Designing and Evaluating Next-Generation Thermographic Systems to Support Residential Energy Audits

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Mauriello, Matthew Louis
Froehlich, Jon E
Buildings account for 41% of primary energy consumption in the United States—more than any other sector—and contribute to an increasing portion of carbon dioxide emissions (33% in 1980 vs. 40% in 2009). To help address this problem, the U.S. Department of Energy recommends conducting energy audits to identify sources of inefficiencies that contribute to rising energy use. One effective technique used during energy audits is thermography. Thermographic-based energy auditing activities involve the use of thermal cameras to identify, diagnose, and document energy efficiency issues in the built environment that are visible as anomalous patterns of electromagnetic radiation. These patterns may indicate locations of air leakages, areas of missing insulation, or moisture issues in the built environment. Sensor improvements and falling costs have increased the popularity of this auditing technique, but its effectiveness is often mediated by the training and experience of the auditor. Moreover, given the increasing availability of commodity thermal cameras and the potential for pervasive thermographic scanning in the built environment, there is a surprising lack of understanding about people’s perceptions of this sensing technology and the challenges encountered by an increasingly diverse population of end-users. Finally, there are few specialized tools and methods to support the auditing activities of end-users. To help address these issues, my work focuses on three areas: (i) formative studies to understand and characterize current building thermography practices, benefits, and challenges, (ii) human-centered explorations into the role of automation and the potential of pervasive thermographic scanning in the built environment, and (iii) evaluations of novel, interactive building thermography systems. This dissertation presents a set of studies that qualitatively characterizes building thermography practitioners, explores prototypes of novel thermographic systems at varying fidelity, and synthesizes findings from several field deployments. This dissertation contributes to the fields of sustainability, computer science, and HCI through: (i) characterizations of the end-users of thermography, (ii) critical feedback on proposed automated thermographic solutions, (iii) the design and evaluation of a novel longitudinal thermography system designed to augment the data collection and analysis activities of end-users, and (iv) design recommendations for future thermographic systems.