Home Power #82 • April / May 2001
into the air. If the ceiling has no barrier to radiantenergy, this radiation will heat up the ceiling surface,which in turn will re-radiate the heat directly into theliving area of the structure. Radiant energy is theprinciple vehicle for moving heat in a downwarddirection into a structure.
Effects of Solar Incidence
There are several factors that affect the ability of asurface to absorb or radiate infrared energy, and one ofthe most important is the angle at which the radiationhits the absorbing surface, known as the angle ofincidence. If you want to absorb energy at themaximum efficiency, radiation should fall on a collectionsurface that is exactly perpendicular to that radiation.The diagram above shows a variety of panel angles inrelation to the sun's rays. When the panel isperpendicular to the sun's rays, the most energy isintercepted. When the panel is set at 45 degrees to thesun's rays, only about 70 percent of the availableenergy is captured.
Absorption & Reflectance
Another factor that affects the amount of radiationconverted to thermal energy on a hypothetical earth“panel” is the color and texture of the surface. This is sofundamental to our experience that the concept isunderstood intuitively. Dark surfaces absorb heat andenergy, while light surfaces reflect them. Roughsurfaces absorb energy, while smooth surfaces reflectit. What is not so intuitive is that colors and textures thatabsorb energy well, also radiate energy well.Reflective metallic foils take advantage of this. They areactually conductors, but when specifically engineeredinto buildings to control radiant energy, they are asmuch as 95 percent effective at blocking radiant energyabsorption. They are also very resistant to re-radiatingabsorbed energy.To be this effective, a radiant barrier must be installedwith an air space on one or both sides of the material.Its mirror surface will then reflect any infrared energyrather than absorbing it and conducting it as heat.
Conduction is the most intuitively understood mode ofheat flow. For conduction to occur, materials must be incontact with each other. For example, imagine a copperbar one foot long, two inches wide, and half an inchthick (30 x 5 x 1.3 cm)—a rather substantial piece ofcopper. If we support this bar, and place a candle or aBunsen burner under one end, the bar will slowly heatup from one end to the other. Soon the whole bar willbe too hot to touch. Heat is being transmitted byconduction throughout the bar.
(parallel) tosun’s rays:No raysintercepted45
to sun’s rays:71% of raysintercepted15
to sun’s rays:26% of rays intercepted60
to sun’s rays:87% of raysintercepted75
to sun’s rays:97% of raysintercepted30
to sun’s rays:50% of rays intercepted
Panel width71% ofpanel width
(perpendicular) tosun’s rays:100% of rays intercepted
Solar Incidence at Various AnglesAbsorbtance Characteristicsfor Common Building Materials
Asphalt Shingles SurfaceSolar Absorptance
Glazed or Enameled Surfaces