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Dec 14, 2013 5:00:59 AM by Dan Kelly

In your home, just like the universe, heat is constantly being lost.


Which season is better; wintertime or summertime? It’s a comfort based debate that you likely have a strong opinion on. Your biology, memories and hobby preferences help you form that opinion. Living in the northeast, we get to experience both extremes every year. Hot - cold. Ying - yang. But, if you look at the big picture, you’ll find that one of these extremes holds a significant advantage over the other. When it comes to your home, just like in the universe, heat is constantly being lost.

Heat loss is easy to perceive during the colder months. Just sit in front of a drafty window or observe a running car’s tailpipe. Heat always seems to be going somewhere; it’s in its nature. Temperature itself is the measure of how fast atoms are moving. The faster these little guys are moving, the warmer it is.

This time of year the homeowner’s task is to trap as much heat as possible. We use techniques like insulation, weather-stripping and air-sealing. There are the obvious areas that demand our attention like windows, doors and attics. But, the cold is incessant and doesn’t give up. It’s also quiet and invisible. How else can you better trap that which you cannot see? Perhaps the best way to battle this frigid foe is to fight science with science.

A home energy assessment gives us the most comprehensive look at the nooks and crannies of a home responsible for heat loss using scientific techniques. A building analyst takes advantage of the air pressure built up in your home to expose those leaky areas using a device called a blower door. The blower door measures the air-tightness of a building and helps locate leakage sites. The infrared camera is another handy tool in the building analyst’s arsenal. The infrared scanning gives a visual image of thermal defects and air leakage in building envelopes. This process is the best way to find all air sealing opportunities and you can watch a demonstration here. Though, no house will ever be 100% protected from energy loss, a home energy assessment gives you the best chance.

Heat loss isn’t just an Earthly concern. The universe has the same problem. There are billions and billions of furnaces churning out heat throughout the universe. We know them as stars and they get plenty hot. The surface temperature of our sun, a modest star, is about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, or 5,778 Kelvin. Even all of that nuclear fusion isn’t enough to keep the cosmos from losing heat. The ever expanding universe continues to cool and is currently sitting around 3 degrees Kelvin or about minus 455 degrees Fahrenheit. But, space has no air to seal and wouldn’t much benefit from a galactic energy assessment.

So, which do you prefer? Are you more at home on the ski slopes or the beach? Sweaters or flip-flops? As a lover of the latter, I’m all too aware of how temporary the warmth can be. And, when you take a cosmological look around you begin to discover how rare and precious heat can be.

This entry was posted in Heating, Home Performance, Insulation


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