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Thinking Thermally in the UK

I recently returned from a couple weeks in the UK and am happy to report that Thinking Thermally is alive and well in the place that is (among other things) the home of Sir William Herschel.

One issue for this poor old American is trying to function in a world of Celsius rather than Fahrenheit temperature scales. Even though I’ve worked in “C” often over my career, my brain still leans toward “F.” The national push when I was in high school to get us to make the jump to Celsius failed as did a later initiative with the generation my kids were in. It appears they too will follow in their father’s footsteps and stay in the dark ages!

The Gulf Stream keeps the much of the coast of the UK at temperatures much warmer than might be expected.

The beer, ale and bitter are as fine as ever, regardless of the temperature scales used. It is typically served at temperatures much warmer than we are used to in the United States— “cellar temperatures” usually 50-60F (10-15C). Given that summers are rarely what we’d call “hot,” the lack of ice-cold beverages is not a great hardship, and the warmer temperatures really bring out the full flavor of the brew. Needless to say I managed to down a few pints—for research purposes.

I also ran into an interesting thermal issue when it came time to make my wife a “Vitamin G” what she refers to as gin & tonic. She likes to keep the gin in the freezer but when I went to pour the gin this time, it was positively thick! The freezing temperature of 73 proof gin, what she was drinking, is reported as -20F. I did not have any way to verify the temperature of the freezer (“shame on me!”) but have doubts that it was that cold. The other possibility? The gin had been watered down! Regardless of my little thermal problem, she enjoyed the G&T.

The Brits have long been used to wearing sweaters when the weather is cool. Their room temperatures are often cooler than we are used to in the heating season and warmer in the summer months. Central heat is a recent addition in many buildings and few have air conditioning. Many homes use instantaneous electric domestic hot water heaters and their 220V hot water kettles are amazingly fast at boiling up water for a pot of tea. Speaking of tea, the Brits get an A+ in my book for the way they keep the teapot warm—a tea “cozy” does the job nicely.

The tea cozy is a very practical lesson in heat transfer, keeping the pot of tea hot long after the tea has been made. More on this—and heat transfer—next week

The exterior of the cozy, in this case, was about 20F warmer than the room and I got a kick out of their idea of “beach weather” and laughed out loud (my apologies to readers from the UK) at the ends they would go to (such as various types of wind shelters)—in order to stay warm on the beach. The odd thing is that the Gulf Stream currents keep much of the SW coast warm enough that, despite the latitude being higher than the US/Canadian border, palm trees, even if non-native, can be found growing.

Thermography is certainly alive and well in the UK. I was in a small town in North Wales and ran into a condition monitoring specialist who not only used the technology but shared several mutual acquaintances in the industry with me. It is a small world! While the British Institute of Nondestructive Testing (BINDT) certification scheme for thermographers has not taken off like many of us hoped it would a few years back, their work still provides a solid foundation for some excellent work being accomplished both in condition monitoring as well as building science.

My time in the UK was certainly thermally interesting and I look forward to a return soon. Next week we’ll talk a bit more about that tea cozy and what how it affects heat transfer.

Thinking Thermally,
John Snell—The Snell Group, a
Fluke Thermal Imaging Blog content partner

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