What is Sensible Heat?

Sensible heat

Sensible heat is an increase in heat level or heat intensity which can be measured with a temperature-measuring device.

In other words, sensible heat is heat which causes a temperature rise in an object, which can readily be measured with a temperature-measuring device such as a thermometer. If an object increases in temperature and this increase can be registered on a thermometer, this is said to be sensible heat.

For example, if we apply heat to an object and the object's heat changes from 68°F to 70°F, this is sensible heat demonstrated. We can easily measure this heat intensity difference of 2°F with a temperature-measuring device.

Therefore, sensible heat causes a rise in temperature of a substance, which then can be noticeably shown with a thermometer.

Being that sensible heat measures temperature increase, not decrease, it must be a positive number. Sensible heat is only demonstrated when an object's temperature rises, not falls.

Sensible Heat vs. Latent Heat

Sensible heat, many times, is compared to latent heat. Latent (or hidden) heat is heat which is added to a substance causing a change in state but not increase in temperature, meaning it does not register on a thermometer. A perfect example of this is heat added to melting ice. The heat causes the ice to melt but does not increase the temperature. This is a perfect example of latent heat.

So while sensible heat causes a rise in temperature which can be displayed on a temperature-measuring device, latent heat will not show any registered rise on the same device, since it does not increase the temperature of an object, only changing the phase of the object.

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