How Do Thermal Coatings Work?


Thermal coatings are useful for anyone who wants to protect the exterior of a building from harsh environmental factors while also allowing the building to become more energy-efficient overall. These protective layers rely on cutting-edge science to reduce corrosion, mitigate the effect of temperature fluctuation, and much more. 

However, while thermal coatings are undeniably useful for improving a building envelope, many people remain unaware of how thermal coatings really work. In this article, we’ll provide a clear answer to that question and expand on the fantastic benefits that a well-applied thermal coating can provide. 


Thermal Coating Primary Functions

It is fair to say that a well-applied thermal coating can serve numerous uses at once. For example, thermal coatings are ideal for mitigating the effect of extreme temperature changes that take place outdoors. 

By reducing the transfer of energy, thermal coatings reduce the damage extreme heat and cold can inflict on the materials that comprise your building’s exterior. They also go a long way towards helping to keep your interior living spaces at a comfortable and consistent temperature. 

Simultaneously, the protective layers that a thermal coating provides do much more than reduce the effects of extreme temperatures. They also have an incredible ability to reduce corrosion and oxidation. This effect alone can dramatically increase the longevity of your building’s construction materials and improve the efficiency of your HVAC systems. 

This added external layer that a thermal coating provides also improves the overall insulation of your building. With that said, thermal coatings alone are not enough to provide effective insulation, but they do function as a positive contributing factor to a comprehensive insulation system.


Layers of a Thermal Barrier Coating

When attempting to understand how thermal coatings work, it can help to have an understanding of their basic anatomy. Thermal barrier coatings consist of multiple layers, each of which plays a key role in the coating’s ability to perform its primary functions. While the number of layers a thermal barrier coating has can vary, most have at least two layers. 

The first of those layers is the metallic bond coat, which has the simple role of forming a strong attachment between the thermal coating and the material to which you apply it. The second layer is the ceramic topcoat layer, which is responsible for providing thermal insulation and protection from the elements. 

At times, a thermal coating may have additional layers between the metallic bond coat and the ceramic topcoat layer. However, you can expect those two primary layers to be present in all thermal coatings as they are what allow the coating to stick to and protect a building’s exterior. 

What Materials Can Thermal Coatings Protect?

By now, you likely have a decent understanding of the basic anatomy and function of a thermal barrier coating. However, you are likely still wondering what materials a thermal coating is capable of protecting. Below is a non-exhaustive list of some of the many materials to which you can apply a thermal coating:

  • Metal
  • Glass
  • Wood
  • Sheetrock
  • Concrete 
  • Plastic
  • Asphalt
  • Masonry

As you can see, there are plenty of common construction materials that can benefit from the application of a thermal coating. As such, you would be right to guess that thermal coatings have many real-world applications, as the next section will detail. 

Thermal Coating Applications

Since thermal coatings are so effective in protecting and preserving the integrity of different materials, it is not at all surprising that they have many different applications. For instance, thermal coatings are incredibly valuable in a wide range of manufacturing practices. 

We won’t detail those many manufacturing uses here, as it is enough to know that in those scenarios, thermal coatings are excellent for moderating the temperature of machinery while also reducing friction and providing the same anti-corrosion effect we mentioned earlier. This leads to greater operational efficiency and a longer lifespan for manufacturing equipment of all sorts. 

Additionally, thermal barrier coatings are equally useful for improving the building envelope of a residential or commercial building. The term building envelope essentially refers to the protective seal that your building’s exterior provides between the outdoors and your indoor spaces. Thermal barrier coatings help to strengthen that protective seal to improve the longevity and energy efficiency of your building. 

Long-Term Advantages of Thermal Coatings

While it is useful to understand how thermal coatings work, it is just as vital to clearly see the immense benefits that using a thermal coating can provide. After all, if it were not for these incredible advantages, it would not be worth explaining the functionality of a thermal coating in the first place. 

The first and perhaps most obvious benefit of a thermal coating is energy efficiency. By protecting materials and equipment from the damaging effects of extreme temperature fluctuation it allows those materials and equipment to function more efficiently. This leads to lower overall energy use for those who use thermal coatings. 

Unsurprisingly, the protection a thermal coating provides reduces the rate at which materials degrade while also reducing the odds of damage. Thus, a thermal barrier coating is able to boost the overall lifespan of the materials it covers. 

Ultimately, the previously mentioned advantages of thermal coatings lead to what may be the greatest advantage of all: long-term cost savings. When a thermal coating improves the energy efficiency of a building, heating and cooling costs go down. Likewise, when materials have a longer lifespan, you’ll need to replace them less often, leading to more cost savings. 

Are Thermal Coatings Worth the Cost?

You’ll need to evaluate the functionality and long-term advantages of a thermal barrier coating before deciding if using one is right for you. At times, the upfront costs of applying a thermal barrier coating are off putting to some. However, it is important to compare that initial cost to the lifespan that a typical thermal coating has. 

In many cases, a single application of a thermal barrier coating can last for multiple decades. During that time, your thermal coating will continually provide the energy efficiency and cost-saving benefits that have made them so popular across multiple industries. With that in mind, applying a thermal coating proves to be a wise option for most in the long run.