Controlling heat loss should always be a top consideration when designing a building, and choosing the right building materials is a key component of being able to control thermal issues. While having the right insulation protecting your building is important, it’s also important to understand heat loss and why your building needs the best protection available.
Heat loss is a measure of the transfer of heat from the inside to the outside of a building and can happen in three different ways:
Conduction: When heat moves through direct contact with a material.
Convection: Heat movement occurs through the air.
Radiation: The transfer of thermal energy.
Heat loss through any of these means inevitably leads to inconsistent heating throughout the building, increased energy costs and excessive wear on HVAC systems and other equipment. One of the more common ways of managing heat flow is using layers of insulation that limit thermal bridges.
Let’s look at a few ways to check for and reduce heat loss in buildings and what you need to know to ensure your structure is built using the right building materials.
Check for Air Leakage and Missing Insulation
There are several areas where heat can escape in a building, and more often than not, it is due to poor quality or improper insulation. Here are the four most common ways heat escapes from buildings:
Windows/Doors: Windows and doors are well known for causing air leaks due to the type of glass being used in the window, how the door is made and how well both are installed into the house.
Walls: Walls can be a big problem if they aren’t insulated properly. Heat is typically lost by conduction through the walls or from close contact with colder outside environments (in other words, the outdoors is just on the other side of the wall).
Attics: Cracks, holes and vent placement all contribute to heat loss in attic areas. Add in the fact that heat rises, and you have the potential to lose a significant amount of heat.
Basement/Floors: Basement walls and floors often don’t have the right insulation properties since they are made of concrete. Concrete is known for its low R-Value (which we will review below) and heat can quickly move out of this area.
Once you have identified where you are losing heat, it is time to choose the right type of insulation to seal the openings. Continuous insulation (CI) is a popular option that helps prevent thermal bridging and is known as one of the most effective ways to prevent heat loss.
Seal All Openings Using Continuous Insulation
Continuous insulation protects the integrity of an entire building with insulation that is applied in layers and covers all structural components. CI helps prevent thermal bridging and is known as one of the most effective ways to prevent heat loss.
Continuous insulation also provides more stable and dry indoor conditions and helps to lower the risk of condensation and moisture cycling in your building, preventing the damage that comes from moisture accumulation, like the expansion and contraction of materials, corrosion and mold damage.
Where Should It Be Used?
Ideally, continuous insulation should be used on above-ground walls, below-ground walls and roofs. Since basements and roofs are main areas for heat loss, CI is especially important in northern climates where cold weather and extreme temperatures are more common.
Code compliant and measured against international code standards for energy conservation and material strength, CI is installed on the exterior of a building and can come in a few different applications.
How Does it Work?
The ability to prevent the transfer of heat (R-value) is one of the biggest benefits of any insulation product. High-quality continuous insulation will have a high long-term R-Value that will help protect your building. The more CI you add to cavity walls, the higher the R-value, which leads to less heat loss and more protection against high utility bills.
For example, insulation panels like ThermalStar® Rigid Insulation from Atlas Molded Products create a thermal building envelope that keeps your structure protected and reduces your energy consumption. It also gives your building a stable long-term R-value that will last the lifetime of your structure, meaning that, with R-values as high as 4.5 per inch, ThermalStar Rigid Insulation remains stable from the day of purchase through the life of the building.
ThermalStar insulation is installed with the panel joints butting up to each other so there are no expansion or contraction issues to worry about. It is available in various continuous insulation options and can even eliminate the need for extra layers of insulation that are traditionally required to prevent heat loss.
Environmentally friendly and backed by a limited lifetime warranty for physical and thermal performance, ThermalStar Rigid Insulation Board also does not include HCFCs, HFCs or formaldehyde, providing insulation with a low global warming potential (GWP) and zero ozone depletion potential (ODP).