Thermal cameras allow for a drive-by energy audit

More homeowners would be likely to work toward home energy efficiency if only they knew where to get started. A Massachusetts company may help them do just that, as some consumers will soon be able to see – as clear as day – which parts of their home could use immediate attention.

The new company, known as Essess, has sent out a cadre of five vehicles that have been cruising around the country taking pictures of homes using advanced thermal cameras. As the process continues, homeowners will be able to see – in picture form – specific areas of the home that are least efficient.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimated in 2009 that the average American home devotes at least a quarter of its annual energy expenditures toward heating and cooling their homes. The average cost is about $600 annually, but with energy costs rising and some parts of the country experiencing particularly extreme temperatures, these costs could be even higher in isolated areas. This explains why programs like Essess' could be so valuable.

"The challenge is to do something about it," energy consultant Rob Bell told CNN. "With gas and electricity prices only looking like they are going in one direction, the amount you can save is also upwards as well. The headline figures around how much you can save could be the catalyst to get you from being aware to doing something about it."

Until initiatives like this become more widespread, homeowners will be on their own when it comes to assessing their home energy consumption. That is, unless they work with a Washington, D.C. home inspector who is capable of helping them analyze information about their homes that could otherwise seem foreign to them. This energy professional will be able to conduct an energy audit and then sit down with a homeowner to go over the results and begin to formulate a plan to cut utility bills.