What is thermal mass?

Thermal Mass

Thermal mass is a concept in building design that describes how the mass of the building provides "inertia" against temperature fluctuations, sometimes known as the thermal flywheel effect. For example, when outside temperatures are fluctuating throughout the day, a large thermal mass within the insulated portion of a house can serve to "flatten out" the daily temperature fluctuations, since the thermal mass will absorb thermal energy when the surroundings are higher in temperature than the mass, and give thermal energy back when the surroundings are cooler, without reaching thermal equilibrium. This is distinct from a material's insulative value, which reduces a building's thermal conductivity, allowing it to be heated or cooled relatively separate from the outside, or even just retain the occupants' thermal energy longer.

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Some articles on thermal mass:

Thermal Mass in Buildings - Seasonal Energy Storage
... If enough mass is used it can create a seasonal advantage ... That is, it can heat in the winter and cool in the summer ...
Solar Thermal Energy - Low-temperature Collectors - Heating, Cooling, and Ventilation
... Thermal mass materials store solar energy during the day and release this energy during cooler periods ... Common thermal mass materials include stone, concrete, and water ... The proportion and placement of thermal mass should consider several factors such as climate, daylighting, and shading conditions ...
Cordwood - Thermal Mass and Insulation
... Cordwood walls have greater thermal mass than stud frame but less than common brick and mortar ... Thermal mass makes it easier for a building to maintain median interior temperatures while going through daily hot and cold phases ... climates like the desert with broad daily temperature swings thermal mass will absorb and then slowly release the midday heat and nighttime cool in sequence, moderating temperature fluctuations ...
Autonomous Building - Systems - Heating
... Most autonomous buildings are designed to use insulation, thermal mass and passive solar heating and cooling ... northern hemisphere, north in the southern hemisphere), and the building must incorporate thermal mass to keep it warm in the night ... It uses the ground beneath a building for thermal mass ...
Manitoba Hydro Place - Energy Efficient Design
... Process to optimize the building's massing, orientation and exposed thermal mass and to use digital analysis and computerized building management systems to increase its efficiency ... The design uses the building's concrete thermal mass to mitigate extreme temperature swings and integrate radiant heating and cooling systems, with a solar chimney to provide 100% fresh air by ... The geo-thermal boreholes are filled with tubing carrying glycol, which extracts heat from the building in warmer months while warming the thermal mass of the floor ...

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