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Metal framing studs & building energy efficiency: this article discusses the thermal properties and heat loss characteristics of metal stud framed walls, including metal stud wall R-values. We include test data giving effective R-values for nominal 2x4 and 2x6 metal stud walls.
Metal Stud Thermal Performance & Thermal Conduction Data
Our page top photo shows a metal stud-wall framed building (Dunkin Donuts) being constructed in Freedom Plains, NY. The question-and-answer article below paraphrases, quotes-from, updates, and comments an original article from Solar Age Magazine and written by Steven Bliss.
Thermal Properties of Metal Stud-Framed Walls
Commercial buildings are often required by code to be constructed using metal studs. I have been unable to find accurate thermal conduction values for metal studs in exterior building walls.
Do you know of any test data giving effective R-values for nominal 2x4 and 2x6 metal stud walls framed on 16- and 24-inch centers with fiberglass batts in the wall cavities? - Thomas Anderson, IKM SGE, Inc., Architects, Engineers, and Interior Designers, Pittsburgh, PA.
Answer: Two Studies Report on Thermal Properties and Heat Loss Characteristics of Metal Stud Walls
We found what we think are the only two papers on thermal properties of metal stud framed walls. They draw different conclusions.
In the first, written in 1972, J.R. Sasaki of the International Research Council of Canada concluded that metal stud wall R-values were 9 to 13 percent less than the R-value as calculated by the ASHRAE Zone Method. The ASHRAE Zone Method uses a weighted average of the U-Values (see INSULATION R-VALUES & PROPERTIES and see HEAT LOSS R U & K VALUE CALCULATION) of individual elements to calculate the thermal resistance of a multi-component system such as a stud wall.
Sasaki attributed the differences to convective heat transfer in the stud space or convective air exchange through the insulation. The walls in his test, however, were unlike more recent insulated building walls: they had only 2 inches of fiberglass insulation in a 3 1/2" stud cavity.
The second study of metal framed stud wall thermal properties was completed in the 1980's and used modern materials. Donald Larson and Bakhtier Farouk at Drexel University in Philadelphia measured heat flow through a wall built of foil-faced R-11 fiberglass, 1/2-inch drywall, and 0.02-inch-thick steel studs spaced at 16-inches on center.
Using a portable 4-foot-square test plate, they found the wall R-value to be 43-percent lower than that determined by a simple one-dimensional calculation.
The discrepancy, they speculate, was due to increased lateral heat flow through the flanges of the metal stud.
Thermal short-circuit ng was made worse by the foil facing on the insulation.
Larson and Farouk concluded with a note of caution, saying that the test method needed further assessment.
Standard design booklets for metal-stud buildings list R-values for the insulation only - they ignore the metal studs altogether. -- S Bliss.
The question-and-answer article about the thermal properties of metal stud-framed walls, quotes-from, updates, and comments an original article from Solar Age Magazine and written by Steven Bliss.
The link to the original Q&A article in PDF form immediately below is preceded by an expanded/updated online version of this article.
Q&A on Metal-Stud Performance - PDF version, use your browser's back button to return to this page. Original article, Solar Age Magazine, September 1985, adapted and updated for InspectAPedia.com November 2010.
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Solar Age Magazine was the official publication of the American Solar Energy Society. The contemporary solar energy magazine associated with the Society is Solar Today. "Established in 1954, the nonprofit American Solar Energy Society (ASES) is the nation's leading association of solar professionals & advocates. Our mission is to inspire an era of energy innovation and speed the transition to a sustainable energy economy. We advance education, research and policy. Leading for more than 50 years.
ASES leads national efforts to increase the use of solar energy, energy efficiency and other sustainable technologies in the U.S. We publish the award-winning SOLAR TODAY magazine, organize and present the ASES National Solar Conference and lead the ASES National Solar Tour – the largest grassroots solar event in the world."
Steve Bliss's Building Advisor at buildingadvisor.com helps homeowners & contractors plan & complete successful building & remodeling projects: buying land, site work, building design, cost estimating, materials & components, & project management through complete construction. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Steven Bliss served as editorial director and co-publisher of The Journal of Light Construction for 16 years and previously as building technology editor for Progressive Builder and Solar Age magazines. He worked in the building trades as a carpenter and design/build contractor for more than ten years and holds a masters degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Excerpts from his recent book, Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, Wiley (November 18, 2005) ISBN-10: 0471648361, ISBN-13: 978-0471648369, appear throughout this website, with permission and courtesy of Wiley & Sons. Best Practices Guide is available from the publisher, J. Wiley & Sons, and also at Amazon.com
Advanced Energy Design Guides for Commercial buildings, developed by ASHRAE, DOE, AIA, IESNA, USGBC
The ASHRAE Advanced Energy Design Guide for Small Office buildings—Office buildings up to 20,000 sq.ft.2
The ASHRAE Advanced Energy Design Guide for Small Retail buildings—Retail Spaces up to 20,000 sq.ft.2
ASHRAE Design Guide, Advanced Energy Design Guide for K-12 School buildings, 6/11/2008, This is an ASHRAE Design Guide. Design Guides are developed under ASHRAE’s Special Publication procedures and are not consensus documents. This document is an application manual that provides voluntary recommendations
for consideration in achieving greater levels of energy savings relative to minimum standards. American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, The American Institute of Architects, Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, U.S. Green Building Council, U.S. Department of Energy
The ASHRAE 30% Advanced Energy Design Guide for Small Warehouses and Self-Storage buildings—Warehouses up to 50,000 ft.2 and self-storage buildings that use unitary heating and air-conditioning.
ASHRAE: "Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) ASHRAE Standard", Ranish Joshi, Arctic India Sales, reviews the basics of IAQ, emphasizes the importance of both source control and removal of contaminants when improving indoor air quality, warns about bringing inside contaminants from outdoors, and reviews the pertinent ASHRAE IAQ standards for buildings.
"Updated ASHRAE 90.1 Energy Code May Help
Maximize The Benefits Of Energy Efficient
Technologies", Lindsay Audin, Building Operating Management, May 2005, discusses ASHRAE Standard ASHRAE 90.1-2004, the latest version of ASHRAE's energy code, encompassing updates to the ASHRAE 90.1-2001 standard. "Written to allow easy incorporation into specifications for new buildings and renovations, 90.1-2004 lays
out minimum requirements for a building’s envelope, electrical power systems and equipment, lighting,
heating, Ventilation and air conditioning, service, water heating, and energy management.
Under the 1992 federal Energy Policy Act (EPAct), ASHRAE 90.1 was mandated as the basis for all
state building codes as they affect energy use, starting with ASHRAE 90.1-1989. Under EPAct, the 1999
version became law in July 2004, but has yet to be adopted by all states. Since the 1999 version was
somewhat dated by the time it became a requirement, some states, especially those having high energy
prices, have already updated their building codes to the 2001 version. Some states and cities, such as
Phoenix, are now going further by leapfrogging the 2001 edition and enacting part or all of the 2004
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Christmas in April program - see Rebuilding Together at their website, rebuildingtogether.org or contact Rebuilding Together National Headquarters, 1899 L Street NW, Suite 1000, Washington DC 20036 - 800-473-4229,
Energy Star Program - see the Energy Star website at energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=bldrs_lenders_raters.energy_efficient_mortgage
Habitat for Humanity, for the U.S. and Canada: http://www.habitat.org/ also has offices in other countries including supporting Latin America.
Renewable Energy Sources, US EPA List: original source - see "Onsite Renewable Technologies", U.S. EPA at http://www.epa.gov/greeningepa/energy/renewtech.htm
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
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Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto, have provided us with (and we recommend) Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates' Technical Reference Guide to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
"Energy Savers: Whole-House Supply Ventilation Systems [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Whole-House_Supply_Vent.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11880?print
"Energy Savers: Whole-House Exhaust Ventilation Systems [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Whole-House_Exhaust.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11870
"Energy Savers: Ventilation [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Ventilation.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Savers: Natural Ventilation [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Natural_Ventilation.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Savers: Energy Recovery Ventilation Systems [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Energy_Recovery_Venting.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11900
"Energy Savers: Detecting Air Leaks [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Detect_Air_Leaks.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Savers: Air Sealing [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Air_Sealing_1.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy