Basic Thermodynamics And Why It Is Important

A diagram showing different ways that heat transfers throughout your home in different seasons.

As we head into the cooler months, we should get back to basic thermodynamics and remind ourselves why it is important to seal up our homes and apply the basic principles that make energy-efficient homes operate.

HOT MOVES TO COLD – This is obvious when you open a window to the outside on a hot day but what is largely ignored are the smaller avenues, like gaps around light fixtures in your ceiling. Like water, heat always seeks an equilibrium so hot moves to cold until everything is the same temperature.

HOT AIR RISES – You also already know this because you know the upper floors of your home are always hotter than the lower ones. This is because of the principle of convection and it is responsible for most of the heat and cold lost in our homes.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT – As warm air is leaving your house in the cooler months, it is also pulling cooler air from the outside through whatever tiny cracks and crevices it can find around windows, pipes entering the house, and even tiny cracks in the foundation. This cool “makeup air” makes your furnace work much harder to keep you comfortable. The same principle works in reverse with hot air entering the home from the outside in the summertime.

A thermos creates a barrier between the contents and the outside air utilizing a tight seal. You should think of your home in the same way. The thermos seal prevents airflow, and thus rapid heat exchange via air currents, to maintain the thermal barrier. Insulating your home works the same way and serves the same purpose as the insulation on a thermos. These same principles apply during the summer as they do in the winter.

Sometimes, even the simplest sealing and caulking can factor into overall savings on energy bills. When you get a home inspection be sure to ask questions about thermodynamics. Old Line Home Inspections can provide good simple advice to make your home more energy-efficient without spending a fortune.