Are Brick Houses More Energy Efficient?

March 2nd 2021

Baby it's cold outside. At least it is at the time of writing.

It's winter in the UK and as the heating goes on full whack, you may be asking, how energy efficient are bricks?

Not long ago we answered the question 'are bricks environmentally friendly?'

Of course, energy efficiency was a factor in this, as the less energy that is used in manufacturing and using a material, the fewer fossil fuels are used up.

But we wanted to go into the subject in more depth.

Here's everything we know on the energy efficiency of bricks.

Why Does Energy Efficiency Matter?

Having an energy efficient house is better for the environment and better for your bank account.

Depending on your supplier, using more energy to regulate the temperature in your living space can mean more fossil fuels are used. But either way it will definitely increase your energy bill.

Whilst air conditioning is not that common in the UK, due to relatively short summers, we make use of central heating during the winter.

In order to use this less and therefore be more economical and environmentally friendly we rely on insulation and double-glazed windows to save energy.

But bricks are a big part of the equation too.

Are Bricks Energy Efficient?

Bricks have a much higher energy efficiency than any other commonly used building material.

This means buildings built with brick retain heat for longer than those built with other materials such as wood, steel or glass.

Indeed, research shows that energy consumption in houses that don't use brick increases significantly.

If it's cold outside and you put the heating on for an hour, the heat will stay around for much longer than if the building was built from something else.

If it's hot outside, the interior will stay cooler for longer and only a small proportion of the heat from outside will leak in.

The reason for this is down to something called thermal mass.

What Is Thermal Mass?

Thermal mass is simply the capacity of a material to absorb and retain heat energy when there is a temperature differential i.e., where hot meets cold.

The time it takes for heat to pass through a wall is called lag time. The higher the thermal mass, the longer the lag time.

For bricks, that lag time is pretty long. If you've got a normal cavity wall (two layers of brick or brick and blocks, with a gap in the middle) it should take around 7-8 hours for heat to completely dissipate.

For thinner veneer walls the time is slightly less and for non-brick walls, the lag time is significantly reduced.

With heat energy leaking at a higher rate, more artificial energy, for example central heating, is required.

What About Embodied Energy?

The energy efficiency of bricks is also affected by what's known as embodied energy.

This is energy required to make the material in the first place, something that therefore contributes to the overall energy used to create a building.

We looked at the effect manufacturing had on bricks eco-friendliness in our other blog post. If you haven't done so already, we highly recommend reading it!

To recap, although bricks inevitably have some embodied energy from the manufacturing process, they are still more energy efficient when compared to other building materials.

For example, any building that requires paint or galvanising, uses a huge amount of energy during the manufacturing process. The fact that bricks also last for a very long time, is a big contributor to their efficiency.

All in all, the manufacturing of the brick only counts for about 10% of the lifetime energy consumption and greenhouse emissions of a house, with 90% coming from day to day use of the house.

Bricks Keep You Warm At Night

So, you can rest easy knowing that bricks are better at retaining heat and therefore the more economical and environmentally friendly building option.

Most new builds not only use brick but have insulation and double-glazed windows as standard so really there shouldn't any need to worry about this too much.

But it's good to know why they are energy efficient and that if you put your heating on at the right time, the house should stay warm for a while.

If you're on the lookout for the most energy efficient bricks money can buy, get in touch or have a look at our selection.