Metal stud framed building under construction Freedom Plains NY (C) Daniel Friedman Thermal Conductivity of Metal Studs - Metal Stud Wall R-Values
     

  • What are the thermal conduction values for metal stud walls?
    • What are the R-values of metal stud insulated walls
    • Heat flow through walls built using metal studs
    • Metal stud thermal short-circuiting studies and heat loss data
    • How to save on building energy costs: heating, cooling, electricity usage & cost reductions where metal stud framing is used
    • Test data giving effective R-values for nominal 2x4 and 2x6 metal stud walls
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about the effects of metal stud framing on building heating or cooling costs & energy efficiency
  • Solar Age Magazine Articles on Renewable Energy, Energy Savings, Construction Practices
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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.

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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

Question:

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

Metal stud framed building under construction Freedom Plains NY (C) Daniel FriedmanWe 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.

[That design leaves an open air space that invites in-wall-cavity convection currents. The very large heat losses that can occur with in-wall convection currents is discussed at ENERGY SAVINGS RETROFIT CASE STUDY and "solved" at ENERGY SAVINGS RETROFIT LEAK SEALING GUIDE - Ed.]

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.
  • FAQs below discusses field reports of problems & solutions for this topic

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