Specific Heat

Specific heat is defined as the quantity of heat energy (in Btu) required to raise the temperature of one pound of a material by one-degree Fahrenheit. The specific heat of water is 1 Btu/lb-F, or one Btu per pound per degree Fahrenheit. The specific heat of copper is 0.092 Btu/lb-F, less than one-tenth that of water. The specific heat of most masonry materials is around 0.2 Btu/lb-F. Because specific heat defines the relationship between heat energy and temperature for a given weight of material, it can also be used to determine the change in temperature for a material as it absorbs or releases energy.

For example, if a pound of water absorbed 20 Btu, its temperature would rise 20 degrees F. If a pound of copper absorbed the same 20 Btu its temperature would rise 217 degrees F (20 Btu / 0.092 Btu/lb-F / 1 lb = 217 F). Specific heat describes a material’s ability to store heat energy.

As a material absorbs energy, its temperature rises. A material with a high specific heat, such as water, can absorb a great deal of heat energy per pound of material, with little rise in temperature. The same weight of a material with low specific heat, such as copper, rises to higher temperatures with only a small quantity of heat absorbed.

Next: Heat Capacity (HC)