Summary
Building insulation is material used in a building (specifically the building envelope) to reduce the flow of thermal energy. While the majority of insulation in buildings is for thermal purposes, the term also applies to acoustic insulation, fire insulation, and impact insulation (e.g. for vibrations caused by industrial applications). Often an insulation material will be chosen for its ability to perform several of these functions at once. Insulation is an important economic and environmental investment for buildings. By installing insulation, buildings use less energy for heating and cooling and occupants experience less thermal variability. Retrofitting buildings with further insulation is an important climate change mitigation tactic, especially when buildings are heated by oil, natural gas, or coal-based electricity. Local and national governments and utilities often have a mix of incentives and regulations to encourage insulation efforts on new and renovated buildings as part of efficiency programs in order to reduce grid energy use and its related environmental impacts and infrastructure costs. Thermal insulation usually refers to the use of appropriate insulation materials and design adaptations for buildings to slow the transfer of heat through the enclosure to reduce heat loss and gain. The transfer of heat is caused by the temperature difference between indoors and outdoors. Heat may be transferred either by conduction, convection, or radiation. The rate of transmission is closely related to the propagating medium. Heat is lost or gained by transmission through the ceilings, walls, floors, windows, and doors. This heat reduction and acquisition are usually unwelcome. It not only increases the load on the HVAC system resulting in more energy wastes but also reduces the thermal comfort of people in the building. Thermal insulation in buildings is an important factor in achieving thermal comfort for its occupants. Insulation reduces unwanted heat loss or gain and can decrease the energy demands of heating and cooling systems.
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