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Radiant barrier

Radiant barriers or reflective barriers work by reducing heat transfer by thermal radiation. All materials give off, or emit, energy by thermal radiation as a result of their temperature. The amount of energy emitted depends on the surface temperature and a property called the emissivity (also called the "emittance"). The emissivity is a number between zero (0) and one (1) at a given wavelength. The higher the emissivity, the greater the emitted radiation at that wavelength.

Additional recommended knowledge

A related material property is the reflectivity (also called the "reflectance"). This is a measure of how much energy is reflected by a material at a given wavelength. The reflectivity is also a number between 0 and 1 (or a percentage between 0 and 100%). At a given wavelength, are related, and the emissivity and reflectivity values sum to 1.

Radiant barrier materials must have low emissivity (usually 0.1 or less) at the wavelengths at which they are expected to function. For typical building materials, the wavelengths are in the mid- and long- infrared spectrum, in the range of 3 - 15 microns.

Radiant barriers may or may not exhibit high visual reflectivity. This is because while reflectivity and emissivity must sum to unity at a given wavelength, reflectivity at one set of wavelengths (visible) and emissivity at a different set of wavelengths (thermal) do not necessarily sum to unity. Thus, it is possible to create visibly dark colored surfaces with low thermal emissivity.

Radiant barriers must face an open air space to perform properly.

On a sunny summer day, solar energy is absorbed by a roof, heating the roof sheathing and causing the underside of the sheathing and the roof framing to radiate heat downward toward the attic floor. When a radiant barrier is placed directly underneath the roofing material encorperating an air gap, much of the heat radiated from the hot roof is reflected back toward the roof and the low emissivity of the underside of the radiant barrier means very little radiant heat is emitted downwards. This makes the top surface of the insulation cooler than it would have been without a radiant barrier and thus reduces the amount of heat that moves through the insulation into the rooms below the ceiling.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Radiant_barrier". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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