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There’s Finally an Easy Way to Retrofit Better Building Materials

Concrete is usually the choice material for highly-efficient buildings due to its high thermal mass. For older buildings made with wood or metal, thermal heat storage has often been considered out of reach. Now, with phase change materials, these buildings can get the same energy efficiency benefits.

What Are Thermal Mass and Latent Heat Storage?

Materials like concrete have high thermal mass, meaning they are able to absorb heat from the atmosphere and release it into a building when it cools down. This property has made materials like concrete a favorite for energy-efficient buildings, but other materials can also be combined with a material that has latent heat storage.

Latent heat storage happens with materials that are particularly sensitive to small temperature changes. As the ambient temperature changes, these materials will be pushed into phase change, so a liquid material may become a solid or vice versa. During this process, these materials are absorbing or releasing heat, helping to manage the temperature of a building. 

Phase Change Material and Latent Heat Storage

Wood, metal, and other building materials do not have high thermal mass, but by installing phase change materials, they can provide latent heat storage for a building. Some phase change materials are specially made to melt at a temperature that fits within the normal comfortable range for a room, such as many of the ones we use specifically for office buildings and schools. However, not all PCMs are made this way. Other phase change materials can melt and thaw closer to a lower temperature, such as 45 degrees. 

The ultimate goal of phase change materials is to absorb heat before a building becomes too hot and release it before the facility becomes too cold. This regulates the room temperature passively without using electricity.

What Is Retrofitting with Phase Change Material Like?

While using a material with high thermal mass needs to be considered when a building is being constructed, phase change material can be put into a building at any time. Among the best environments to install PCM is above drop ceilings, which provide an easy pathway for retrofitting without the need to remove drywall or fixtures. Drop ceilings also allow PCM to best connect to a building’s indoor environment.

All in all, installing PCM rarely requires any kind of heavy-duty construction. It can simply be placed into the building, where it starts working immediately.

How to Get Latent Heat Storage in Your Building

There are several different ways to get phase change material for your building, but the simplest and least risky way is to take advantage of a monthly utilization model. This type of agreement will let you pay for phase change material month-by-month. The fee will be less than the energy savings your building receives, or you’ll get your money back.

To learn more about how the monthly utilization model can bring latent heat storage to your building, contact D.I. Pathways today.

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