Better energy balance for houses

Symbolic picture of a thermally insulated house

(Image: Adobe Stock, © slavun)

In the struggle to achieve a better energy balance in houses, the focus is increasingly being placed on large-scale concepts and a wealth of small measures. They can be implemented more easily by the property owners, individually coordinated and still promise significant improvements. Materials that are used in the course of renovations and renovations play an important role here.

In order to improve the energy balance of a building, measures are required through which the energy loss can be significantly reduced. Materials that conduct large amounts of heat outside contribute to the fact that energy is lost. This not only ensures a significantly poorer energy balance, but also increases energy costs considerably.

Select materials

The basis for a significant improvement in the energy balance of a house are targeted renovation and renovation measures, through which walls and ceilings, for example, are equipped with new insulation. The extent to which this affects a house’s energy requirements depends to a large extent on the insulation materials used.

With the help of the heat transfer coefficient, when developing a concept for improving the energy balance, it can be weighed up in advance which materials will result in the greatest improvements. The basis for decision-making should therefore be the so-called heat transfer coefficient.

The heat transfer coefficient indicates how strong the heat flow is. This enables a specific calculation of the heat loss through the walls and ceilings of a room. This is particularly useful when insulating basements, but also in other rooms. Basically, the amount of heat loss depends significantly on the insulation materials used. The composition of the materials is not necessarily relevant, but above all their strength.

In addition to the insulation materials, the nature of the surfaces has a considerable influence on the heat transfer coefficient. Depending on the nature of the surface, different amounts of radiant heat are generated.

In the past few years, three measurement methods have become established for determining the heat transfer coefficient. In addition to the heat flow method, multiple temperature measurements and the use of thermal imaging cameras are used to determine specific values.

Reduction of heat losses

The core task of energy-saving construction is to sustainably reduce the heat losses in a house. This is possible through various measures. A key component of energy-saving construction is improving the insulation of walls and ceilings.

In order to save energy, the consistent implementation of various individual measures is recommended. The use of loss-reducing elements can reduce ventilation heat and transmission losses. Elements of this type also have a positive effect on downtime and distribution losses in a building.

Starting with external components that only have a low heat transfer coefficient to the consistent installation of ventilation systems with heat recovery systems, different approaches can be implemented depending on the type of building and its properties. Special attention must always be paid to the building envelope. In old buildings in particular, it continues to be one of the main weak points.

When renovating the building envelope, the primary goal must be to make it largely airtight. In combination with an energy system that has an excellent annual rate of use, the basis for a significantly better energy balance is created.

In order to improve the building envelope and close gaps through which energy is lost, insulation remains the method of choice.

Thermal insulation panels on the house wall
The choice of insulation materials is greater than ever today. (Image: Adobe Stock, © schulzfoto)

Classification of insulation materials

The choice of insulation materials is greater than ever today. A subdivision and classification is possible based on the starting materials. A distinction is made primarily between organic and inorganic insulation materials. Various mineral substances serve as the basic material for the latter. In contrast, materials based on carbon compounds are used for organic insulation.

Furthermore, insulation materials are classified based on the origin of the raw material. A distinction is made between natural insulation materials, which are the means of choice for ecological building concepts, and synthetic ones. Synthetic insulation materials are often cheaper than ecological ones, but conversely they have a worse environmental balance.

Natural insulation materials

In terms of insulation properties and the improvement of the energy balance, neither ecological nor synthetic materials generally do better. Natural insulation materials are all renewable and are therefore particularly climate and environmentally friendly. In addition to wood and flax, materials such as hemp and cork have prevailed here.

Cotton, coconut and hemp have recently become established so that natural insulation materials can be processed just as easily as synthetic ones. Like sheep’s wool and flax, they are increasingly being offered in felt and mat form, which makes them easy to cut and use.

An alternative to organic, natural insulation materials are inorganic. The specialty of these materials lies in the manufacturing process. Inorganic materials are inflated so that they can ultimately be used as insulation. Typical insulation materials of this type are minerals and quartz. But clay can also be converted into insulation through special processing.

Processing is often more complex here, as the majority of the inorganic materials are converted into bulk material.

Inorganic, synthetic insulation panels

Not all inorganic insulation materials are designed as bulk goods. If the insulation is to be inorganic, but at the same time easy to process, it is advisable to look at synthetic insulation panels. These are of inorganic origin, whereby two general insulation solutions have prevailed here.

One of the most common materials used for insulation panels is calcium silicate. Made from quartz, pore-forming agents and lime, this material is brought into the plate shape through the use of enormous pressure and water. The procedure is similar for panels made of mineral foam. However, there is a different composition here. So they build on water, lime and quartz.

Thermal imaging camera with image of a poorly insulated window
Window vulnerability. (Image: Adobe Stock, Kadmy)

Windows remain a weak point

Windows are a common weak point in buildings, as they allow a lot of heat to escape due to their quality and equipment, but also because of their workmanship. In order to sustainably improve the energy balance of a house, it is not always necessary to consistently replace all windows.

Even minor measures such as the use of thermal sun protection can contribute to a significant improvement. Two basic principles have prevailed for thermal sun protection in the form of pleated blinds or roller blinds.

Depending on the model, the energy-saving effect is implemented either through air columns or through heat reflection. Both aim above all to noticeably slow down the escape of heat. This improves the house’s energy balance sustainably.

Compared to processing new insulation, thermal sun protection is associated with a significantly lower investment. Furthermore, the sun protection solutions can also be retrofitted individually for individual windows. The assembly can be done without the help of professional craftsmen.

Double and triple glazing with weaknesses

Enormous energy losses affect not only single glazing in old buildings, which in the medium term entail a fundamental renovation, but also modern double and triple glazing.

Although it has already been possible to reduce the thermal coefficient by means of improved frame and pane designs, it has not yet been possible to completely prevent heat leakage. Therefore, targeted sun protection solutions should help here.

The fact that there have not yet been any window types that completely insulate without ifs and buts is primarily due to the associated energy gains. If windows were completely insulating, consumers would no longer benefit from solar energy gains. The effect that the sun heats up the apartment on cool days is eliminated. So the energy demand would increase in the same breath.

Around to sustainably improve the energy balance of the windows, the thermal sun protection should generally be attached to the inside of the window. Various approaches have recently prevailed here. Insulating foils, which are often advertised as a particularly effective solution, also cancel out the solar energy gain.

Instead, pleated blinds and roller blinds are a better choice. While insulation foils adhere permanently once they are attached, roller blinds and pleated blinds can be opened if necessary. Especially the honeycomb pleated blinds offer here maximum flexibility.

The fold look implemented here ensures that the pleated blinds can cover the window completely or only partially if necessary. Pleated blinds have a positive effect on the house’s energy balance in both summer and winter. While they make an important contribution to avoiding heating losses in winter, they provide reliable protection against heat build-up in summer.


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