Last edited 30 Oct 2020

Thermal resistance

The thermal resistance of a material is a measure of how resistant it is to the transfer of heat across it. The thermal resistance of a material is measured by its R-value. The higher the R-value of a material, the more effective it is as an insulator.

For more information, see R-value.

Thermal resistance is the temperature difference between two defined material surfaces that induces a unit heat flow rate through a unit area. It is often described as the reciprocal of thermal transmittance, and can be derived from the thermal conductivity and the thickness of the materials.

R-values can be calculated by dividing the thickness of a material (in metres) by its thermal conductivity (k-value or lambda value (λ) in W/mK). R-values are therefore expressed in m2K/W (or ft2·°F·hr/Btu in the USA). The overall R-value of a multi-layered element can be calculated by adding the R-values of its component materials.

R-values are not directly relatable to U-values however, as unlike U-values, R-values do not include surface heat transfers at the boundary of the element by convection and radiation, they are only a measure of the thermal resistance of the materials themselves.

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