Brightwell-cum-Sotwell Environment Group The Environment Group’s meeting on "Sustainable Energy for the Home" which was presented by Ian Bacon of Thames Valley Energy, in April 2007 created interest in mounting a village project to raise awareness about climate change and help alleviate it. Improving home energy efficiency appeared to be the most effective proposition, based on the idea of using a thermal imaging camera to identify where homes could be losing heat.

In November 2007 a "Thermal Imaging Proposal" was made to the South Oxfordshire District Council for the purchase of a suitable camera, coupled with a programme for its use amongst the 580 or so properties in the village. Following trials of several types of camera, SODC purchased one of them and supporting software which was delivered on 3 January 2008 for loan to the Group. Six members of the Group were trained to use the camera and three mounted the imaging software on their home computers.

Rear of the Village Hall Showing the Insulated Extension compared with the poorly insulated main roof and walls. Lower windows & doors double glazed but it was warmer inside.

During the second week in January a pilot phase of the study was undertaken by the six Group members to familiarise themselves with the camera. This was followed by the operational phase to the end of March 2008 when nearly 500 images were captured from over 60 village dwellings of different ages and types, together with the Primary School and Village Hall. Field notes were made for each building to record information on its walls, windows and roof, their insulation characteristics and other details. This imaging has been undertaken mainly after dusk, when there was at least a 10 degrees temperature difference between inside and outside.

Because of the variety of methods of construction, differences in age, materials used and other factors, it has been found that interpretation of the images requires considerable thought. Each householder is to be given a report on his or her property containing images taken with the camera. These will show where heat is being lost, where insulation may be improved and a possible explanation of the findings. They will also receive a "Brief Guide to Energy Saving" prepared by the Group with help from the Thames Valley Energy Centre & the Energy Saving Trust. This sets out practical steps to take to save energy and reduce household costs. It also says where grants may be available.

Conservatory showing heat loss from a single glazed door compared with double glazed windows

The Study was entered in the Climate Change Communities Competition organised by the Oxfordshire Climate Xchange and was awarded a prize of £500 at a meeting of 40 or so bodies involved in the Climate Xchange programme in Oxford on 27 February.

Some results from the Operational Phase of the Study were displayed, with permission of the householders concerned, in the Village Hall at the 11 March meeting of the WI and again on 27 March at the General Meeting of the Environment Group. The display was also used at the Primary School’s Ecoday on 29 February.

From an appreciation of the results of the Operational Phase, a “follow up” is being planned. This may include the use of the camera for a short period and the circulation of a questionnaire to the 60 or so householders who were surveyed to discover what action they have taken.

Acknowledgements Thanks are due for their help and assistance in this Study to: the South Oxfordshire District Council, the Brightwell cum Sotwell Parish Council, ORCC, the Northmoor Trust, the Energy Efficiency Advice Centre, TVEC, Energy Saving Trust, Brightwell Primary School and those villagers whose properties were surveyed.