Building Enclosure Tips for Colder Climates
In: Blog Portfolio Management
For those of us in the northern hemisphere, cold weather is fast approaching. Is your building prepared? Cold weather can make it challenging for building owners to achieve energy efficiency. However, not all is lost. There are ways to increase your building enclosure’s energy efficiency despite colder climates that enable you to better control heat loss, manage your energy cost and control the thermal comfort for your building’s occupants.
Where does heat escape in the building envelope?
The building envelope functions as a continuous weathertight barrier against the elements. But over time and without proper maintenance, building envelope components can deteriorate affecting the energy efficiency of a building. Heat loss is one of the issues that can compromise a building’s energy performance. Some common areas of heat loss can include the roof, windows and thermal bridging.
One rooftop source of heat loss is through mechanical air exchanges used for ventilation purposes or fenestrations such as skylights. Another common source is roof defects including cracks in sealants around penetrations as well as in the roofing membrane (a common issue with freeze-thaw) that allow heat to escape the building and cold air to enter. Wet insulation lowers the R-value and thermal effectiveness of the insulation system within the roof. Even the roof type and color can affect the energy performance of a building. Dark roofs can absorb heat from the sun and distribute it through a building; they can also help melt snow accumulation on a flat roof. Roofing materials with high specific heat capacities can also hold heat and in colder climates use the absorbed heat from the sun to improve the heat efficiency of the building and reduce the energy needed for a heating system.
Windows can also be source of heat loss in colder climates. One consideration is window placement. North facing windows receive more winter sun than any other direction. In new construction, adjusting window placement can help increase passive solar heat and energy efficiency. Special films can be applied to windows that can help improve their thermal resistance (the higher the thermal resistance, the lower the heat loss). Additionally, for existing construction, something as simple as caulking and applying weather stripping can help lessen heat loss.
Thermal bridging is the heat transfer across the building envelope through sources that are highly conductive such as steed studs or cladding. This can affect the thermal effectiveness of enclosure assemblies. Good insulators resist the flow of heat by conduction. Continuous thermal insulation can help mitigate thermal bridging. Insulation helps to keep heat inside of the building and a vapor barrier can prevent water vapor from penetrating into the ceiling, floor or walls.
Building Enclosure Colder Climate Checklist
Intentional design, regular building envelope maintenance and using materials that minimize heat loss can create a more energy efficient building. Ensuring your building envelope is serving its purpose as a continuous barrier against the elements can be achieved with some simple preventative maintenance:
- Add insulation to mitigate thermal bridging
- Apply caulk and weather-stripping to seal fenestrations, gaps or cracks
- In colder climates, remove snow and,
- Consider high performance window films to increase thermal performance
- Regularly assess your building envelope’s performance, preferably twice a year
One way you can assess your building’s energy performance and pinpoint areas of heat loss is with a thermal scan. Thermal imaging surveys can provide a detailed analysis of air leakage and can be performed alone or as part of more comprehensive building performance testing. Your building’s energy efficiency doesn’t have to be compromised during colder weather. Simply taking some simple precautions beforehand can ensure you and your building’s occupants are prepared for the colder months ahead.
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Technical Assurance can help you take a proactive approach to ensure optimal performance of your building envelope. Contact us today for a consultation and assure that your investment lasts well into the future.