Sensible Heat Calculator

Created by Rahul Dhari
Reviewed by Steven Wooding
Last updated: Jan 13, 2022

The sensible heat calculator determines the heat required to cause an object's temperature to change. This change in heat can cause a body to either cool down or heat up depending on whether the heat is removed or added to the system. We use this concept of sensible heat to heat water to have warm showers in winters as well as have cool drinks from the refrigerator during hot summer. Sensible heat is a function of temperature change, specific heat, and the mass of the object.

Sensible heat is also a useful concept in solar energy-based technologies, especially in the regions where the availability of solar power is irregular or season-based. Sensible heat storage is a kind of solar thermal storage solution under which you store heat in a fluid media like water, oil or solid storage media like rocks, metals, or fabrics. It is the most simple form of heat storage and can be achieved with just a water storage tank and a heat source causing the exchange of heat.

So, what is sensible heat? Read on to understand the concept of sensible heat and the sensible heat equation.

What is sensible heat?

When you heat or cool an object, a temperature change occurs; the heat responsible for the temperature change is sensible heat. For instance, when you heat an ice cube, its temperature will start increasing up to a point where it starts melting, i.e., 0 °C. Similarly, as we heat water from room temperature, its temperature increases until it starts boiling. This heat that results in temperature change is sensible heat. In other words, it is the heat that you can feel or sense.

In contrast, a heat component that only causes a phase change is called latent heat. The figure below illustrates the process of phase and temperature change for water.

Types of heat with change in temperature for water.
Heating/cooling process for water.

Sensible heat formula

Now that you know the definition of sensible heat, let's look at the sensible heat formula. The sensible heat is a function of temperature difference, the material's specific heat, and the object's mass. The equation for sensible heat is:

Q=mcp(TfTi)\quad Q = m\,c_p(T_f-T_i)

where:
QQ – Sensible heat;
mm – Mass of object;
cpc_p – Specific heat capacity;
TiT_i – Initial temperature; and
TfT_f – Final temperature;

How to calculate sensible heat

To calculate sensible heat:

  1. Enter the mass of the object.
  2. Fill in the specific heat capacity of the object.
  3. Insert the initial temperature of the system.
  4. Enter the final temperature of the system.
  5. The calculator will return the value of sensible heat.

Specific heat capacity
You can use the list of materials to directly input the values of specific heat capacity.

Example: Using the sensible heat calculator

Determine the sensible heat (added or removed) for the system having mass 75 g and a specific heat capacity of 1005 J/kg·K. Take the initial and final temperature of the system as 25° C and -5° C, respectively.

  1. Enter the mass of the object, m=0.075 kgm = 0.075 \text{ kg}.
  2. Fill in the specific heat capacity, cp=1005 J/kgKc_p = 1005 \text{ J/kg}\cdot\text{K}.
  3. Insert the initial temperature, Ti=25 °CT_i = 25 \text{ °C}.
  4. Enter the final temperature, Tf=5 °CT_f = -5 \text{ °C}.
  5. Using the sensible heat equation:
Q=2×1005×(25(5))=2.26 kJ\qquad \small \begin{align*} Q &= 2 \times 1005 \times (25 - (-5)) \\ &= -2.26 \ \text{kJ} \end{align*}

The sensible heat is 2.26 kJ-2.26 \ \text{kJ}. Since it is negative, this implies the heat is removed from the system. It is also observable from the fact that the system has cooled down, i.e., (Tf<TiT_f < T_i).

FAQ

What do you mean by sensible heat?

The heat that causes a change in temperature for a system is known as sensible heat. You observe this while heating or cooling water. Say you heat the water from room temperature till its boiling point. The temperature of water rises steadily until the boiling point. The heat required to cause this effect is the sensible heat.

How do I calculate sensible heat?

To calculate sensible heat:

  1. Subtract the initial temperature (Ti) from final temperature (Tf) to obtain temperature difference (ΔT).
  2. Multiply the mass (m) by the temperature difference.
  3. Multiply the product with the material's specific heat capacity (c) to obtain the sensible heat (Q).

Mathematically that's, Q = mcΔT, such that ΔT = Tf - Ti.

What is the difference between latent heat and sensible heat?

The latent heat is the heat responsible for a phase change, whereas the heat that causes temperature change is sensible heat. When you cool water from room temperature, the temperature of the water begins to decrease until it reaches freezing point, after which the temperature remains steady and phase change occurs, i.e., the water turns into ice. The heat removed from the system to reach the freezing point from room temperature is the sensible heat, and the heat that causes phase change is latent heat.

Can sensible heat be negative?

Yes, the sensible heat can be negative. A negative sensible heat indicates that the heat is removed from the system, i.e., the temperature is dropping. It is also identifiable from the temperature difference and if the final temperature is lower than the initial temperature of the system.

Rahul Dhari
Properties of the object
Material
Water
Mass (m)
lb
Specific heat (c)
cal/(kg·K)
Temperatures
Initial temperature (Ti)
°F
Final temperature (Tf)
°F
Temperature difference (ΔT)
°F
Heat
Sensible heat (Q)
kcal
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