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Thermal Cameras Look Inside Homes to Monitor Energy Efficiency

April 13, 2011

Aaron Dykes
April 11, 2011

The city of Boston has been taken to task by the ACLU over concerns about a roll-out of thermal imaging cameras being used to monitor energy efficiency inside homes. A pilot program to take aerial and street-level photos of heat loss in Boston was part of a scheme to encourage participation in home energy improvement programs, as well as to drive consumers towards green companies.

According to CBS, the project had been halted following public outcry about invasions of privacy, namely that “infrared cameras would reveal information about what’s going on inside the homes.” Further objections have been raised about potential violations of the Fourth Amendment (but what’s that anyway?). Officials reportedly “planned on sharing the photos and analysis with homeowners, and were hoping the findings would increase enrollment in efficiency programs and also create business opportunities.”

MIT, who helped develop the technology’s use for energy tracking, has already thermally-mapped the entire city of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Their press writers brag that automated cameras attached to vehicles would collect data “similar to the way Google Street View vehicles obtain visual imagery.” This 55 second video provides a glimpse at their system:

Their project aims at “streamlining” the home audit process by giving consumers and regulators specific numbers to work with when targeting energy efficiency improvements. The plan would reportedly “make it possible to ‘identify where the energy gushers are,’:

Forthcoming is software that will translate the thermal images into data about energy efficiency specifics, such as cost-estimates for improvements and the returns on making them. Home energy audits, which can be lengthy and expensive, typically pinpoint sites that need improvement but do not offer suggestions about the potential costs and benefits of addressing them.

Further overlapping this energy audit agenda is the “Infrared Training Center,” part of FLIR Systems, Inc. (the makers of infrared cameras). Located 38 miles from Boston in North Billerica, Massachusetts, the Infrared Training Center is currently offering a course on Level 1 Thermography, and appears to be training for the purpose of home auditing. Applicants, paying $1850 per head for the course, learn ‘practical’ techniques over four days to “collect quality data, accurate temperature readings… using infrared cameras,” as well as to analyze thermal images and integrate “inspection reports” into a database. In other words, the same process set up by MIT for Boston’s thermal image scanning plan.

Thermal photo of Boston's skyline taken by MIT researchers Image: Long Phan 

Thermal photo of Boston’s skyline taken by MIT researchers. Image: Long Phan, MIT

Similar thermal imaging technology has long been used by police to bust drug dealers or other offenders, by fire departments in rescue operations, by industry and in other applications.

No doubt the technology could be used for good, but only if voluntarily employed by individual home or business owners. Combining Google-style omnipresence and intrusion into the lives of ordinary people with cap & trade-like policies is certainly a recipe for tyranny. Look how badly TSA & Homeland Security have done with ‘safety’– recall their proposals to use mobile x-ray vans and covertly scan pedestrians and train passengers (among many other issues). Utilizing thermal imaging inspections of homes with mandatory improvement policies (when & where they are implemented) could prove to be yet another step-forward for the bureaucratic nanny-state trying to clamp down on society’s behavior while de-industrializing the Western world.

Infowars.com and its writers warned years ago that bureaucrats would carry out home and energy inspections and that cap & trade policies were being enforced at the state level. What Congress failed to pass via legislation has been implemented in the United States by executive fiat (i.e. the EPA enforcing carbon emissions cuts). Agenda 21 and other accords have mandated global environmental policies that have been introduced at every level. Failing to comply with such policies not only means costly fines, but potentially being barred from selling a home, or being forced to make improvements.

As Tony Pacheco wrote in 2009:

Home Audit: A Look into the Future
The bill states every home owner will receive an energy audit. What is a home energy audit? It is an intrusive visit made by the bureaucrats at the Home Energy Team or a similar group. They will examine and report the way you live your life directly to RESNET (Residential Energy Services Network) . Light fixtures, socket types, spas, hot tubs, windows, appliances, walls and roofs will all be under review. Energy tests will be conducted throughout your house. At the end of the visit you will receive a report and a rating. The report will focus on the changes you need to make and the rating is called a HERS rating (Home Energy Rating System). RESNET will perform the audits through authorized contractors. RESNET has adopted the Mortgage Industry National Home Energy Rating Standards. The standards set the national procedures for home energy ratings.

States like Texas have already experienced rolling blackouts due to EPA-imposed energy thresholds. Additionally, major electricity providers like Austin Energy have (in Austin, TX) implemented a Carbon Reduction Plan with carbon cuts nearly twice those recommended under the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. The artificially imposed pressure placed on energy costs at the systematic and individual level will become burdensome to bear. Combine those policies with the potential of thermal photo-based energy audits to meet required improvements, and it appears like a short road to serfdom or perhaps World War II-style rationing of resources. In the short term, it will surely mean higher energy prices (thus, profits for the companies) and greater pressure to adopt and meet “green” energy standards.

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