Doesn’t everyone with an internet connection just love Google Maps? Fun aren’t they? (But I guess most of us wouldn’t admit it.) So THIS could provide endless hours of fun: http://bit.ly/Ik8lFS (or, if you prefer http://ceo.decc.gov.uk/nationalheatmap/). It is a Google Map with a heat fingerprint. It covers just England but if you follow the link above you get to zoom in on High Wycombe.

The National Heat Map was created for the Government in order to perform the very mundane task of allowing communities to plan the deployment of low-carbon energy projects. The idea is for us to browse through the map and identify areas where we should prioritise our efforts. Efforts to reduce wasted heat.

So the “Warm Home Heroes” thought this would be a great way of checking out areas wasting valuable warmth without us having to walk around the streets of High Wycombe with a Thermal Imaging Camera. I can tell you it is vastly more comfortable and a lot warmer to do it this way. Just a reminder – the Warm Home Heroes went out seeking to help householders who wanted to make their homes warmer and cheaper to heat. Householders volunteering for this free service would have the team come over one Saturday or Sunday evening with a thermal imaging camera borrowed from the Council. We only got the camera once every two weeks and it had to be dry and very cold. We couldn’t use it if it was too sunny or if it was rainy.

As you can imagine that was a very small window of opportunity to get anything done. Quite a few households had to be disappointed as a prematurely early hot March knocked the project on the head. So imagine our delight when we found that somebody had decided to do something similar for the entire town - from above.

However, it isn’t that simple. In fact nobody flew over High Wycombe with a thermal imaging camera. The maps were created using “published sub-national energy consumption statistics and without making use of metered energy readings”. So, basically, it is nothing short of a statistical map based upon meter readings and hence useless in really identifying what is wrong with specific homes.

So what can we use it for? Well, look at the map again. Grab it with your mouse cursor and move it around to find your neighbourhood. Then zoom in to find your street. You will probably not be able to tell how good certain homes are but you will be able to see how well streets compare against each other. Or how public buildings or commercial buildings are getting on. What did we learn?

Well look at the north-east of town towards King’s Wood. The colours are all blue and green. So, not a lot of heat means not a lot of problem. But now fly over High Wycombe to the Town Centre and the west-side running along the A40 and Desborough Road. You see a long ugly heat footprint in bright orange and red. The heal is the Eden Centre whilst the toes are spread across Abercromby Ave, Ogilvie Road, Copyground Lane and Sharrow Vale.

Switch over to a combined Satellite and Map view then zoom in again to see that it isn’t people’s homes that have the problems – it is schools, hospitals, public buildings, care homes, commercial and industrial buildings. You can use the “Layers” function to switch between different views. So switch to only “Residential Heat Density” and look at the map again. Then you’ll see the hot spot around Green Street.

Whilst you are there just have a look at the hot glowing coal of Wycombe Hospital. Compare the modern new building with the old one. How is it doing? Not very well. But what does it all tell us? Well, it tells us that there is a very big job ahead improving the heat-retaining abilities of most buildings in Wycombe. Look up the school where your children go to. Look up the shops you frequent. Your place of work. Think about what it means. How are most of these buildings heated? How much warmth is simply escaping out of the roof? How much is that costing YOU?

And whilst you are there: ask them what they are doing about it. And what are YOU going to do about it?

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