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Public Lab Research note

This is an attempt to replicate an activity.

Comparison of Heat Insulation in Two Different Aged Building using a Thermal Flashlight

by AndrewConner | December 03, 2014 16:07 03 Dec 16:07 | #11430 | #11430

Project Contributors: Andrew Conner, Keishi Nambara, Alexa Kacin, Melissa Giblin

We investigated and compared the quality of insulation surrounding windows in buildings of different ages on Northeastern University's campus.

We hypothesized that the quality of heat insulation in older buildings was poorer than newer buildings because of improvements made in insulation materials over time. Thus, if thermal images are taken of a window in 319 Huntington Avenue, which is an older building, and Davenport B, which is a newer building, then the image of the 319 Huntington Avenue window will exhibit more blue coloring compared to the Davenport B window.

The temperature range of thermal flashlight was set to 60℉ - 90℉. This means that blue color corresponds to temperatures less than 60℉, and red corresponds to temperatures greater than 90℉. The spectrum of color between these two colors corresponds to temperatures that fall in this range. We set the thermal flashlight to this range since the outside temperature was colder than 60℉, so if there was significant heat loss it would show up blue on thermal map. Also, room temperature falls right in the middle of this range so ideal temperature would show up green on thermal map. Our thermal images were taken on December 1, 2014 between 9:00 pm and 10:00 pm. The temperature outside was between 35℉ and 37℉, and the temperature of each room was 72℉.

Below are pictures of each room before we made thermal images.

Room of older building (319 Huntington Ave): IMG_4812.JPG

Room of newer building (Dav B): IMG_3809.jpeg

Below are the thermal maps we made of the window in each room.

Window in older building (319 Huntington Ave): glowdoodle-2014-11-25-20-44-33.jpg

The red coloring was due to a hot pipe leading to a radiator. The yellow color covers the wooden framing of the window. The green color covers the shade of the window.

Window in newer building (Dav B): glowdoodle-2014-12-1-23-2-0.jpg

The red coloring was most likely due to the heat coming off of the laptop. The blue color is covering metal that was part of the window.

There was more blue color in the thermal map of the window of the newer building compared to the older building. In Dav B, there was more metal incorporated into the design of the window as compared to 319 Huntington Ave. We know that metal is a poor insulator of heat because it is a good conductor of heat. Good conductivity means that heat flows more easily. Thus, we conclude that the thermal map of the window in Dav B has more blue color than the thermal map of the window in 319 Huntington Ave because there was more metal in the design of the window, and therefore is resulting in more heat loss.

To improve this investigation, we would narrow the temperature range to make the flashlight more sensitive to temperature changes. We would also improve the casing of the thermal flashlight to prevent the camera from directly capturing the LED light source, which would decrease the light streaks in thermal map for better quality. In addition, we would use a battery as the power source for the thermal flashlight instead of connecting it to the USB port of the laptop, which would give the user more freedom to use flashlight and allow us to have a bigger field of view for the images. Furthermore, we suggest designing a better way to hold the thermal flashlight instead of holding it in your hands, such as a handle or a long pole.

For further investigations we suggest looking to see if there is a significant difference in the heating bills between two isolated rooms, thermostatically monitored, since this would provide quantitative data. We also suggest investigating to see if asbestos is being used to insulate older buildings around campus, because it is known that exposure to asbestos increases the risk of developing specific cancers.

With this particular investigation we hope to have a better understanding of how to build cost effective, thermally insulated homes. A better understanding of this would decrease the need for heating homes which will hopefully lead to a reduction in energy used for heating homes. This would end up saving people money due to reduced energy consumption that quickly reimburses the investment made for better insulation. This also means fewer emissions and fewer deaths and illness from cardiovascular and respiratory problems, which contributes to a decrease in necessary medical care. Also, if more homes are properly insulated this could result in an overall conservation of energy. In order for higher quality insulation to be constructive, better ventilation will also be required.


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