By definition, sensible heat is the heat necessary to change an object's temperature causing a specific temperature difference, and with this tool, you'll be able to calculate that sensible heat.
As long as you know the amount of substance, temperature difference, and specific heat capacity, the sensible heat of water, copper, gold, or any other material can be calculated with this calculator.
Sensible heat definition
Sensible heat is the heat transferred to an object that results in a change in its temperature, with no accompanying change in phase. In HVAC systems, this heat is often referred to as the sensible load, and calculating it is necessary to forecast the system's characteristics to implement.
The term sensible heat often appears in opposition to latent heat, the heat necessary to cause a phase change (freezing/melting or evaporation/condensation), which occurs at a particular constant temperature.
Sometimes, to achieve a temperature change, we must undergo an intermediate step and cause a phase change. For example, in the image above, you can see the temperature evolution and the phases of water as sensible heat is added to it.
This calculator only considers the portion of the heat dedicated to the temperature change. If in the middle of that change, a phase change occurs and you need the total heat (not only sensible heat), you can use our latent heat calculator in conjunction with this calculator.
How do I calculate the sensible heat?
To calculate the sensible heat required to take one object from an initial to a final temperature, we use the following formula:
Q = mc(Tf - Tᵢ) = mc(ΔT)
- Q — Sensible heat, calculated in Joules (J);
- m — Mass of the object, in kilograms (kg);
- Tf and Tᵢ — Final and initial temperatures, both in kelvin (K) or degrees celsius (°C);
- ΔT — Temperature change, in K or °C; and
- c — Specific heat capacity (sensible heat per unit mass per unit temperature change), in J/(kg K) or J/(kg °C).
Studying thermodynamics, you'll often find two types of c: specific heat at contact pressure (cₚ) and specific heat at constant volume (cᵥ). This is because, for the same amount of substance and temperature change, the energy required can be different depending on if the process occurs while keeping the pressure or the temperature constant.
For solids and liquids, cₚ = cᵥ = c. On the other side, for gases, we must consider the type of process. You can learn more about specific heat and the difference between cₚ and cᵥ in our specific heat calculator.
A related quantity is the heat capacity, which indicates how much heat is required to raise the temperature of an object by one degree. From the previous formula, we can obtain the heat capacity (S) by taking the quotient of Q and ΔT:
S = Q/ΔT = mc
To learn more about this quantity, visit our heat capacity calculator.