Why is it so cold inside our homes?

Winter weather can be a bit deceiving. When you look outside and see a lot of sunshine, it is easy to assume that the warmer weather has already arrived. Why are our homes still so freezing then?

Let’s have a look at this common problem (which by the way is not exclusive to Australia) and see what we can do about it.

The Importance of Insulation

First of all, most of the old houses and apartments in Australia have no proper insulation. In addition to keeping your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer, insulation can help lower your energy bills and maintain your home’s value.

While the new houses and buildings have been slightly improved, many people are still experiencing problems with cold winters and hot summer days and find those issues very annoying.

It’s very interesting to notice, that not many new home owners or developers put enough thought and energy into improving these basic needs so they can feel comfortable inside their homes and protect their expenses during wintertime.

With a proper insulation many problems could be simply resolved.

Why is this happening?

First, let’s have a closer look at the term “Thermal mass” and understand this concept better.

Thermal mass is the ability of a material to absorb and store heat energy. A lot of heat energy is required to change the temperature of high density materials like concrete, bricks and tiles. They are therefore said to have high thermal mass.

Insulation refers to the ability of a material to slow down the transfer of heat energy.

Thermal mass and insulation are often mistaken for one another or used as synonyms however this is not entirely correct. Although both are used for slowing down the heat movement, there are a lot of differences that need to be taken into account, since you do not want to make a common mistake and relay on the thermal mass in spaces that need to be insulated and the other way around.

Material      Density (Kg/m3)      Volumetric heat capacity / Thermal mass (kJ/m3.K)

Concrete          2240                                       2060

Brick             1700                                       1360

Thermal mass is, in short, a specific material ability to absorb, but also store and radiate heat. If you are dealing with an old building, with no additional insulation, the walls simply absorb the heat during the day until fully charged (just like a battery) when they continue to emit and channel the heat to the interior, keeping it warm during the night.

However, when the stored heat is completely exhausted, the walls start collecting the cold during the night and radiate it into the interior during the day. The cycle is then repeated.

Thermal admittance is the capacity to absorb and release heat. Higher thermal admittance results in higher thermal mass. Thermal mass is also determined by the materials density (higher density means higher thermal mass) and thermal conductivity measuring how easy does the heat travel through the material (here, moderate thermal conductivity implies higher thermal mass). This leads us to a conclusion that certain materials like water, concrete, stone, brick and plaster are materials with high thermal mass, while materials like timber, steel or mineral fibre insulation have low thermal mass.

Unlike thermal mass, insulation refers to the insulation materials ability to slow down and control the heat transfer, maintaining the temperature difference between the inside and the outside.

Thermal mass will absorb the heat during the day and release it into your home during the night, while proper insulation will maintain a stabile temperature, that prevents overheating during the day and overcooling during the night.

Without proper insulation you will have to rely more on your cooling and heating devices (which is never cost-effective) and thermal mass which will not be very helpful during those long, cold, sunless winter months when there is no heat to absorb, store and release. A mixture of thermal mass and insulation is often called the passive solar design. With such design you will not only get a comfortable space to live in, properly protected from undesired external effects, but also reduce your heating and cooling bills and help preserving natural resources.

Common brick/Timber frame and concrete structures

Brick buildings have excellent thermal mass, but not great insulators.

Concrete is one of the most popular building foundations for houses. However, despite being one of the most durable and soundproof types of buildings, concrete is also an effective thermal buffer, which means concrete homes tend to get quite cold in the winter and can be very hot in the summer. Unless it has been installed in conjunction with a radiant floor heating system or proper Walls insulating system. The inherent coldness of concrete can be reduced to some extent through the use of carpets and throw rugs.

Due to the Mass of Concrete Construction, it slows down the passage of heat moving through the wall and thus makes it clear why concrete structures are more energy efficient than wood-frame homes.

The 7 Cheapest Ways To Heat A Home (if you are not moving to ICF home):

  1. Buy an energy-efficient space heater.
  2. Consider heating only the most used areas of the house. (Heating the whole house can be expensive and wasteful, especially if youonly use a small portion of it.)
  3. Buy a smart thermostat.
  4. Sign up for budget billing.
  5. Insulate your attic.
  6. Consider installing solar panels.
  7. Invest in warm clothing.

Here are some of the most popular warm flooring materials to consider:

  • Carpet. The frontrunner in the warm flooring race has to go to carpet.
  • Luxury Vinyl Flooring. Vinyl flooring is an excellent warm flooring option.
  • Area Rugs.
  • Cork Flooring.
  • Radiant Heating with Stone or Tile.

If the heat is running and your house still has oddly cold rooms, they are unevenly heated, or vents or radiators aren’t giving off much heat – there could be a problem with heat delivery. If ductwork is not configured correctly, and the system is sized incorrectly, your home may still be cold even when the heating is on.

So let’s sum everything up: Thermal mass describes the ability of a material to absorb and store thermal energy. However, thermal mass must be harnessed properly and often with insulation or you risk constructing walls that draw heat indoors during warm days and then absorb it from your heating devices in cooler weather.

I want to emphasis again the importance of proper insulation with 100% proof that will keep us warm on the cold winter.

Insulation works to help protect your home from uncomfortable weather. Much of the thermal energy in your home is gained or lost through the roof and ceiling, however the walls do play an important role in effective insulation!

The right kind of wall insulation will not only help to regulate temperature and keep the inside of your house dry, but may even have the added bonus of soundproofing. However, unless your home incorporates proper ICF/insulation, it is often useless with brick or concrete buildings or may even exacerbate the uncomfortable temperatures you are aiming to neutralise

ICF walls consist of a centre cavity to contain concrete between two layers of expanded polystyrene (EPS), which provide two largely continuous layers of insulation rated at R-22 and higher. From a whole-wall perspective, an ICF wall actually lives up to the advertised R-values because thermal bridging is absent.

Reference: ICF_energy_performance

The exceptional performance of EPS as an insulator for the built environment offers the construction industry the tools and technology needed to achieve superior thermal performance while making a significant and restorative contribution to the reduction of global warming.

Remember you can make the difference with Housekonsept.

Have a warm Winter!

We will be grateful for any feedback or questions related to our ICF products.

You can contact us at: Contact@housekonsept.com.au or via our website contact form https://housekonsept.com.au/contact

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