Thermal Bridging: What Are Thermal Bridges?



You read about energy efficiency, about health and comfort at home, about saving on the gas bill, or about rehabilitation always ends up with the dreaded term. But, what is thermal bridging? What are thermal bridges and structural insulated panels? They are those points on the facade or roof where heat is transmitted more easily than on the surface. This may be because they are made of a more conductive material or an element in contact with both the air outside and the air inside.

For example: if I have metal windows, it will be colder in winter than the brick wall because metal is a more conductive material. Then the entire iron surface with structural insulated panels becomes a thermal bridge.


Condensation by thermal bridging



Where can there be thermal bridging in my house?

Familiar places or elements capable of forming thermal bridges are:

·         The window frames are made of iron or aluminum without thermal break. The crystals collaborate if they are fragile

·         The pillars embedded in a wall in contact with the outside (concrete and steel transmit more than brick)

·         The house floor in the area near the exterior facade if the slab edge crosses the facade

·         The drawer of the blind

·         The niches of the radiators (the hole dug in the wall to place the radiator without protruding)

·         The union of interior partitions with facade walls


Thermal bridging problems

Although a priori may seem that the surface of these elements is very small in proportion to the total of the house, their effect on the habitability of the interior can be enormous. We explain it to you:

On the one hand, these elements are transmitting the heat of our house out through your body. It is estimated that between 5 and 10% of the heat is lost through thermal bridges.

On the other hand, these elements are colder than those around you. The difference in temperature between elements that are in contact produces condensation that can lead to humidity. These produce odors, mold, and other pathologies in the building. Once we have these things, it is very difficult to remove them from the building.

Find your thermal bridging

·         Like windows and louvered drawers, the simple trick of touching them when it's cold outside works.

·         In the case of slabs, it can be easily detectable from the outside: many times, the edge goes out to the outside, marking the lines of each floor. This is a very clear case.


·         If not, and in the case of abutments or partitions, it is necessary to resort to diagnostic tests such as thermography.


What are thermal bridges in architecture?

When we talk about sustainability in construction, energy awareness, and savings in gas or electricity bills, we cannot do so without understanding the concept of "thermal bridges."

The technical code defines a thermal bridge as "that area of ​​the building's thermal envelope in which a variation in the uniformity of the construction is evidenced, either due to a change in the thickness of the enclosure or the materials used. That is, the points of a building where heat is transmitted more easily, usually because they are made of a type of material that is more conductive, such as metal, or because it is an element that enters in contact with the air inside and outside the building at the same time.


There are different types of thermal bridges:

·         blind boxes, roof-to-facade joints,

·         incoming and outgoing corners,

·         structural insulated panels,

·         pillars integrated into facade enclosures,

·         partition walls with enclosures.


It is calculated that around 5 and 10% of the total heat that a house accumulates. For example, is lost through thermal bridging. Hence in terms of building, it is very important to know where these thermal bridges are to avoid losing the thermal bridges—heat sources.

In addition, thermal bridges are not only points of temperature loss, but when they contact the outside temperature; moisture condensation can occur and lead to areas where mold may appear.

In traditional construction, because the most used construction materials are metal and concrete, which function as thermal bridges, and are in permanent contact with the outside, there are serious heat losses, which are tried to alleviate with the installation of heating systems based on gas or light. This supposes a greater economic and energetic expense.


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