Thermal Bridges – Has Your Builder Educated You?

Do You Know What Thermal Bridging Is?

Do You Know Why It Matters?

Let’s answer the burning question in your mind first.

What Is Thermal Bridging?

Thermal bridging (also known as cold or heat bridging) occurs when a conductive (steel, aluminium, etc) material is placed in such a way that it is exposed to both the inside and outside of a building.  Some examples of this are;

  • Window Frames
  • Wall Framing
  • Structural Steel

This leads to the next point…

Why Does It Matter?

It matters because it can have a profound effect on two things on your home;

  1. Your Comfort (How stable the temperature is)
  2. Your Wallet (How much it costs to heat or cool your home)

See below some examples of thermal bridging shown using an infrared camera.

Thermal Bridges
Thermal Bridges
A house relying only on wall insulation with cladding fixed on the stud work. Photos courtesy of Dryvit Systems, Inc. and The Dow Chemical Company
Thermal Bridges
The same design of house fitted with external insulation then cladding. Photos courtesy of Dryvit Systems, Inc. and The Dow Chemical Company

In the simple example above you can see the on the left a thermal bridge created by a steel lintel.

The other two images are the ones of most interest if you are building in South Australia.

They show the difference between fitting insulation externally to the frame of the house and simply fixing cladding directly.

The insulation and weather sealing abilities of fitting insulation directly to the outside of the frame negate or minimise thermal bridging while also achieving a better seal to the building envelope (stay tuned for more on sealing the building envelope!)

A draw back of relying on the air gap of brick veneer construction is that the same air gap allows for higher air movement across the insulation in the walls, often leaving the home more vulnerable than any other method to air leakage and thermal bridging.

Thermal Bridges
The first layer of XPS Foam being fitted to the stud work of a house. The foam adds R1.8 to the total wall R value while simultaneously protecting the stud work from thermal bridging creating a tight building envelope

This article covers a very small portion of what is a larger subject on ensuring that homes are built to exceed their energy rating and deliver you long terms savings in home ownership.

So before you plan your new home, make sure you talk to your builder and designer about using materials and building methods which eliminate or minimise the risk of thermal bridging.

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