The Science of Thermal Energy: Measurement and Management

The science of measuring and managing thermal energy is critical, especially when you consider that it is constantly flowing throughout buildings – generated when the sun warms a building, by the equipment and lights inside, and day to day activities of occupants.

Harnessing thermal energy brings huge benefits: improving energy efficiency; reducing operating costs; increasing the lifecycle of mechanical systems, enhancing asset value, and even providing trading and revenue generation possibilities. Our blog series, The Science of Thermal Energy outlines answers to the most frequently asked questions from developers, engineers, architects and facility managers.

In this article we focus on how thermal energy can be measured, managed and mastered. If you would like to know more, feel free to get in touch.

Did you know?

How is thermal energy measured?

There are several ways to measure thermal energy and, in the industry, it is anything but consistent. For example, in modern science the Joule is the SI unit of measurement, often used when referencing thermal energy related to natural gas. There’s also the kWh used in the context of thermal energy and electricity; the British Thermal

 Unit (BTU) used when referencing heating plants and equipment; and even the ton-hr, used to reference thermal energy in the context of cooling equipment.

When looking at buildings, any mix of these units can be encountered. Now, let’s explore the best ways of managing thermal energy to minimize environmental impact and maximize efficiencies.

What are the best way to manage thermal energy in buildings?

The most common approaches are:

How do we master thermal energy?

We often hear, “It’s one thing to measure and manage thermal energy, but can it really be mastered?” The answer is yes. Here are three steps we find add most value:

  1. Understanding heat transfer and temperature distribution through materials and assemblies in addition to market rates for energy. This allows for the prediction of energy use and informs the costs and implications of supply and demand initiatives;
  2. Designing or retrofitting key thermal energy infrastructure like HVAC, hydronics and refrigeration systems as connected cogs of a single thermal energy “wheel”. This helps maximize energy efficiencies, costs and the lifetime of systems;
  3. Leveraging thermal energy infrastructure as an asset within buildings. This improves the security of energy supply and provides the potential to generate green revenue by harvesting, storing and trading thermal energy output. This revenue makes the business case for investing in renewables a win for the environment and the bottom line.

Learn more

With so many questions surrounding thermal energy – the how, what, why, benefits and payback – why not drop us a line? Contact

Related articles

The Science of Thermal Energy: Heat Transfer


Technical insights courtesy of  US Energy Information Administration: Use of Energy in the United States Explained, Bright Hub Education, BDC Network, Thermpopedia, CaGBC Canada Green Building Trends: Benefits Driving the New and Retrofit Market. US Department of Energy: Chapter 5: Increasing Efficiency of Building Systems and Technologies September 2015 and (A Al-Mosawi) University of Strathclide, US Energy Information Administration



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