Keep your warmth in

Thermal imaging cameras take pictures of the heat in a building, showing hot spots and cold areas.

We had heard that SODC had purchased a thermal imaging camera for community groups to use, Brightwell-cum-Sotwell having been in the forefront to use it. The Council arranged an evening’s training and then off we went with the camera to learn more before hitting the streets.

So, during the winter of 2010/2011 a team of hardy volunteers from Sustainable Wallingford trudged the cold, dark and sometimes, snow-laden streets of Wallingford.

In response to our advertising during September and October, more than 120 people asked to have a thermal image taken of their homes. The Town Council asked to have their properties imaged too.  We had to stop taking requests by the end of November, however, as we would have been unable to get round the homes already accepted before we had to give the thermal imaging camera back to SODC. So apologies to all those who were interested but were not accepted.

The weather was against us during October as it was so mild. However, once November came the weather got colder and we could venture forth with a reasonable prospect of getting some decent images.

We had assumed that would see a loss of heat from the roof of most of homes,  assuming that there would be inadequate insulation. However, although we did see some where that was the case, the main points of interest proved to be heat loss from windows and doors, and from radiators. This may not be representative of the town as a whole as there are about 4,000 homes.

This image shows a house which has solid walls. Below the window you can see a yellow rectangle. This is the heat from the radiator leaving the building to heat the street!  Putting a heat reflective pad behind radiators on external walls or those walls shared with neighbours  can reduce the heat loss.


We were surprised by the number of homes where the curtains had not been drawn for the evening.  These  homes showed lots of heat escaping from windows and doors. Just closing the curtains or blinds makes a difference. An even greater difference can be made by putting up heavier curtains for the winter months. Doors, too, benefit from having a curtain behind them to keep out draughts and act as an extra layer of insulation, especially if there is a fair amount of glass in the door.

The image below shows heat escaping from windows where the curtains have not been closed.

We saw all sorts of properties, some of which we assumed, as they were so new, that they would be well insulated. That was not always the case. We especially noticed the difference in insulation levels where an extension had been added to a property. The extension was always better insulated than the original part of the building.

As we were not experts, it was sometimes difficult to tell exactly what was causing a certain readout. Was it a sheltered corner retaining heat or the cavity wall insulation not going round the corner therefore heat was escaping?  Was that house showing cool colours because it was well insulated or were the occupants unable to afford to heat the property properly? These were questions we were unable to answer within the remit of this project.

A report was written for each home and sent off to the person who asked us to take a thermal image. Included in the report was general information about how to keep the home warm, along with contact information for the Energy Saving Trust, the fuel poverty number  for the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in Didcot, and information about how to find out about any grants.

We hope you have found the reports useful and it would be lovely to get some feedback about what you have done to your home as a result and the difference it has made.

Did you know?  Lofts now need to have 270mm of insulation – that’s 10″ in old money.

So have a good look at your home. Always do the free-to-do or inexpensive options first to see what difference they make e.g. draught-proofing, foil behind radiators, easy-to-do insulation before starting to spend more serious money. Here is advice from the Energy Saving Trust. And of course, follow the 8 simple steps on the Green Wallingford Campaign card.