Whether you know it or not, the stack effect is impacting your office building right now. Read below to learn about what the stack effect is, and how it is negatively affecting your energy efficiency.
What is the stack effect?
Stack effect has to deal with how air flows in and out of buildings. In order to fully understand the stack effect, you will have to recall an important piece of information from your middle school science class: hot air rises and cold air sinks.
During the wintertime, the air inside a building is much warmer than the air outside. As the warm air rises upwards through the building, cold air is sucked in through doors, windows, and cracks at the bottom level. In the summer, the effect is reversed – though generally to a lesser degree because of a smaller difference in temperature.
How does the stack effect impact a building’s energy-efficiency?
Unless a building is completely sealed so that it is air tight (which none are), it will be inpacted by the stack effect. During the heating season, warm air escapes homes and buildings through holes in the roof, chimneys, windows, and vents. This causes cold air to enter, which must then be heated using precious energy.
The stack effect can cause major inefficiencies in a two-story home – now imagine how that impact is magnified in a high-rise building. To make matters worse, the stack effect feeds off of itself in skyscrapers in a sequence that goes something like this:
Cold air enters the bottom of the building, making the people on these floors cold.
People on the bottom floors turn up the thermostat to warm up.
This warm air rises, and the people on the upper floors begin to get too warm. They open the windows to cool off.
The flow of warm air leaving the building has now increased, and so has the flow of cold air entering it.
The people downstairs get cold again, so they plug in space heaters.
This cycle continues, wasting copious amounts of energy.
How much energy am I wasting?
There is no definitive answer because every building is different, but some offices can waste 20% of their energy or more. If you are not carefully monitoring your building’s energy consumption, your heating and cooling costs could be going right out the window – or roof.