Thermal bridges: What's the big deal?

Have you heard the term "thermal bridge", but never actually understood what the big deal is?

In standard construction - according to the building code - we either use 2x6" wooden studs (beams) in the walls. These studs connect the inside wall layers with the outside wall layers. Insulation material - generally glass wool, the "pink stuff"- fills out the cavity between the studs. Although wood might give you the perception of being a good insulator, it is actually a much better conductor of heat than the insulation is. The wooden stud conducts heat a lot more easily than the insulation, we therefor refer to the stud is a thermal bridge.

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Is it a real problem?

A lot of heating energy is lost during the winter through these thermal bridge (and heat can enter the home in the summer). It can also cause other issues, but I want to keep it at heat loss for now.

Let me show you some interesting photos of a house. The outside was approximately -18°C, a brisk morning in the Ottawa area. These thermal bridges were so obvious, I noticed them when driving by. I stopped and snapped a few pictures because I've never seen such a "beautiful display" of thermal bridges.

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The following photo is a close up. You can see how the wall was very likely moist at one point and then froze over during the night (I took these photos in the morning). Since heat was dissipating through the walls, it dried out the exterior stucco. You can clearly see the pattern of the wooden studs.

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Conclusion, it is a real problem and significantly increases your heating bill.

As for the solution on how to eliminate thermal bridges, here is a great video of the Scottish Passive House Center showing what thermal bridge free construction can look like.

Got any more questions on this topic? Simply comment, we'll get back to.