Bringing Thermal Mass Inside

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In a previous post we spoke about the importance of using thermal mass on the inside of a home in a hot humid climate like that in Bryan and College Station.  This time we will talk about home design ideas that will help achieve this.

The Foundation

Most homes in the Brazos valley are built on monolithic slab foundations.  Not only is this probably the largest structure in your home, it is also tied to the earth; which actually provides geothermal heating and cooling.  Though a floor may be cool to bare feet in the winter, most of the time it is much warmer than the outside temperature.  Most builders use a great deal of carpet as a means  of keeping the cost per square foot low.  Although this is an effective way to reduce the upfront cost of a home, it covers and minimizes a large and expensive asset.

Maintaining the thermal mass of the foundation is a great way to reduce energy costs.  This can be accomplished by staining the concrete or, more commonly, by using a stone or tile on the floor.  For those cold winter feet, use area rugs in high traffic areas.  This allows enough exposure of large areas of thermal mass to be of benefit.

Fireplaces

While most fireplaces are a large source of energy loss, using rock or brick around them can add beauty and thermal mass.  In your home design, consider extending this outcrop of hard surface.  However, be mindful of the connection of this thermal mass to the outside where it will conduct outside temperatures into the house.

Rock walls

In our custom designed homes, we usually incorporate rock or brick walls where possible.  This is especially effective at entryways where a visual connection to the outside material can help create continuity.  Thermal mass walls can add contrast and texture to tall walls.  An especially beautiful wall can be created with a process called rammed earth; which is exactly what it sounds like.  A precise combination of sand and clay is used to create a manufactured sandstone using pressure to form the structure.

These are not features commonly found in tract homes as they add to the cost per square foot but they add beauty, grandeur, elegance and energy efficiency which makes them a great consideration for custom homes.  These can be considered practices for green homes but they are smart and beautiful practices for any home.