Thermal Bridges: The Invisible Pathways That Undermine The Comfort, Health, And Energy Efficiency Of Your Home

Want to build an energy efficient home that is comfortable and healthy all year round? Some of the most important things you need to consider are invisible. Like thermal bridges that undermine the comfort, health, and energy efficiency of your home by providing a conductive pathway for energy (heat) to transfer from inside your home to outside (and vice versa).

A thermal bridge is a form of conduction. Just like the frypan on your stove gets hot because heat conducts from the stove element, the internal parts of your home (like your windows and walls) can be affected through conduction from the external building materials.

The consequences of thermal bridges include:

  • Uncomfortable internal temperature of your home
  • Increased heating and cooling costs
  • Condensation and mould issues
  • Structural damage and premature rot

Unfortunately, few people (even experienced designers and builders) understand the importance of eliminating thermal bridges, especially when building an airtight home.

One of the most common thermal bridges occurs around windows – particularly when they are made from aluminium. Aluminium is an efficient conductor of heat. When the weather is cold outside, an aluminium window will feel cold on the inside.

Not only will this compromise your efforts to heat your home, but it could also cause condensation to form as the cold aluminium reacts with the warm air inside your home. While you can simply wipe the condensation off the surface of your window frame, you can’t dry the condensation that you don’t see inside the wall cavity. This condensation provides the perfect environment for mould to grow (dark and damp).

Other common thermal bridges occur in external corners of rooms. If insulation is not fitted properly, a thermal bridge can cause a temperature differential where the cold from outside meets the warmth from inside and forms moisture. That’s why so many homes develop mould in the corners of rooms. And the problem is, the mould you see is just like the small part of an iceberg poking above the surface – the majority remains invisible behind the walls and ceiling, dangerously affecting the health of your home.

Mould will not only cause your home to rot prematurely, but it can also compromise the health of the people living in the home. Symptoms may be as mild as a runny or blocked nose, irritation of the eyes and skin, and wheezing. For others (particularly over time), the consequences can include serious asthma and even mould infection in the lungs.

Eliminating thermal bridges at the design and construction stage of building is straightforward and efficient. It’s simply a matter of knowledge and attention to detail. Correcting thermal bridges after construction is far more difficult and costly. And once they are identified, the consequences of thermal bridges (to the home and its occupants) will have already taken effect.

For more information about how to avoid thermal bridges when building your custom home we invite you to download our guide on the 5 Key Skills of an Energy Efficient builder where you can learn the key skills your builder needs to have to actually build you a healthy home.

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