As part of a wider thermal imaging intervention study, 241 residential building occupants explained why they were interested in accessing thermal images of their own home. Thematic analysis of the data showed a preoccupation was specifically pinning down ‘where’ their home ‘lost heat’ as an adjunct to prioritising future improvements, informing investment strategies and to confirming the efficacy of previously taken energy efficiency measures. But the responses suggest another narrative; of building behaviour mysterious to the occupant, of elusive heat loss (‘how much loss ’/‘where?’), of uncertainty over the efficacy of energy efficiency measures already taken (the ‘act of faith’). We discuss these findings and the implications these have for promoting energy efficient behaviour in the residential sector. Further, we discuss whether energy (heat) visualisations, such as thermal imaging, can meet these occupant expectations.


Download this presentation as pdf: 9-174-15_Goodhew_pre.pdf

Download this paper as pdf: 9-174-15_Goodhew.pdf