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Calculating Heat Efficiency on Campus Using Infrared Imaging Project Proposal

This post was submitted to the University of Wisconsin-River Falls (UWRF) Undergraduate Research, Scholarly and Creative Activity (URSCA) department as part of applying for an Undergraduate Stipends and Expenses (USE) Grant. The grant was rewarded.


In light of recent discussion on the UW System’s coal contract in relation to environmentalism and movements on campus to promote more sustainable systems, little discussion is being held about the actual energy efficiency of individual buildings.


Highlighting which buildings need updates for heat efficiency during winter, to help increase the overall sustainability of the campus. Increased heat efficiency will also correlate to lower heating costs for the campus. We will also be comparing the quality and effectiveness of cheaper thermal imaging hardware, which will show the viability of using thermal imaging for preventative maintenance. The less expensive IR cameras are also more portable and less risky to transport.


  1. Study the heat signatures of six buildings on campus.
  2. Compare each building’s construction year to its heat signatures.
  3. Locate specific areas on buildings that require the greatest improvement in heat efficiency.
  4. Write detailed documentation on file manipulation for the thermal imaging camera.
  5. Examine the quality difference between the ~20,000USD IR camera already owned and the 2200USD camera.


We will be collecting quantitative data from the thermal imaging camera and using it to develop heat signatures for each of the six buildings we choose to study. Several images will be made for each building to ensure accuracy and totality of the data collected; we will be taking these images with both the already available camera and the more affordable one so as to compare the usage of the two along with collecting the data. The data will be analyzed using the free software provided by Fluke, the manufacturer of the equipment. We plan on completing the entire project over J-Term along the following schedule. Doing this will minimize the variation during data collection by having the greatest contrast between the building and the background.

Before Jan. 2016 Preliminary research and equipment collection.
Jan. 11-16, 2016 Data collection from the buildings, one building per day at about the same time to eliminate extraneous variations in the data.
Jan. 18-22, 2016 Compilation of the data.
Jan. 25-29, 2016 Finalization of the report and presentation.


The research will be conducted over J-Term so the data will be ready to be presented by the spring semester, as such we plan to give a presentation on our work to the Society of Physics Students during one of their regular meetings and also to the student environmental committee ECOS.