What is Thermal Bridging? And How to Avoid It in Your Home

What is Thermal Bridging?

During our colder mornings here in Lethbridge, you might notice frost lines on the exterior of your home. These are sometimes referred to as “frost ghosting”.

Perhaps you’re noticing from the inside as you can feel your walls expelling the heat from your home.

Photo of exterior frost lines above: enercept.com

A thermal bridge is a path of least resistance for heat to move from the inside of your home to the outside of your home. In the summer when you’re trying to keep cool air in, thermal bridging will work in reverse.

In a typical built-to-code home, framing provides dozens if not hundreds of thermal bridges in your home.

Each wooden stud used to frame your home is a thermal bridge if there is no insulation to stop the heat transfer. Sure, there is insulation between the studs, but there is no insulation on either the inside or the outside.

The photo above is a birds-eye view of a typical 2×6 framed wall. Let’s say the top of the wall represents the inside of your wall, and the bottom represents the outside.

While the insulation will help to stop the heat from escaping, each stud is going to give it an easy path, or a bridge, out of the home.

Cold walls in the winter are a sure sign that your home was built without prioritizing comfort and energy savings.

So, how do you avoid thermal bridging in your home?

If you’re building a new home the goal is continuous, or near continuous, insulation.

One of our favourite wall systems that offers the best value for your dollar, is the staggered stud system. We’ve been able to hit Net Zero Energy in our homes many times over now with this wall system.

While there are other wall systems that also work great, the staggered-stud creates a snake-run of continuous insulation. This means that very few studs will reach from the inside to the outside of your wall.

The staggered-stud wall system, when assembled air-tight and filled with environmentally-friendly, water-blown spray foam will optimize comfort for the occupants, and reduce energy use by up to 50%.

How can I stop thermal bridging in my renovation?

If you’re only renovating your home, it will still be easy to greatly reduce thermal bridging.

When your siding to be replaced or updated, you have the perfect opportunity to add more insulation to your walls. Adding insulation to the inside of your home means removing and replacing drywall which becomes very costly, very quickly.

Your home will either have 2×4 studs or 2×6 studs, depending on when it was built. The amount of insulation to add, or the solution to use, will depend on the energy performance you’re aiming for. A contractor who focuses on energy performance will help you find the best solution for your home.

For a simply comfortable home that will save you energy, adding exterior insulation will give you great value. The heat that transfers through your studs will be slowed down by the insulation before it completely escapes your home.

Reducing or eliminating thermal bridging will make your home much more comfortable, and will pay itself back over and over for years to come.

If you’re ready to explore options to make your home more comfortable, or would like for your next home to maximize comfort and savings, let’s explore your options together. View our Custom Home Building Process or Contact Us today.

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