Condensation and frost formation in fibrous thermal-insulation materials

University dissertation from Stockholm : US-AB

Abstract: Heavily insulated constructions are at present being used to strike at the vast energy consumption in residential buildings and commercial alike. They introduce a high-thickness layer of thermal insulation in the building envelopes. Such constructions have great moisture capacity and could be at risk due to moisture leakages and other moisture related problems connected to bad design, climate effects, extended construction period to late autumn and winter seasons and mishandle of building materials.Thermal-insulation materials based on stone wool and cellulose are commonly used in a wide range of applications that harness their high thermal-insulation properties. Both these materials could be fault-prone due to their fibrous structure in case of moisture problems – e.g. built-in moisture, annually repeating condensation and frost formation in the cold climates.The aim of this research was to observe the stone-wool and cellulose specimens in various temperature fields under extreme moisture load and to explore the issue of moisture transport and real moisture properties of the tested materials when condensation and frost formation occur. A special testing device, Thermobox, was constructed and the fibrous samples were exposed to temperature gradients simulating real conditions. The climate data as well as the moisture-transport data were registered. They were used in calculations of moisture resistance factor, µ, denoting permeability of the tested samples in the defined moist conditions. Following the laboratory measurements, a mathematical simulation was done to compare total moisture accumulation in the specimens with the practical measurements and to be able to simulate these processes in a longer time interval. Besides, a special outdoor experiment concerning the effect of outdoor climate on the stone-wool structure was executed.Final research findings proved that the phenomenon of frost formation can exist in the fibrous insulation materials. Moisture transport properties of stone wool and cellulose were affected by the extreme water condensation and freezing, but they remained highly permeable. As regards the moisture storage in the samples, this process was continuous during the tested period and it indicated significant growth of the total water accumulation in connection with dry densities of the tested materials. This emphasises the importance of proper handling with the fibrous thermal-insulation materials and keeping them dry.

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