Designing Effective Insulation: Gravity, thermal bridging, and the importance of being continuous
Insulation manufacturers have devised numerous ways to improve the thermal performance of their products. Adding carbon or alumina particles to expanded polystyrene (EPS) increases infrared reflectance, and hence boosts R-value. For buildings that need heat stopped during the day and released at night, there are phase-change materials. More exotic products, like vacuum insulated panels (VIPs) and aerogels, boast great R-values for difficult-to-insulate locations. Materials using recycled or renewable products will appeal to those chasing points under the green rating programs.
Unfortunately, none of this matters when these high-performance products are installed ineffectively. It is old news batt insulation in steel studs loses half its R-value. Steel studs themselves act like ‘radiator fins’ to the exterior—they are a prime example of a thermal bridge, along with shelf angles and structural connections.
Originally published in The Construction Specifier • August 2016
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