Check it out and save energy: Montgomery Co. libraries offer thermal imaging cameras

With the thermal imaging device connected to a smartphone, the user can point and click, capturing thermal images of windows, doorways and cable entry ports. (Courtesy FLIR)
With the thermal imaging device connected to a smartphone, the user can point and click, capturing thermal images of windows, doorways and cable entry ports. (Courtesy FLIR) (Courtesy FLIR)
The devices provide "visual heat maps for hot and cold spots, right on your phone," said Lindsey Shaw, manager of energy and sustainability programs for the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection. (Courtesy MyGreenMontgomery/Jessica Lavender)
The devices provide “visual heat maps for hot and cold spots, right on your phone,” said Lindsey Shaw, manager of energy and sustainability programs for the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection. (Courtesy MyGreenMontgomery/Jessica Lavender) (Courtesy MyGreenMontgomery/Jessica Lavender)
The idea is that once you've identified problem spots, you could add insulation or weather stripping to seal drafts and thus save on heating and cooling bills. (Courtesy MyGreenMontgomery/Jessica Lavender)
The idea is that once you’ve identified problem spots, you could add insulation or weather stripping to seal drafts and thus save on heating and cooling bills. (Courtesy MyGreenMontgomery/Jessica Lavender) (Courtesy MyGreenMontgomery/Jessica Lavender)
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With the thermal imaging device connected to a smartphone, the user can point and click, capturing thermal images of windows, doorways and cable entry ports. (Courtesy FLIR)
The devices provide "visual heat maps for hot and cold spots, right on your phone," said Lindsey Shaw, manager of energy and sustainability programs for the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection. (Courtesy MyGreenMontgomery/Jessica Lavender)
The idea is that once you've identified problem spots, you could add insulation or weather stripping to seal drafts and thus save on heating and cooling bills. (Courtesy MyGreenMontgomery/Jessica Lavender)

Gone are the days when all that you could borrow from the library were books.

These days, some libraries offer musical instruments, power tools and board games. And Montgomery County is the latest to offer library cardholders something that is not only unusual but also useful: thermal imaging cameras to monitor home energy use.

“We have four Android and four iPhone compatible cameras that just hook up to any Android or iPhone through the battery port, and you’re able to then use your camera on your phone to see the visual heat maps for hot and cold spots, right on your phone,” said Lindsey Shaw, manager of energy and sustainability programs for the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection. The agency is making these thermal imaging cameras available to the library.

With the device hooked up to a smartphone, the user can just point and click, capturing thermal images of windows, doorways and cable entry ports.

“You can download the photos that are seen on your phone so you can save them to your photo reel and then refer to them later so you know exactly where those heat losses and heat gains are,” Shaw said.

The idea is that once you’ve identified problem spots, you can add insulation or weather stripping to seal drafts and thus save on heating and cooling bills.

The thermal imaging cameras are not the first devices to detect potential energy losses that are available at the library. For some time now, Montgomery County libraries have offered kilowatt meters.

“You plug that in, but it has another plug in it. It’s basically a pass-through plug that’s literally counting the kilowatts that are going through from the plug to your appliance that shows how much energy that appliance is using. … That’s really helpful if you’re trying to zero in on areas where you might be wasting energy and not even know it,” Shaw said.

The eight thermal imaging cameras made it to library shelves less than two weeks ago and are expected to be popular. Library cardholders may request that one be held when it becomes available.

“People want to start saving on their utility bills the second that they learn about a tool like this, so it’s really exciting to have it out in the public,” Shaw said.

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