There are three means of heat transfer that we talk about in the context of heating our homes. While all three are likely to be involved in all heating scenarios, there is usually one that predominates.
1. Heating by radiation
2. Heating by conduction
3. Heating by convection
Everyone is familiar with that feeling one experiences standing in front of a fire or out in the sun on a cold but sunny winter day. The warmth felt on one side of your body is radiational heating.
When that radiant energy strikes a warm surface, that heat is “conducted” to other parts of the material warming the material up internally by conduction—it does the same with your body if you stand in the sun long enough. Of course if it is really cold outside it is helpful to turn around and let radiant heating do its job on the other side–while the other side cools off.
So that leaves Convective Heating–perhaps the “coolest” of all.
What does convective heating look like? Well typically it does not “look” like anything but its effects can be quite visible. It can create winds strong enough to generate electricity or be witnessed as hurricanes. It is the result of heat movement in a fluid and it can either be “forced” (as in a convection oven) or “natural” due to changes in buoyancy–as in warm air rising and cool air sinking.
At an inspection a while back I saw a good example of convection made visible. I call it the “Dance of Convection.”
The dancing blinds are the result of heat rising off the hydronic heating radiator beneath them.
Convection plays a huge part in all of our lives from the way we heat our homes, to the way we ventilate our homes and even the weather around our homes.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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