THERMAL MASS in UPSTAIRS - CONTENTS: What is the most cost effective way to place thermal mass on the second floor of a new building? How does placing thermal mass on upper floors in buildings affect energy efficiency and heating or cooling costs? Use of thermal mass on upper floors in passive solar homes and other energy efficient buildings. Solar Age Magazine Articles on Renewable Energy, Energy Savings, Construction Practices
The question-and-answer article about Thermal Mass Upstairs , quotes-from, updates, and comments an original article from Solar Age Magazine and written by Steven Bliss.
What is the Most Cost Effective Way to Place Thermal Mass in Second Story New Construction?
What is the most cost-effective way of placing thermal mass in second story new home construction? The McAdams article (Solar Age, 9/93) reported that an upper-story concrete slab with tile costs only $1.50 per square foot more than plywood and carpeting (1980's prices).
Do these floor construction costs include the structural supporting members, concrete forms, concrete delivery, slab preparation, etc?
Also, how does the cost of thermal mass walls compare to the cost of thermal mass floors for upper story construction? -- J.A. Horton, Oak Ridge, TN
Wootie McAdams reported in the original Solar Age Q&A on thermal mass for upper building floors that the $1.50 per square foot cost compared the concrete floor slab and locally made concrete tiles to the commercial carpeting and plywood underlayment that would have been used otherwise. Relatively cheap tiles at $2.50 per square foot (1980's prices) versus commercial carpeting at $3.33 per square foot made those economics work.
The minor changes needed in the deck and beam floor due to the added load of the concrete were also considered in the calculation.
Comparison of Thermal Mass Walls to Thermal Mass Floors
As for thermal mass building walls compared with thermal mass floors on upper building levels, the economics depend on what finishes are chosen, and on whether the thermal mass wall is on the building exterior where it needs to be insulated.
Design and marketing considerations may override simple economics. For example, direct gain mass floors should not be carpeted or covered with furniture as the clients may intend.
The page top photograph shows the La Vereda passive solar condominiums developed in the 1980's by Wayne and Susan Nichols in Santa Fe, New Mexico. These passive solar condos use upper-story concrete slabs and tile for thermal mass and consumer appeal.
Diminishing Returns of Thermal Mass
Beyond some point, though, adding more thermal mass won't help performance. Once you put in enough thermal mass to prevent solar overheating, piling a few tons of brick in the living room won't reduce heating bills any further. It can even be a liability if night time thermostat temperature setbacks are planned.
So it becomes the designer's job to decide on the right amount of thermal mass for a building.
Here we include solar energy, solar heating, solar hot water, and related building energy efficiency improvement articles reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss.
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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: email@example.com
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
Thermal Mass Pattern Book, Total Environmental Action, Solar Age Magazine, April 1981 (out of print).
Mark Cramer Inspection Services Mark Cramer, Tampa Florida, Mr. Cramer is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors and is a Florida home inspector and home inspection educator. Mr. Cramer serves on the ASHI Home Inspection Standards. Contact Mark Cramer at: 727-595-4211 mark@BestTampaInspector.com
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Passive Solar Design Handbook Volume I, the Passive Solar Handbook Introduction to Passive Solar Concepts, in a version used by the U.S. Air Force - online version available at this link and from the USAF also at wbdg.org/ccb/AF/AFH/pshbk_v1.pdf
Passive Solar Design Handbook Volume II, the Passive Solar Handbook Comprehensive Planning Guide, in a version used by the U.S. Air Force - online version available at this link and from the USAF also at wbdg.org/ccb/AF/AFH/pshbk_v2.pdf [This is a large PDF file that can take a while to load]
Passive Solar Handbook Volume III, the Passive Solar Handbook Programming Guide, in a version used by the U.S. Air Force - online version available at this link and from the USAF also at wbdg.org/ccb/AF/AFH/pshbk_v3.pdf
"Passive Solar Home Design", U.S. Department of Energy, describes using a home's windows, walls, and floors to collect and store solar energy for winter heating and also rejecting solar heat in warm weather.
"Solar Water Heaters", U.S. Department of Energy article on solar domestic water heaters to generate domestic hot water in buildings, explains how solar water heaters work. Solar heat for swimming pools is also discussed.
"Heat-Transfer Fluids for Solar Water Heating Systems", U.S. DOE, describes the types of fluids selected to transfer heat between the solar collector and the hot water in storage tanks in a building. These include air, water, water with glycol antifreeze mixtures (needed when using solar hot water systems in freezing climates), hydrocarbon oils, and refrigerants or silicones for heat transfer.
"Solar Water Heating System Freeze Protection", U.S. DOE,using antifreeze mixture in solar water heaters (or other freeze-resistant heat transfer fluids), as well as piping to permit draining the solar collector and piping system.
"Solar Air Heating" U.S. DOE also referred to as "Ventilation Preheating" in which solar systems use air for absorbing and transferring solar energy or heat to a building
"Solar Liquid Heating" U.S. DOE, systems using liquid (typically water) in flat plate solar collectors to collect solar energy in the form of heat for transfer into a building for space heating or hot water heating. The term "solar liquid" is used for accuracy, rather than "solar water" because the water may contain an antifreeze or other chemicals.
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
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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.
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