Why Is Your House So Cold?! A Crash Course On Heat Convection

Is your house difficult to heat in the winter months? Are you heating bills unmanageable, even with your thermostat set to a cool 60 degrees or lower? If so, grab a scarf and warm cup of coffee and take a few moments to read this crash course in understanding heat convection. With a thorough, scientific grasp on why you're losing heat from your home, you'll have a better understanding of how to combat the problem.

Understanding Heat Convection

Your home loses heat by the process of convection. During heat convection, heat energy tries to create an equilibrium by allowing warm air to rise, and cold air to flow in underneath it to take its place.

When you open a window on a cold day, warm air from within your home will rush out the top portion of the window, and cool air will flow in from the bottom portion of the window to take up the space the warm air left behind. The same process happens at every single gap, space, or hole in your home. Heat energy wants to be evenly distributed, so if there's any way at all for your inside air to escape, it's going to find it, and it's going to use it to transfer heat out of your house.

Why Some Homes Are Colder Than Others

The most obvious solution to this answer is that homes that are difficult to heat have less insulation, and more gaps through which warm air can escape and cold air can enter. 

The material used in the construction of your home, however, also plays a role. Heat is so strongly determined to distribute itself, that, even with the best insulation and weatherproofing efforts, it will still gradually leak through the walls of your home. It does this by using the walls of your house to transfer its energy. 

Since some materials are better than others at transferring heat, you may be losing a lot of warmth just because you happened to construct your home from a high-conductivity material.

For example, wood has a thermal conductivity value of .13 watts per meter. Thermal conductivity is measured using the Kelvin scale --a scientific equation that determines the relation of a material's heat conductivity to that of other materials. 

Aluminum, on the other hand, has a thermal conductivity of 237 watts per meter. The reason for this vast difference is that metals have free-flowing electrons. These electrons aren't attached to any other atoms, so they can really gain speed when they are exposed to heat energy. They vibrate much faster than electrons that aren't  burdened by atom attachments, so they can sling the heat from inside your home to outside your home like nobody's business. 

The Best Solution For Warming Your House Up

The most effective way to slow the heat convection process of any home is to install continuous insulation. Regular insulation is effective to some degree, but since it's hung inside the spaces of your home's frame, the actual boards and beams of your frame are left exposed and ready to transfer heat. This loss of heat through framework is known as thermal bridging. The effectiveness of your fiber insulation can be reduced by 20% in a house made of wood, and 60% in a house made of metal, thanks to thermal bridging.  

Continuous insulation is the single known remedy for thermal bridging. This type of insulation is hung on the outside of your house's framework, covering every little bit of the area of your home. Not only will it eliminate any gaps or holes that you may have in your walls, but it will also stop the actual construction materials of your home from losing heat through convection. 

Furthermore, the insulation comes in foam form so it's much more durable and weather-resistant than traditional fiber insulation.

There are 2 ways in which your home loses heat -- leaks, and straight-up heat transfer through material. If your home is especially cold, fight both of these problems by installing an insulation that will effectively insulate the entirety of your structure.

About Me

Home Renovation Expectations: Knowing What's To Come

When I bought my first house, I did it with the expectation of needing to do some remodeling. I wasn't, however, prepared for how complex the renovation process was. From upgrading the retaining walls to adding cosmetic features like the stone patio, I was inundated with decisions to make and materials to select. I wished that I had known how much was involved from the beginning so that I could be better prepared. That's when I decided to use what I'd learned to help others better prepare for their own remodeling projects. I hope the information here helps you to see what you can expect as you get ready to expand your property or renovate the existing space.

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