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Why Do I Need to Insulate?

One of the benefits of steel buildings is that they are built to last. Steel can withstand time and the elements better than competing building materials. But, if you want that longevity to extend for as long as possible, you’re going to need insulation. You’ve probably heard this before, but you may not know why insulation is so important. If you aren’t sure, we’re here to explain.

The most important reason to insulate your steel building is to limit heat transfer. What is heat transfer? It is the exchange of thermal energy between two systems as heat from one dissipates into the other. In other words, warm molecules move toward cool molecules. Heated systems contain more kinetic energy, and that energy shifts into cooler systems, which have lower kinetic energy. So, without insulation, a heated interior will dissipate heat into cold winter air, and warm outdoor temperatures will intrude on air conditioned spaces, in both cases increasing the energy output required to regulate temperature. For that reason, insulation is a money-saving investment that will reduce your heating and cooling bills by reducing heat transfer.

There are three ways that heat can move through steel; convection, conduction and radiation. These methods can occur through the roof, walls, doors, windows, floors, foundation and through leakages in various seals and parts.

Conduction moves heat through direct physical contact between molecules of differing temperatures. The effect is dependent on the difference in temperatures between the molecules involved, the type of material between the two ares, the length of the path the heat will move through and the properties of the material it is moving through. As mentioned previously, areas of increased kinetic energy will transfer particles toward areas of lower kinetic energy. As a result, the particles in the cool, low-energy regions will experience a lift in kinetic energy and become warmer, while the original source of heat will gradually cool. This effect will last until the temperature difference between the two areas is eliminated, creating an equilibrium in kinetic energy between them. The size of the objects involved plays a crucial role, as smaller objects with less exposed surface area are better able to retain heat than larger, lengthier objects. The type of material is also key to the exchange. An example of conduction is the exchange of heat experienced from placing a warm hand on a cool window.

Convection occurs typically via fluids. For the purposes of a steel building, this can include air, which most people don’t know can be classified as a fluid. When air is heated, it expands and becomes less dense, which causes it to rise. The increasing temperature of the air increases its volume, which results in cooler air being displaced downward. A good example of this type of heat transfer is the bubbles that rise up in a pan of boiling water. The heat increases the energy of the molecule, which causes it to expand and move up past lower energy, cooler molecules.

Radiation is electromagnetic energy, much like visible light, which occurs as atoms and molecules move randomly, carried by electromagnetic waves away from the object emitting them as a result of temperature. An increase in heat will increase the radiation, shortening wavelengths and increasing their frequency.

These three types of heat transfer often work in unison. Luckily, all three can be controlled with proper insulation.

Insulation will also prevent condensation, which forms when cool walls meet with warm air. Condensation over time causes steel to rust, reducing the structural integrity of the structure and reducing its life. It can also cause mold and mildew.

For more information about why you should insulate, and which insulation your should choose, contact us and speak to an expert today!

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