3 Ways to Control Heat Loss in Buildings
Heat flow affects a building’s durability, efficiency, and comfort levels. Condensation that builds up or does not dissipate can lead to mold, health problems, and structural decay. Leaks and heat loss have an impact on human comfort and health and contribute to energy waste as the building has to use more energy to regulate its temperature. However, there are some easy ways to apply modern technology and science to enhance building comfort:
- Break thermal bridges. At transition points in buildings, where the material is not insulated, such as corners, window frames, and other intersections, a building’s heat loss or gain increases. Such materials, especially metals, are more thermally conductive—they allow more heat to pass through. These points form a ‘bridge’ between one environment (the interior of the building) and another (the outside world). Thermal bridges reduce the performance of insulation by allowing some heat to bypass the intended insulating materials. However, it’s incredibly easy to break thermal bridges. A continuous exterior insulation acts like a barrier that makes bridges impassable. All the heat must flow through the insulated materials, which increases their effectiveness.
- Disrupt convective loops. If insulation is highly air permeable or has gaps, convective loops—accidental pathways formed by unintentional air flow within a system—can form. All loops can be closed by using lower air permeance fibrous or airtight foam insulation in cavities and making sure that there are no gaps.
- Control condensation caused by air leakage. In cold weather, warm air can leak through the enclosure and form condensation in the same way that a mug filled with a cold liquid ‘sweats’ in warmer air. This extra moisture poses a threat in cooler temperatures. It can freeze, causing ‘leaks’ when it melts, or cause rot if it doesn’t dry quickly enough. Wet insulation also loses effectiveness. To combat this problem, it’s necessary to have good information about the climate, the temperature range of the building interior, the type of enclosure and system that the building uses, and the relative humidity of the building. The exterior to interior insulation ratio of a building changes depending on these factors. In general, milder temperatures and dry interior air require less insulation. For more complicated buildings, computer models are available that can determine an accurate ratio.