The answer? Thermal equilibrium.
It’s a pain in the butt.
Thermal equilibrium is why our houses require heating and cooling units…which is the biggest reason why our energy bills are what they are.
Our houses constantly strive for thermal equilibrium. It’s just physics. The air inside our houses wants to be same temperature as the air outside our houses. When they become the same temperature, they are happy because they have reached equilibrium.
But throughout the year, there are plenty of times we don’t want the air in our house to be the same temperature as the air outside. So we run our AC and heating units to create a more comfortable living space.
The best way to maintain that comfortable space is to stop the airflow that connects the inside and outside air. This also saves energy by not requiring our home mechanical units to run to fight against thermal equilibrium.
Most homeowners are surprised to learn that most air exchange (and therefore temperature exchange) happens through their roofs. So the best way to improve the energy efficiency your house is often by improving the insulation and air sealing in the attic.
The fact is that we can’t beat nature and physics. We will always want to regulate the temperature of our homes to be different than the temperature outside.
But this process gets a lot easier when homes are properly insulated because it helps stop the transfer of heat and keeps air temperatures not an equilibrium, but at a very comfortable imbalance.
Want to learn more? The US Department of Energy has a great infographic: Energy Saver 101. The post lays out everything you need to know about home heating and combating that thermal equilibrium in your home.