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Civil-Comp Proceedings
ISSN 1759-3433
CCP: 86
Edited by: B.H.V. Topping
Paper 78

Determining the Thermal Characteristics of Buildings using Data Loggers

P. Gardner

School of Engineering, Construction and Maritime Science, Southampton Solent University, United Kingdom

Full Bibliographic Reference for this paper
P. Gardner, "Determining the Thermal Characteristics of Buildings using Data Loggers", in B.H.V. Topping, (Editor), "Proceedings of the Eleventh International Conference on Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering Computing", Civil-Comp Press, Stirlingshire, UK, Paper 78, 2007. doi:10.4203/ccp.86.78
Keywords: thermal performance, programmable thermostat, heat loss, data loggers, solar gain, insulation, thermal mass.

There is growing concern about the environmental impact of the built environment. Buildings are significant users of fossil fuels, and thus producers of carbon-dioxide [1,2]. A combination of improved insulation, air tightness, efficient boilers and effective control can significantly reduce the amount of energy required to maintain comfortable conditions [2,3].

This paper reports on a study designed to monitor the thermal performance of an "average" UK property during the winter heating cycle. The property has reasonable thermal insulation, but not to current standards, and uses a conventional natural gas water-based central heating system.

The study used stand-alone data loggers positioned throughout the property (monitoring heated and unheated areas including under the suspended floor and in the roof space) automatically taking temperature readings every hour. Additional data loggers were located to monitor specific functions (solar gain, boiler use and thermostat behaviour). The main system-controlling thermostat (programmable seven-day) was deliberately set to maintain the minimum levels of heat input commensurate with reasonable levels of comfort: no heat at night, 18oC during the morning and afternoon; and escalating temperatures in the evening culminating in 21.5oC.

When the building was left unoccupied for a period time, the temperature was set to a maintenance level and the decline in internal temperature monitored. The data confirms the effectiveness of the programmable thermostat, and clearly shows when the building is being partially heated by thermal gain. The data, represented in graphical format, shows the gradual loss of heat when the building is unoccupied, and qualifies the time taken for the temperature to drop to maintenance levels. The programmable thermostat allows for substantial energy savings in these circumstances.

The data shows the performance of the building envelope in relation to various heating demands, and illustrates that reasonable heating levels can be achieved with minimal heat input for a substantial portion of a day, as long as heat is a "topped up" during the evening period. The study provides data to formulate a heating strategy and minimises fossil fuel use.

This study is ongoing, and is now monitoring the summer season when overheating, and natural ventilation systems are the issue. Although the study has focused around winter heating needs, overheating can produce significant discomfort, and once occupiers select air-conditioning, the building's performance in the summer period is also linked to the use of fossil fuels [1,2,3].

SAP 2005, The Government's Standard Assessment Procedure for energy rating of dwellings. Building Research Establishment, 2005.
Approved document part L1 (conservation of fuel and power new dwellings) of the building regulations, The Stationery Office, London, 2006.
Passive House Institute. URL

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