A University of Calgary geography professor has spun his award-winning research project — which maps the waste heat emissions of homes and commercial buildings — into a growing startup business based in Calgary.
MyHEAT Inc., which publicly launched its energy efficiency platform online in 2015, has mapped heat loss in more than 600,000 homes across Alberta, with plans underway to expand its coverage into several Ontario municipalities this year.
The working model for the business is based on technology developed by the research team of Geoffrey Hay, an associate professor of geography, who co-founded MyHEAT along with Jeff Taylor, the company’s president and CEO.
MyHEAT pinpoints home heat leaks
Using a state-of-the-art airborne thermal infrared camera to capture high-resolution images that map the heat loss of buildings, MyHEAT seeks to help people reduce the cost of heating their homes while also lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
The detail provided by the infrared images is so precise that it can pinpoint specific areas where homes are leaking heat. Doors, windows and poorly insulated attics are typical trouble spots.
“You can lose 20 per cent of your home’s energy through your attic hatch,” says Hay. “Consider if you nicked your jugular while shaving. It may only be a small cut but you really need to stop the bleeding. Well, homes bleed heat and that heat loss is costing money, reducing comfort and wasting valuable resources. MyHEAT can tell you where you’re losing your money and help you become more energy efficient. We also help protect the environment because all of that heat going up into the atmosphere is increasing greenhouse gases.”
MyHEAT is partnered with ATCOenergy, Home Depot and Mike Holmes Inspections (famed for the television series Holmes on Homes), businesses that are equipped to help make residences more energy efficient.
Initiative wins MIT grand prize
The idea for my MyHEAT took root nearly a decade ago when Hay entered his newly built house — complete with triple-paned windows, a high-efficiency furnace and top-of-the-line attic insulation — only to find that his abode remained cold.
He thought to himself, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could pull out my mobile device, click on Google maps, tap on my house and automatically bring up a thermal image, showing me where waste heat was leaving my house, how much it was costing me, and where I could get it fixed? And what if I made it free, so everyone could have access to it?”
He made this vision a reality in 2013 when he and his research team web-enabled waste heat maps in more than 38,000 Calgary homes as part of his University of Calgary HEAT pilot project. That initiative received international acclaim, winning the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) grand prize for global climate change solutions, beating out more than 400 entries from around the world.
With the resulting media buzz, Hay was suddenly besieged by requests from organizations including roofing, real estate and green companies as far away as Ontario, Washington, D.C. and Paris, all wanting to know if he could map heat loss in their respective backyards.
“One week our website had 150,000 hits,” says Hay. “The interest in our services was huge. But we couldn’t manage it because we weren’t a commercial business.”
Technology shows Alberta leadership and innovation in action
This led Hay to connect with Taylor. “Jeff Taylor has the business savvy,” explains Hay. “He’s the face of the company. That frees me up be a professor and the chief scientific officer, which is really what I want to be when I grow up. So it’s an ideal situation to grow MyHEAT.”
And grow it has.
With a team that includes a number of graduate and PhD students from geography and geomatic engineering, MyHEAT has mapped residences and commercial buildings in the seven largest Alberta cities. The company is now focusing on mapping an additional nine cities in this province as well as seven municipalities in Ontario. By the end of 2017, MyHEAT will web-enable heat loss maps for nearly 1.3 million single detached houses in 19 cities and four towns across Canada. That coverage reaches three out of every five Albertans and one in every seven Canadians.
“This new technology is a prime example of Alberta leadership and innovation in energy efficiency and geomatics,” says Taylor.
Adds Hay, “No one else in the world has a program quite like ours, with our leading-edge technology, public web access, and massive data set. The future looks really bright.”