By Jessica Kourkounis | 09.26.2018 | 06:17PM EST | Updated 09.27.2018A new study says that fibered roofs, which have exposed insulation, can increase the likelihood of heat stress in homes, particularly those with large windows.
In a new study, researchers found that residents living in the San Francisco Bay Area are at a higher risk of heat-related deaths than residents in other cities, particularly in the areas where roofs are made from the most fibrous materials.
In their new study published in the journal Applied Energy, researchers from Stanford University found that the higher the number of fibrous tiles found in homes with exposed insulation and the higher their surface area, the greater the likelihood that people would experience heat stress.
“There is a lot of speculation out there about the relationship between fiberglass and heat-induced death,” lead researcher Sarah J. Dutko, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, said in a press release.
“What we wanted to show was, based on our analysis, it’s not a direct relationship, it is more likely that there is a higher incidence of heat death associated with the use of exposed fiberglass than with any other surface materials.”
She added that this suggests that heat stress is likely caused by the fibrous surface and not just a result of the insulation.
“We were interested in the fibres of homes in the Bay Area, and found that their surfaces were about two-thirds more likely to be fibrous than non-fibrous surfaces,” she said.
“We also found that these surfaces had higher surface area ratios, meaning that when you have an area ratio of two, the probability of heat exposure increases substantially.”
The researchers said that the increased risk for heat stress was due to higher levels of humidity and heat stress associated with a high number of exposed windows.
“The fibres on the surfaces were more than twice as likely to exhibit heat stress as the non-affected surfaces,” said study author Dr. Paul J. R. O’Brien, an assistant professor in the College of Engineering.
“This suggests that the fibre layer is not just the insulation, it may also be the surface.
There may be a higher proportion of fibres than surfaces that may have been exposed.”
The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department.of Engineering, and the San Diego County Health Department.
In other research, researchers studied the influence of temperature on the surface of houses in a number of cities, including Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Seattle.
The study found that higher temperatures led to higher surface temperatures and that a higher percentage of the homes were likely to have an exposed roof.
Researchers found that in cities where heat-stress was more common, the proportion of exposed roofs was about 15 percent higher than in cities without heat stress, with the proportion still increasing after controlling for humidity.
“Heat stress in houses is a public health concern, but this study shows that homes with high levels of heat were more likely than nonhomes to be exposed to heat stress,” said Dutkos co-author, David P. Gentry, an associate professor in Stanford’s Department of Engineering and senior author of the study.
The researchers also studied the effect of exposure to air pollution on heat stress risk, finding that exposure to ozone in the form of particles and carbon monoxide in the amount of dust found in dust bays may increase heat stress by causing heat-sensitive skin cells to release more heat-treating enzymes.
The authors said that they hope their findings will help people understand what is likely to cause heat stress and how to mitigate it.
“If you’re going to build a house, you have to know how to protect it from a variety of environmental factors that may lead to heat damage,” J.D. Dutton, a professor of engineering and a co-senior author on the study, said.
“You can’t just assume that it’s all caused by insulation or the insulation is the only cause of heat damage, it has to be both.”