Phase change materials (PCMs) are an effective thermal mass and their integration into the structure of a building can reduce the ongoing costs of building operation, such as daily heating/cooling. PCMs as a thermal mass can absorb and retard heat loss to the building interior, maintaining comfort in the building. Although a large number of PCMs have been reported in the literature, only a handful of them, with their respective advantages and disadvantages, are suitable for building wall construction. Based on the information available in the literature, a critical evaluation of PCMs was performed in this paper, focusing on two aspects: (i) PCMs for building wall applications and (ii) the inclusion of PCMs in building wall applications. Four different PCMs, namely paraffin wax, fatty acids, hydrated salts, and butyl stearate, were identified as being the most suitable for building wall applications and these are explained in detail in terms of their physical and thermal properties. Although there are several PCM encapsulation techniques, the direct application of PCM in concrete admixtures is the most economical method to keep costs within manageable limits. However, care should be taken to ensure that PCM does not leak or drip from the building wall.
Keywords: butyl stearate; encapsulation; fatty acid; hydrate salts; paraffin; phase change materials (PCMs).