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Radiant Barrier Facts: Get Educated Before You Buy!
 
Horizon Energy Systems has been involved in the design, testing, patenting and manufacturing of Radiant Barrier Systems (RBS), since 1986.  During this time there have been many products labeled as a "radiant barrier" but most fall short of the true description of this relatively new building product. 
In the content below I will attempt to explain what I've learned from decades of research and hundreds of hours spent behind an infrared camera watching heat move.  

Below are terms describing the effects of radiation you may have never heard before, the most important being "emissivity".  Most home builders, architects and engineers I've spoken with for the last 20 years have not been exposed to this type of information despite years of university studies, myself included.  It was only through extensive research at libraries that I became aware how easily infrared heat moves into and out of our homes.

Should you have any questions after reading the information below regarding how our patented products can help you lower rising energy costs and make your home more comfortable, and why our products are superior to what is available currently, drop me an email with your questions and I will attempt to answer them.
Brad Lindsay, Horizon Energy Systems

UNDERSTANDING HEAT
There are three methods heat moves:  Conduction, Convection and Radiation.  While all three are understood and recognized, it is my opinion only one method of heat flow needs to be controlled: radiation.  Conduction and convection are paths that heat can flow while infrared radiation is a source of energy.   All heat starts with radiation.  Control radiation and energy wasting convection and conduction are diminished as well.  Infrared radiation is an electromagnetic wave that travels effortlessly through the air and changes into convection and conduction once it strikes a surface.
Conduction and convection are excited molecules creating friction which in turn allows heat to move.  Put a pan on the stove full of water, turn on the heat (gas or electric), and the metal pan will conduct the heat from below into the water through conduction.
Convection is the movement of a fluid (air is a fluid), which is heated and moves due to changing the density.  A Lava Lamp is a great tool for watching the movement of convected heat.  The less dense bubbles of color, heated by the light below, travel upwards through the colder (more dense), clear liquid to the top.  Once it cools off and loses heat, the density increases and it falls back to the bottom of the lamp to be heated again.  Looking closer we find the source of heat is the radiation from the light element blasting infrared heat from the bulb to the glass container at 186,000 miles per second (the speed of light).  Put a true RBS between the element and the jar and there will be no "lava lamp effect" as there will be no movement of heat.  But what is a "true RBS"?  


To understand how a radiant barrier works we need to look into the past where we can find the inventor, Sir James Dewar.  Dewar was a pioneer in liquefying gasses which required very low temperatures, close to absolute zero (minus 359 degrees Fahrenheit).  Once liquefied, there was no method to store these super low temperature liquids so Dewar invented what became known later as the "Dewar's Flask".  This flask was two glass spheres, one inside the other each coated with silver which had a vacuum between the two surfaces to eliminate connective losses.  The Dewar's flask later was marketed as a product we all grew up with called the Thermos Bottle.  Ever look inside a Thermos bottle?   It's very reflective and very high performance and can be very effective for keeping coffee hot or ice tea from getting warm.  In short, keeps heat from moving into or out through the shell. 
Why does it works so well?  A Thermos bottle has two reflective surfaces facing each other without contact.  This is a true radiant barrier.  To fully understand why this works you must first learn what emissivity is and how it affects our energy bills, our comfort and our lives. 
Imagine for a moment, a home completely protected in a membrane that mimicks the performance of a Thermos bottle.  It would reqiure very little energy to stay comfortable during the hottest days of summer or the coldest winter nights as heat would be reflected at the building shell. 

UNDERSTANDING EMISSIVITY
Let's let Webster start with the definition:

Emissivity explained in layman's terms

Webster's definition:
Main Entry: emis·siv·i·ty
                     Pronunciation: "e-m-i si-v-i tee
                     Function: noun
                     Inflected Form(s): plural -ties
                     Date: 1880
                     : the relative power of a surface to emit heat by radiation : the ratio of
                     the radiant energy emitted by a surface to that emitted by a blackbody
                     at the same temperature

Ok, in layman's terms:  Emissivity is the ability for radiant heat to leave the surface of an object.  It matters not what the density,  mass or thickness of the object, only the surface.  As can be seen below in Fig 1.2, emissivity (E factor),  plays a significant role in how heat moves into or out of our homes, our cars, our bodies.  The higher the number, the faster infrared heat can emit from the surface.   Pay close attention to the values of all building materials.

Fig 1.2           EMISSIVITY OF VARIOUS COMMON MATERIALS

Material                                Emissivity value

Gold, polished .03
Metalized Film Radiant Barrier .04
Silver, polished .04
Chrome .05
Aluminum, polished .04
                   oxidized .78
Brass, polished .04
           oxidized .61
Iron, polished .21
         oxidized .69
Copper, polished .05
              oxidized .78
Human skin .98

EMISSIVITY OF BUILDING MATERIALS

Wood .95
Glass .94
Paint, average of 16 colors .94
Brick, common red .93
Concrete .92
Plaster, rough coat .91

Source: Handbook of Chemistry

If you are still reading, let's examine how a radiant barrier should be manufactured.  Start with the most reflective surface you can find, then face it towards another reflective surface without touching the other one.  Herin lies the trick and also what has taken me decades to overcome the design considerations.
There are many companies claiming to have a radiant barrier but fall short of this description.  As soon as the reflective surface is laminated to another surface, be it bubble pack, foam, plywood, cardboard or a flexible membrane, you lose all the emissivity properties that allow a RBS to work.  There must be at least two low emissivity surfaces facing each with as little contact as possible to be considered a true radiant barrier system. 
All of our products have this feature designed into them for this purpose.  High performance, lower energy costs and more comfort.
 If you understand the content above you will be on your way to purchasing the most efficient RBS available anywhere at any price available here at Horizon Energy Systems.  Should you have any questions regarding the content above, please feel free to send us an email with your questions and we will attempt to address them as soon as possible.  The only thing worse than buying the wrong product is putting into your home or addition and finding out later it was not done correctly and cannot be removed.  Do it right the first time and let us help you choose the right product for your application.





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