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Guide to Thermal Bridging Insulation

Stops Structural Thermal Loss

© 2016 by Kelly Smith; all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without written permission.

Energy loss through thermal bridging; photo courtesy AmisDeLaThermique

Thermal bridging is a substantial problem when designing a structure with the intent of making it as energy-efficient as possible and meeting industry standards.

The central issue is that regardless of the quality of the insulation placed in exterior wall voids, wood and metal studs increase conductive heat transfer. For example, the steel studs and track commonly used in commercial construction have a thermal conductivity of 1,200 times greater than fiberglass insulation.

The Current Solution is Thermal Bridging Insulation

The most promising solution to this dilemma is thermal bridging insulation. This material is available in the form of strips that are placed between the structure’s framing and the drywall.

This effectively bridges the space between insulated voids in order to cover all your bases.

Advantages of Thermal Bridging Insulation

This material has a number of attributes that recommend it. Here are a few.

  • Due to its compact nature it demands very little space. Unlike other building material such as drywall, ceiling tile, and insulation batts, the transportation, handling, and storage requirements are very low resulting in lower operating costs.
  • It maintains its effectiveness under pressure. Although it might seem that this product’s Achilles’ heel would be at the spots where drywall sheets are secured with drywall screws, this is not the case. It maintains its effectiveness under a compression of 50 psi.
  • It repels water and breathes. The fact that it repels moisture minimizes the possibility of mold or mildew development.
  • Installation is fast and easy. From a labor point of view there is virtually no learning curve when it comes to installation. This helps to keep labor costs down and production up.
  • It’s a green building material. Unlike many other building materials such as bricks and roofing materials, this insulation is manufactured and sized for a very dedicated use. The minimal amount of waste means less scrap for the landfill.

ASHRAE 90.1 Sets the Standard

ASHRAE (The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers) is not an issuer of building codes per se. Rather, they provide a consensus standard for the design of energy-efficient buildings.

That being said, a great number of municipalities look to them when defining their local codes which is why many architects and engineers rely on their standards.

Their insulating standards are not a one-size-fits-all proposition. They are defined by climate zones. The zones themselves are defined by such factors as average yearly rain fall, whether the area’s predominate climate is warm, hot, or mild, and how long the seasons last.

Within each climate zone the thermal R-Value and U-Factors for walls, floors, etc. are specified. Without the use of thermal bridging insulation, meeting the standards would be a much more difficult task.

In ASHRAE's own words, “It may not matter how much insulation you add if most of the heat loss is through the details.” It’s clear that thermal bridging insulation is setting the standard in realizing superior performance while effectively keeping energy bills lower.

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