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Thermal imaging may lower power bill, but raises privacy concerns

WATCH: Thermal imaging has been helping homeowners figuring out where they’re losing heat, so they can reduce their power bill, but it’s also adding concerns about a possible invasion of privacy. Nadia Stewart explains.

The City of Vancouver is beginning a new program that uses thermal imaging to identify older homes that are using excess energy.

“We’ll target homes that are built generally 1950 and before, before insulation was part of our building code because there are many homes 1950 and before that have no insulation in the walls,” said Chris Higgins, green building planner at the City of Vancouver.

In B.C., 12 per cent of the province’s annual greenhouse gas emissions come from commercial and residential buildings — but in Vancouver, it’s 30 per cent.

“A citizen actually came to us at the city and pointed out that on a frosty winter day, you could see some roofs had no frost and some roofs had frost, indicating some roofs were well-insulated and others were not,” said Higgins.

Beginning in April, the plan is to take images of up to 15,000 homes and then work with about 3,000 homeowners to make their spaces more green, by offering consultation and incentives.

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Higgins says the cameras can only detect heat, and the photos will only be shared with the homeowner. Once the 18-month pilot project is over, the images will be destroyed.

“As long as these images are used solely for the purpose of determining whether there’s heat leakage, for the purpose of energy conservation, then the privacy impact is probably fairly limited,” says Josh Paterson, the executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties.