Going on a heatseekers quest

If we’re going to tackle climate change, we’ve got to transform our heat system. Yet it’s fair to say decarbonising heat isn’t a topic on most people's lips. However heat is a pretty essential part of our lives - whether that’s heating our homes or warming our water. And that means it’s a big part of our carbon problem.

So how do you make this thorny challenge something that people connect with? At 10:10 we had an idea - how about a quest into the hidden world of heat?

The key to this world? Thermal imaging cameras. One chilly evening, we brought together a mix of people (people interested in engineering, people interested in cities, people interested in policy, people interested in the environment, and some people were just dragged along by their friends) and sent teams out with cameras on the streets of Islington, London, to explore just what heat looks like in the urban environment.

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To get started we got our teams to think about innovative ways we can recapture heat lost in the urban environment. Islington Council are doing just that with London’s tube system. Under the streets of Islington runs the Northern Line and as every London commuter knows it gets pretty hot down there. We took a peek at the council’s Bunhill Energy project, whose second phase will capture all that extra heat in order to warm 1000 homes with renewable heat. In the summer it’ll work in reverse pump cooling air back down into tube.

Inspired by such a creative way of reusing waste heat, we set out to see where else heat is escaping from. As our thermal cameras showed, it’s not just the tube that’s belting out heat - but almost everywhere from draughty windows through to the sewers beneath our feet. Even, as one eagle eyed group spotted, from dog poo!

Everyone will came back seeing the urban environment in a different way - realising that all around us sites not just the problem of heat loss but the potential to solutions conserve and even recapture this vital resource. Some of our participants summed it up well:

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The thermal imaging cameras were a real eye opener. I'd never seen London through this lens before and it really made me realise how much heat is being wasted (and therefore how much heat could either be saved or captured).

After using the thermal cameras, I started to see everything in terms of heat sources for quite a few hours! And it was thought-provoking to see the hidden flows of energy that move through the city, and how we could (re)-capture them and reconfigure the city.

By putting people into setting groups out and letting them set their own path each participant discovered their own part of the heat puzzle. They also talked to each other loads too.

We were convinced that running a heatseekers quest offers a great opportunity not only to get people interested in heat, but get them talking to each other about the topic. We’re going to be running more, and we hope you might give it a whirl too. If you want to run your own, our team have put together some handy tips.

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