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Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Ok, lets get back to the real question on 12/04/2012 00:18:58 MST Print View

Ok, enough about spooning or the whole body thing-

Does the heavy Mylar emergency blanket have any real value? And of so how much?

Colin Krusor
(ckrusor) - M

Locale: Northwest US
Space blanket on 12/04/2012 10:22:20 MST Print View

Tad, I don't agree with Jerry's various suggestions.

If you put the space blanket where it's warm (inside the insulation), the aluminum side needs to face out. If you put the space blanket where it's cold (outside the insulation), the aluminum side needs to face in. In the first case you are taking advantage of the low emissivity of the aluminum surface, and in the second case you are taking advantage of the high reflectivity of the aluminum surface.

I don't know what your heavy emergency blanket is made of. If it is one of the common nonwoven fabric + film heavy emergency blankets (and not fleece), and there is other insulation available (like a dry sleeping bag), you will almost certainly be able to trap a lot more heat with four standard mylar space blankets than with one heavy emergency blanket. If the victim doesn't have to be carried out (just warmed up), fragile space blankets might be a more effective tool.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Space blanket on 12/04/2012 11:38:16 MST Print View

You may be right Colin

but, if the aluminum side faces in, then it will touch the surface that's closer, and will conduct heat well because it's aluminum, so you're not taking advantage of the emissitivity/reflectivity

but, there is a small air gap, so maybe that's enough

is there a difference between reflectivity and absorbtion? I don't think so because the Stefan-Boltzman equation doesn't have different terms for refectivity and absorbtion.

I agree, flimsy (light) aluminized mylar is more weight effective - the actual layer of aluminum that does the reflecting weighs practically nothing - the substrate is where the weight is - which makes it hold up better to abuse, but in an emergency maybe the light weight aluminized mylar is sufficiently robust

Matt Dirksen
(NamelessWay) - MLife

Locale: Mid Atlantic
not worth using on 12/04/2012 13:40:31 MST Print View

Reflective barriers are more effective at reflecting heat, but rather ineffective at controlling heat loss.

Coming from the remodeling world, I am often asked about adding reflective materials up in an old attic to help with a houses r-value. The reality is that these materials are only effective when there is an unobstructed film of air between it and other surfaces. Even dust in an attic can degrade performance rather quickly.They can only help with reducing solar heat gain - not improving the warmth of a house in the winter.

Go to greenbuilding websites for more info on this: http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/community/forum/energy-efficiency-and-durability/18717/reflective-insulation-attic

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: not worth using on 12/04/2012 14:18:50 MST Print View

or http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/radiant-barriers

they say when installing radiant barrier to leave at least 1 inch air space between radiant barrier and hot inside of roof (they talk more about cooling than heating)

analog for space blanket - if the foil is facing inward, there's no air space at all so it wouldn't work so good. If the foil is facing outward on the outer layer, then there is an air space onext to the foil.

Matt Dirksen
(NamelessWay) - MLife

Locale: Mid Atlantic
Re: Re: not worth using on 12/04/2012 17:56:14 MST Print View

If the reflective side is facing outside, then the surface will only reflect any radiant energy that may aid in warming you up. In other words: the shiny surfaced blankets don't help, unless you toss it on the outside of your tent in order to reduce the heat gain if your tent in the summer.

Packaging bubble wrap would be a much better material to use....

Colin Krusor
(ckrusor) - M

Locale: Northwest US
Radiant Barrier on 12/04/2012 18:12:54 MST Print View

Jerry, radiant barriers don't need an air space. They need a thermal insulator, and preferably an IR transmissive thermal insulator, at the IR reflective surface (the aluminum side). A lack of an IR transmissive thermal insulator is the reason that putting a space blanket against your skin, aluminum side in, does nothing to reduce radiant heat loss. Multilayer radiant barriers are very important to controlling the temperatures of satellite components, and space is a vacuum so there is no air space against those radiant barriers. Multilayer radiant barriers on spacecraft have fabric or scrim between the layers as a thermal insulator, to prevent heating of each layer by solid conduction from other layers ("thermal bridging"). An emergency blanket on the outside of a sleeping bag with the aluminum surface facing in would be in the same situation. It would have lightweight fabric against the reflective surface.

What would a space blanket on the outside of a sleeping bag be doing if the aluminum layer is facing out? If air temperature outside is 30F, what is the temperature of a space blanket on the outside of a sleeping bag? 33F? Freezing of moisture INSIDE the insulation of a sleeping bag is a problem for winter camping, and the outside of a sleeping bag is even colder. It wouldn't be doing a very good job as insulation if it was warm on the outside.

Any heat absorbed by a layer of cold plastic film exposed to cold air will be lost by convective cooling. The cold air will carry it away. The fraction lost to the environment by radiation will be vanishingly small, so you're not accomplishing anything by having the aluminized layer on the outside. But you are putting the mylar layer facing in, where it can absorb radiant energy from the deeper layers of the sleeping bag, which are warm. The space blanket then loses that energy to the outside air by convection.

If the aluminum side is facing in, the radiation from within the sleeping bag is reflected back toward the inner layers of the sleeping bag. Very little gets absorbed by the space blanket, so it can't be lost to the outside air.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Re: not worth using on 12/04/2012 18:43:52 MST Print View

"If the reflective side is facing outside, then the surface will only reflect any radiant energy that may aid in warming you up"

One of the four causes of heat loss is radiant heat loss

Regular sleeping bag - it will radiate heat away making you colder inside

Aluminum covered sleeping bag - you don't have that heat loss

It's not that a radiant barrier reflects heat, it's that it prevents radiation

Again, I'm not positive about this but I think this is correct

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Radiant Barrier on 12/04/2012 19:06:40 MST Print View

"Jerry, radiant barriers don't need an air space. They need a thermal insulator, and preferably an IR transmissive thermal insulator"

All insulation for backpacking uses air. You can have a vacuum bottle or argon in a window but those aren't applicable to backpacking.

Anything like nylon or polyester will absorb IR if even a thin layer

An air space is the only thermal insulator relevant to backpacking that transmits IR


"Multilayer radiant barriers on spacecraft have fabric or scrim between the layers as a thermal insulator"

They have vacuum in between radiant layers, which has no thermal conduction. Any heat transfer is just at edges or wherever.

Because they are in vacuum it totally changes things. This is interesting, helps understand things, but isn't directly applicable.

In a house, you can suspend a radiant barrier and have an air space so that works.

A neo-air mattress does have suspended radiant barriers with air space between so that works.

In a sleeping bag, there's no way to suspend radiant barriers. If you had insulation in between to push out the radiant barrier, that insulation would absorb IR so it wouldn't work very good.


"What would a space blanket on the outside of a sleeping bag be doing if the aluminum layer is facing out? If air temperature outside is 30F, what is the temperature of a space blanket on the outside of a sleeping bag? 33F?"

According to wikipedia, the insulation value of a horizontal surface is 0.11 m2K/W. Human body emits 50 W/m2. So, temperature between surface and ambient is 5.5 degree C = 10 degree F.

If you're under a clear sky, then the surface of a regular sleeping bag will emit heat so it will be at the same temperature as ambient. If it was aluminum covered and you didn't have that heat loss, it would be 10 degrees warmer than ambient.

Colin Krusor
(ckrusor) - M

Locale: Northwest US
Insulation calculations on 12/05/2012 02:06:09 MST Print View

That computation doesn't provide any information at all about the temperature of the outside of a sleeping bag. It would be very elegant if it did.

Our disagreement on a few points has made this a thought-provoking discussion, but I assume we can agree that cooling of the surface of a sleeping bag is dominated by convection, not radiation. Any heat not lost from the surface as radiation, due to low emissivity, will be lost to the cold air (convective cooling rates increase with increasing temperature gradients even when the bulk movement of air is unchanging). The best way to reduce heat loss from the surface, in my opinion, is to reduce the amount of heat that gets there in the first place by facing the reflective surface inward. I grant that the solid materials of the insulating fibers in a sleeping bag (keratin or polyester) are not very IR transmissive, but the air between them is.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Insulation calculations on 12/05/2012 08:33:38 MST Print View

Yes, good discussion : )

The Stefan-Boltzman equation tells how much power is emitted from a surface

But I wonder how that translates to temperature difference. For example, will the outer surface temperature go below ambient?

I don't think there are any products that use an aluminum surface except emergency blankets, so our discussion is just academic.

If I was in an emergency, I'de put the blanket on the outside, to keep out rain, and wind, and prevent warm air from drifting away (convection), and I think it would also minimize radiative heat loss : )

Someone should make a fabric for the outside of a sleeping bag, with an aluminized surface, and holes for water vapor to exit through. Like 5% or 10% of the surface would be holes, then it would be 90% or 95% effective at not radiating.

Matt Dirksen
(NamelessWay) - MLife

Locale: Mid Atlantic
Re: Re: Radiant Barrier on 12/05/2012 09:39:02 MST Print View

"In a sleeping bag, there's no way to suspend radiant barriers. If you had insulation in between to push out the radiant barrier, that insulation would absorb IR so it wouldn't work very good."

And that perfectly describes the whole paradox. For the barrier to be at all helpful in this situation, Two things must take place:
1) It would need to face inward, however:
2)It could not touch the skin of the person whatsoever, or have any obstructing material between it and the skin, in order to adequately reflect energy back.

The second the shiny material touches the surface of the skin, it would no longer act as an emitter, and become more of a conductor. The R-value this product is negligible, so it would not aid in insulating. Thus, any material between it and the skin would not only severely cut down on the radiant heat energy being lost by the person, but would cut out any reflected energy from entering the system.

In my opinion, emergency blankets:
1) Could only be marginally useful when an actual blanket is not around.
2) Should not even be marketed as a "blanket", since a tent ground cover likely has a higher R-value than them.

On a semi-related note (and to illustrate the never ending confusion between emissivity and insulation:) here is the unfortunate story of a person who was so convinced of the "thermal qualities of insulating reflective paint", that he forced his builder to use the paint instead of insulation. He sued the HVAC Contractor thinking his homes heating and cooling problems were his fault.

http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/musings/insulating-paint-salesman-tripped-his-own-product

Matt Dirksen
(NamelessWay) - MLife

Locale: Mid Atlantic
Re: Re: Insulation calculations on 12/05/2012 09:52:30 MST Print View

"I don't think there are any products that use an aluminum surface except emergency blankets, so our discussion is just academic."

Perhaps we should ask Robert Caffin? I wonder if he would be interested in testing the emergency blankets?

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/testing_thermal_insulation.html

Kelty used to sell sleeping bags in the 80's with a shiny interior surface. I don't think it lasted too long. Regardless of the lack of products in the outdoor world, there is much data on these types of materials in the building world:

http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/musings/radiant-barriers-solution-search-problem

There are pretty good reasons why you DON'T see any building codes require it in their wall/envelope assemblies. These products have only been reasonably helpful in reducing solar heat gain, but not keeping heat from leaving us. But regardless of their performance, they can't come close to the performance of simply having more insulation.

James Landro
(justaddfuel) - F

Locale: MN
Re: Re: Re: Radiant Barrier on 12/05/2012 10:56:04 MST Print View

Here is the only emergency blanket that I know of that actually provides insulation in a way similar to the neo-air.
http://www.blizzardsurvival.com/product.php/100/blizzard-survival-bag

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Re: Re: Radiant Barrier on 12/05/2012 11:21:37 MST Print View

That's interesting

385 grams = 13.5 ounces

They say it has 8 togs of thermal insulation value = 5 clo which would be good down to maybe 20 degrees F. That is very good compared to a regular sleeping bag.

Except tog/clo/R/m2K/W all are conduction measurements. Radiation doesn't directly convert to that unit. However, you could measure temperature gain with it and use the conduction unit of measure to produce the same temperature difference. It would depend on whether the sky was clear or cloudy or you were in a sheltered location.

They measured at Leed's University which has the best reputation

There was one diagram that showed 3 layers of aluminized material with air in between cells

The only problem is it doesn't pass water vapor, but you could use VBL

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Radiant Barrier on 12/05/2012 11:35:46 MST Print View

Looking at the Blizzard Survival site some more

Once again, they had a picture with the colored side out and the shiny side facing in

And you can get it in 3 colors - what's that about? - marketing???

But, they said that if you have two space blankets on top of each other that the 2nd blanket adds little extra warmth. That tells me that to be effective, the aluminized layer either has to be on the outside, or facing an air space. If you face the aluminized layer in, then it will be against whatever clothing you're wearing - maybe a big enough air space on average to be a little effective.

I'm beating this subject to death - I'll stop now : )

James Landro
(justaddfuel) - F

Locale: MN
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Radiant Barrier on 12/05/2012 11:49:56 MST Print View

Here's my guesses on the three colors

Silver - emergency personnel use, possibly most effective?
Olive drab - military use to avoid being spotted
Orange - outdoor use to double as signaling device