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How is heat lost from a building?

We’ve talked about Energy Use in Irish Buildings and discussed why we are so concerned about energy saving in buildings. Today we want to share how heat is lost from a building.

Heat is lost from buildings at different rates depending on both the structure and shape. As more than 80% of the total energy cost is attributed to space and water heating, these heat losses not only lead to poor comfort levels within the dwelling, but also can become very costly over the life of the building!

Typical proportions of heat loss from dwellings (source: Tipperary Energy Agency)

Typical proportions of heat loss from dwellings (source: Tipperary Energy Agency)

Here’s some science for you to think about over a cup of tea:

Radiation, Conduction and Convection (image source:

Radiation, Conduction and Convection (image source:

(Click to enlarge image)

Heat losses occur through convection, conduction and radiation –

  • Heat transfer by conduction is a continuous loss of temperature in the direction of the heat flow (hot to cold) through a still solid material. (You may be doing this right now if your hand is wrapped around a cup of hot tea!)
  • Convection is the energy transfer from warmer locations to cooler locations by the actual movement of the heated liquid or gas (including air).
  • Radiation is the transfer of heat by means of electromagnetic waves.

Just remember: Heat loss in buildings will always occur, but what the home owner and builder can do is try and manage how fast the heat is lost – this can be controlled through the use of appropriate construction materials and techniques in establishing and maintaining an airtight building envelope incorporating high levels of insulation in the application of the building standards. Look for a builder who has upskilled in low-energy construction to make sure they get it right!

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