Thermal Mass - Energy Savings Potential in Residential Buildings

J. Kosny, T. Petrie, D. Gawin, P. Childs, A Desjarlais, and J.Christian
Buildings Technology Center, ORNL


In certain climates, massive building envelopes-such as masonry, concrete, earth, and insulating concrete forms (ICFs)-can be utilized as one of the simplest ways of reducing building heating and cooling loads. Very often such savings can be achieved in the design stage of the building and on a relatively low-cost basis. Such reductions in building envelope heat losses combined with optimized material configuration and the proper amount of thermal insulation in the building envelope help to reduce the building cooling and heating energy demands and building related CO2 emission into the atmosphere. Thermal mass effects occur in buildings containing walls, floors, and ceilings made of logs, heavy masonry, and concrete

This paper presents a comparative study of the energy performance of light-weight and massive wall systems. An overview of historic and current U.S. field experiments is discussed herein and a theoretical energy performance analysis of a series of wall assemblies for residential buildings is also presented. Potential energy savings are calculated for ten U. S. climates. Presented research work demonstrate that in some U. S. locations, heating and cooling energy demands for buildings containing massive walls of relatively high R-values can be lower than those in similar buildings constructed using lightweight wall technologies.

KEY WORDS: DOE-2, whole building energy consumption, heat transfer, thermal resistance, calculation procedure, walls.

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Oak Ridge National Labs and Polish Academy of Sciences
Updated August 11, 2001 by Diane McKnight