The Science Behind Us
The Science Stuff
People often want to understand how the products we use make such a big difference in their homes. It's not rocket science, but there is definitely some science at work...so readers beware, there is science ahead.
First, it's important for people to know the basics of heat transfer to understand how our products work. So let's start with heat.
What scientifically is heat? In simple terms "heat" is essentially energy being transferred from one source to another. Heat always "flows," while cold "receives" heat, or in other words when energy is transferred from one object to another this is seen or felt as heat.
When there is a temperature difference between two objects the hotter one will transfer heat to the cooler one. They will continue to do this until they reach equilibrium, which means they essentially are the same temperature.
This brings us to how heat is transferred. There are three ways this happens.
First, conduction, this is direct heat transfer from one object to another. If you touch a pot on the stove it feels hot, maybe even burns you, this is conduction at work.
Secondly, there is powerful convection. Convection is heat that is transferred via a liquid or gas. If you walk outside and feel a gust of wind that gives you the chills, well, you're experiencing convection. Your heat was "flowing" into the wind which takes it away to Never Never Land. Incidentally, convection is also responsible for "wind chill," and why especially in northern climates people wear coats that block the wind. It may only be 30 degrees outside but with a strong enough wind it can feel well below zero.
Lastly, there is radiation. Don't think of nuclear radiation, although that is part of it, but think more of the difference between standing in the sun and in the shade. When you are standing in the sun you are feeling the electromagnetic radiation of the sun. In simpler terms you are feeling the sun's radiant energy.
How this apply's to your home
24 hours a day 365 days a year your home is trying to reach equilibrium with the temperature outside your home. When it's hot outside that heat is trying to get inside, and in the winter it's the other way around, the heat is trying to get out. The current technology, insulation, is placed in our walls and above our ceilings in an attempt to slow this heat transfer.
There are three big problems with insulation. Insulation is not very effective after it gets hot. As your attic gets hotter and hotter your insulation will begin to gain this heat too; your insulation will absorb only so much heat before it to will begin to give that heat off into your home. Another way to think of it is to compare it to a sponge. They are great for soaking up water until it becomes saturated, then the sponge is no longer effective. Your insulation can only stop so much heat.
The second problem with mass insulation is that it condenses over time which makes it less effective. R-Value is how we measure insulation's effectiveness and R-Value in today's mass insulation is highly dependent on it's depth. This is why you often hear people talking about how many inches of insulation they got. Over time you will need to add more insulation to make up for the natural condensing of your insulation.
The last major issue with insulation is moisture. As moisture gets in you will realize a decrease in it's R-Value! For those in humid climates or climates with large temperature swings this can be disastrous on your energy bills. Your insulation can lose as much as 36% of it's effectiveness with just a 1.5% increase in your fiberglass insulation...that just sucks.
Most of the heat gain that we experience comes in through the attic, and 93% of that heat gain is due to radiation. In the winter radiation is responsible for between 50%-75% of your heat loss (See the diagram below). This heat loss is due to your homes heat "flowing" out as your home tries to reach equilibrium with the outside temperature.
Also in the winter your home begins to lose a lot of heat due to convection. This is because your home will have "holes" that heat with escape due to the warm air rising in your home. The warm heated air passes through these holes creating sort of a vacuum effect, which pulls in cold air from outside. These holes are usually poorly insulated areas around, cam lights, bathroom fans, vents in the ceiling, ceiling lights, outlets, light switches, etc.
If your insulation has become condensed, has been moved, or just isn't adequate enough you will notice that your air conditioning or heater will be running for long periods, running at odd hours, and costing you a fortune just to keep your home comfortable. I have people complain about the air conditioners running until 2am or 3am in the morning. This is happening because your home has gained a lot of heat and works to get rid of that heat, which is trapped in the insulation and attic, until late into the night. So your air conditioning is pulling double duty working both night and day to cool your home!