Energy efficiency is fairly easy to define. But what does energy efficiency look like? And if you can’t see it, how can you engage with it?

That’s what Geoffrey Hay, an Associate Professor of Geo-Information Science at the University of Calgary asked the TEDx Calgary audience last summer. He’s the force behind Heat Energy Assessment Technologies, or HEAT, a free GeoWeb service that shows homeowners where their homes are wasting heat and how much it’s costing them.

“We believe that if people could see the waste heat they generate and if they knew how much it cost (financially and to the environment), that they would want to take action,” says Hay.

HEAT maps look a lot like Google Maps – except in addition to street view images, they show waste heat leaving homes. The data, which is captured by an infrared camera during nighttime fly-overs, is used to generate a Residential HEAT Score map (left).

Users can navigate through the map to zoom in on an individual home, view a ranked HEAT score (below, left), and compare an infrared image with a Google Street View image (below, right) in order to identify the top six areas of heat loss.

Of course, just because you can see those problem spots doesn’t mean you know what to do about it. That’s where a certified energy advisor and contractor like Evergreen Home Performance comes in. Whether motivated by cold floors, high energy bills, or a less-than-stellar HEAT score, homeowners turn to Evergreen for a free energy consult that helps them understand their homes and plan comprehensive improvements, including insulation, air sealing, and wet basement remediation.

Hay hopes that by making energy efficiency visible, the HEAT app will inspire that kind of action on a large scale. MIT Climate CoLab certainly sees the potential: Hay and his team earned top honors at the annual Crowds & Climate Conference last week. The award will help HEAT scale up from the pilot project of almost 38,000 homes in NW Calgary, Alberta, Canada.