How to calculate heat capacity of concrete

Written by pauline gill
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How to calculate heat capacity of concrete
Concrete structures can hold large amounts of heat. (concrete architectural detail image by thomas owen from

The role of concrete has expanded beyond structural considerations to its capacity to store heat during periods of peak temperature and then to release it during off-peak hours. The use of concrete building materials allows power utilities to deal with peak loads during extreme conditions while preventing brownouts and lowering energy costs. According to the Portland Cement Association, heat capacity (HC) is the amount of heat energy required to raise the temperature of a mass 1 degree Fahrenheit. Calculating heat capacity is straightforward once the mass is determined.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Calculator or computer spreadsheet
  • Concrete data resources

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  1. 1

    Calculate the mass of the concrete in question. Because concrete walls are defined in square feet of area and thickness, measure the number of square feet and multiply it by the wall's thickness. For example, a 1-foot-thick wall measuring 10 feet high by 10 feet wide will contain 100 cubic feet of concrete. The density of average concrete is 60.3kg. per cubic foot, so the wall's mass is 6033kg.

  2. 2

    Multiply the mass by the specific heat capacity of concrete, 0.2 BTU/lb/degree F. This yields 0.2 times 13,300 equals 2,660 BTUs to raise the temperature of the entire wall just 1 degree Fahrenheit.

    How to calculate heat capacity of concrete
    A large concrete slab floor can moderate temperatures in the rest of the building. (fresh concrete image by jimcox40 from
  3. 3

    Adjust the base calculation for the specific dimensions of your application. For a 40-feet-long wall, the total BTUs per degree F would be 4 times 2,660 or 10,640 BTU/per degree F change. If the 40-foot wall is 2 feet thick, its mass would be 48262kg., and the heat capacity would be 21,280 BTU/degree F change.

    How to calculate heat capacity of concrete
    Aggregate content or texture can alter the heat capacity of concrete. (concrete wall image by Lela Obradovic from
  4. 4

    Calculate the heat capacity change with a specified temperature change. If the 40-feet-long, 2-feet-thick wall was heated uniformly by 1.67 degrees C, the heat capacity would change by 1.67 degrees C times 21,280 BTU/degree F or 744,800 BTU. Heating that wall by 1.67 degrees C by burning fuel oil would require about 5.4 gallons, assuming 100-percent efficiency.

  5. 5

    Adjust the calculation based on the type of concrete. Concrete with a high percentage of aggregate has a 10-percent lower specific heat capacity at about 0.18 BTU/lb/degree F. The 40-foot wall would contain about 744,800 times 0.9 or 670,320 BTU more for a 35-degree F rise in temperature. Similarly, concrete with only sand, but no stone, would have about 15 per cent more BTUs at 0.23 BTU/lb/degree F or 744,800 times 1.15 or 856,520 BTUs more for a 35-degree F rise.

  6. 6

    Step 6 Analyse your entire concrete structure on the basis of square feet and thickness to know the net heat capacity change for a uniform change in temperature.

Tips and warnings

  • Set up spreadsheets to run calculations with a range of variables when building new concrete structures.
  • Structural considerations must be carefully considered when locating concrete thermal masses above ground or overhead.

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