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You can now check out thermal cameras from your local library in the DMV. Here's how it works

The thermal cameras let you identify potential leaks in your house by showing temperature differences.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — With energy experts predicting higher heating bills this winter, local libraries offer a tool to help you save energy and money -- thermal cameras.

“Especially now during COVID, a lot of families find that their budgets are tight, and finding ways to save money without really changing their lifestyle too much or having to make big painful changes is a really good thing," Alexandria Central Library Manager Diana Price said.

Managing Director of the District of Columbia Sustainable Energy Utility, Ted Trabue, said one way to pretty significantly and easily lower energy bills is by sealing off leaks in your home.

“The average home has enough drafts in it to equal a window being open all year long," Trabue said.

Thermal cameras, which local libraries, like those in Alexandria and Fairfax County, help identify where some of those drafts might be.

“This is something that we are stocking because it offers our patrons the opportunity to utilize this without having to incur any kind of major fees," Dianne Coan, Fairfax County Public Libraries Division Director said.

Coan said the standard retail model costs around $200, so having free access is a huge help for families pinching pennies.

RELATED: DMV residents should expect to pay more to heat their homes this winter

To use the cameras, Price and Coan said to attach them to your smartphone and point it around your house, particularly around windows, doors, outlets, and vents.

Energy Manager for Alexandria, Bill Eger said you're looking for dramatic differences in temperature, with yellow areas indicating higher temperatures and blue areas showing lower temperatures. 

"What the higher temperature suggests is that that's an area where there's kind of heat leaking, or there's where heat is coming in or out of your household, kind of what would need to be otherwise heated or cooled by your household's HVAC system," Eger said. "And so you're looking for the dramatic differences in temperature indicated by color. Then, the more yellow, that's the area you want to focus."

That's if you're looking at your home from the outside. Inside, you'll want to look out for those colder areas in the winter, where the cold might be leaking in.

He said you can then use those pics to figure out where there might be leaks in your home and seal them off.

“On average, we see about a 10% to 20% reduction in the household energy costs if you seal around the doorways around the windows and cracks in your household," Eger said.

“I mean, books are our brand, there is no doubt about it," Coan said.

But, these libraries are committed to expanding services to help the community.

Coan said their approximately 70 thermal cameras are all checked out with a waiting list. Alexandria Library, however, does currently have some available.

When it comes to the ideal time to use the cameras, Eger suggests the coldest or hottest day of the year, because it provides the biggest difference in temperature between inside and outside.

But, he also said not to wait -- do it now before the really cold temperatures hit.

Trabue suggests using the cameras in the morning for optimal reading.

Both said another way to reduce energy costs is through lighting, which Trabue said comprises about 20% of a household's energy costs.

They said if you switch out your current bulbs for LED, you should pretty immediately see a difference in the bills.

Trabue also recommends searching for more efficient appliances.

Other libraries, like Falls Church, Montgomery County, and Loudoun County also offer thermal cameras with your library card.

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