Public Lab Research note

This is an attempt to replicate an activity.

Thermal Imaging: A Comparison of Heat Insulation

by fkamara | December 03, 2014 03:24 03 Dec 03:24 | #11424 | #11424

What we did

We conducted a comparative research study of insulation and heat loss among buildings on the Northeastern University campus. We accomplished this by identifying an LEED certified building on the NEU campus and used thermal images to compare it to other buildings. We hypothesized that the LEED certified building on Northeastern University campus will have better insulation and therefore less heat loss in comparison to an older building. Furthermore, we expect the building that is LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, will have the lowest amount of heat loss due to achieving the highest quality insulation.

Our Methods and Results

After identifying a recently built, LEED certified campus building (International Village) and a much older building (Richards Hall), we took pictures of classrooms located in each of the buildings. In order to take quality pictures showing thermal insulation in each of the rooms, it was important that the rooms were completely dark. Using a thermal flashlight we constructed using an Arduino along with the computer application, Glow Doodle, we were able to create images with light streaking effects.

The thermal flashlight was set to a temperature range of 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit. The ambient temperatures of the rooms we selected in Richards Hall and International Village were 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively.


The above image is that of a classroom located in Richards Hall. The red streaks indicate well insulated regions, whereas the green streaks indicate poorly insulated areas. Richards Hall was built in 1938, making it one of the oldest buildings on campus. As a result, Richards has poor insulation-during colder months, the building will feel very cold; during warmer months, the building will feel extremely hot and humid.

Insert image of IV

The above image shows a classroom in the International Village (IV) Classroom. Unlike the image of Richards Hall, this image shows that IV, being a LEED certified building, has excellent insulation throughout. In this particular classroom, there were mostly red light streaks, indicating that the classroom was extremely well insulated. Unlike the classroom in Richards Hall, the IV classroom is able to maintain a steady temperature throughout the year due to its insulation.

Conclusion and Next Steps

Based on the images we collected, we can conclude the International Village has more efficient insulation as compared to Richards Hall.

More data is needed to support our hypothesis; specifically images of older, non-LEED certified buildings. Regional temperature and climate may also effect the thermal imaging of buildings: buildings in colder climates are more likely to be better insulated than those in warmer climates, regardless of age.


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