The concepts and principles of energy as it relates to your home are not all that complicated even if they are not things you normally think about often. In general warm and cool air will tend to move toward each other seeking a level of equilibrium. We see this when we open the freezer on a hot summer day and the cloud of frozen water vapor rolls out of the open door. We feel this when we are sitting near the door on a hot summer day and someone opens the door to the outside, letting in a blast of hot air. When warm air is in one place and cold air is in another, they tend to move toward each other until the temperature evens out.
The cold or hot air moves toward the other using the path of least resistance. Thermally speaking, there are basically two kinds of matter: conductors and insulators. Everything in the world can be classified as either a thermal conductor or a thermal insulator, or somewhere in between. If a material allows heat to easily transmit through it, the material is said to be a good thermal conductor. Glass and metals such as steel and aluminum are excellent thermal conductors. When a material allows very little heat to transfer through it, we say that material is a good thermal insulator. Just as with conductors, there are many good thermal insulators including woods, plastics, and even the earth itself.
Generally, if a house is built of only materials that are good thermal insulators, it will be a relatively energy efficient home - a home in which the warm furnace air stays inside during the winter months, and the hot summer weather is kept outside. The more warm air we can keep inside during winter and keep outside in summer, the less energy will be required to keep us comfortable indoors. This also means that our furnace and air conditioner will run less frequently, saving money on utility bills as well as extending the life of the home's heating and cooling systems.
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