Public Lab Research note

This is an attempt to replicate an activity.

Comparison of Window Insulation in Old vs New buildings

by weertsc | December 03, 2014 19:05 03 Dec 19:05 | #11434 | #11434

What I want to do

My group wanted to test whether there was a difference in the capacity of insulation of windows in old and new buildings on campus. We chose two different locations: 122 Saint Stephen Street and Shillman Hall. Saint Stephen Street was constructed in 1925 and Shillman in 1995, so there is a 70 year gap between when the buildings were constructed. We hypothesized that the older building would have inferior insulation. We used the thermal flashlight to test if each window was cold letting cold in compared to the normal room temperature. At the time of the experiment

My attempt and results

Here is the image of the thermal flashlight we built. It is housed in a metal case that has the plastic front torn out so that the sensor, light, and wires can come through. The battery for the flashlight is taped to the outside. The housing worked fairly well except that the Arduino and bread board had a bit of extra room and could be jostled a little.


The results showed that both windows were cold compared to the room temperature, there was not a significant difference between the insulation capacity of the two. Here is the image from the Shillman Hall window:

image9.jpeg In the above picture the green light can be observed to signify the normal room temperature. This resulted from the blind covering the window. The blue light indicates the cold coming off the uncovered window image7.jpeg We trailed the flashlight over the uncovered window to further demonstrate the cold coming from the window.

Here is the image from the Saint Stephen Street window:

image2.jpeg We covered the window with paper to avoid light from the outside from disturbing the photo. The flashlight gave off both blue and green lights at the same time (seen on the right side of the photo), but was primarily blue to indicate cold.

Questions and next steps

Is the cold coming from the windows drastically changing the overall temperature of the room? Do the blinds on the window provide an extra barrier against the cold? During the warmer seasons, do the windows perform the same way with heat? Meaning do they let in heat or do they keep the heat out, therefore changing the temperature of the room? If we were to further investigate our hypothesis we could fine tune the temperature range of the flashlight to see just how much cold each window is letting into the room.

Why I'm interested

We were interested in this hypothesis because we were convinced that windows would have improved over time, that the newer building would have better insulation. Also, the cold is very prevalent in Boston and if having new windows significantly changed the amount of cold coming into the room then it would be beneficial for older homes to undergo window renovations if it will help keep the buildings warm.


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