January 31st 2024

ASHRAE Heat Balance Method Versus Radiant Time Series

ASHRAE Heat Balance Method Versus Radiant Time Series

The calculation of cooling loads in building and HVAC system design is a critical task that requires precision and understanding of thermal dynamics. This article presents a comparison between the ASHRAE Heat Balance Method (HBM) and the Radiant Time Series Method (RTSM), grounded in recent academic research and their practical applications.

ASHRAE Heat Balance Method: An Integrated Approach

The HBM stands out for its comprehensive approach to modeling the heat transfer mechanisms within a building. This method incorporates detailed heat balance equations that account for both the convective and radiative heat transfer components, as well as the latent heat fluxes.

The HBM calculates cooling loads by conducting simultaneous heat balances on various building elements (including walls, roofs, and windows) and the internal air zones. It considers factors such as thermal conductivity, specific heat, surface emissivity, and internal heat gains from occupants and equipment. A study by Rees et al. (2000) underlines the HBM's capability in accurately modeling principal heat transfer mechanisms, providing a more realistic prediction of peak cooling loads compared to simpler methods.

Radiant Time Series Method: A Simplification

The RTSM, in contrast, offers a simpler approach, focusing on steady periodic excitations to calculate cooling loads. This method utilizes predefined conduction time series and solar heat gain coefficients to simplify the computational process. It primarily addresses the conductive and radiant heat gains through building elements under periodic outdoor conditions.

However, it may not fully capture the transient heat transfer processes that can be crucial in complex architectural designs. According to Mao, Baltazar, and Haberl (2018), the RTSM, while efficient and user-friendly, may not reach the level of accuracy of the HBM in scenarios involving intricate building envelopes or diverse material use.

Evaluating Accuracy and Applicability

In a comprehensive comparison by Mao et al. (2018), the HBM was found to be the most accurate method among the five ASHRAE-published methods, including the RTSM. This finding was based on a detailed analysis of sensible building envelope cooling loads, where the HBM's thorough approach to heat balance proved superior in capturing the nuanced interactions of thermal properties.

Adaptability to Varied Climatic Conditions

Mui and Wong (2007) discussed the RTSM's adaptability in subtropical climates, demonstrating its practical application across different geographic locations. However, in climates with significant diurnal temperature variations or unique architectural features, the HBM's ability to account for a broader range of thermal dynamics gives it a distinct advantage.

ASHRAE Heat Balance Method (HBM)The general equation for the HBM can be simplified as:

Q = U * A * (Tout - Tin) + Qinternal + Qsolar

Q is the total heat gain or loss through a building element.

U is the overall heat transfer coefficient.

A is the area of the building element.

Tout and Tin are the outside and inside temperatures, respectively.

Qinternal is the internal heat gain from occupants, equipment, etc.

Qsolar is the heat gain from solar radiation.

This equation is part of a much larger set of simultaneous equations that are solved iteratively to account for the interaction between all building elements and the internal environment.

Radiant Time Series Method (RTSM)

The general form of the equation used in the RTSM is:

Q = A * (CLTD + SC * SCL)

Q is the cooling load.

A is the area of the element (such as a wall or window).

CLTD is the Cooling Load Temperature Difference.

SC is the shading coefficient.

SCL is the Solar Cooling Load factor.

This equation utilizes pre-calculated factors like CLTD and SCL, which are typically obtained from tables or software, and are based on various parameters such as orientation, location, and time of day.

These simplified equations capture the essence of the methods used in cooling load calculations by the HBM and RTSM. For a detailed and accurate application, consulting the specific ASHRAE handbooks and guidelines is recommended, as these methods involve comprehensive calculations and contextual adjustments.


In summary, both the HBM and RTSM serve critical roles in the field of cooling load calculations. The HBM's detailed, integrated approach offers a high degree of accuracy and is particularly suited for complex architectural designs or when precision is paramount. The RTSM, with its simplified methodology, is suited for standard applications where complex thermal interactions are less of a concern. The choice between these methods should be informed by the specific demands of the project, including building complexity, material diversity, and climatic conditions.

IES Virtual Environment Software for Loads Calculations, Sizing and HVAC Design

IES Virtual Environment (VE) software performs ASHRAE load calculations using the non-simplified Heat Balance Method, calculating heat balance and the resulting loads directly without time factors. To learn more about calculating loads for HVAC design using the VE, visit our Loads Analysis page.