Temperature regulation within office buildings, particularly older construction, can present a significant engineering challenge. Occupant comfort, cost and energy efficiency are all priorities that shape design decisions; a well-constructed heating system minimizes heat loss and creates a warm, pleasant working environment.
In buildings that feature forced-air duct systems, fans pump heated air through ducts leading into different rooms. While this air is being transferred, heat loss occurs though conduction or air leakage; according to the U.S. Department of Energy, typical duct systems lose 25 to 40 percent of their heating energy.
Many office buildings experience high heat loss through exterior walls, leading to occupant comfort problems, drafty workspaces and high energy bills. For this heat loss to be offset, a precise amount of airflow at the right temperature is required. If the air is too hot, it causes stratification and is unsuccessful; if it’s too cold, the system must pump significantly more air into rooms. The capacity of these systems are determined from many variables including the temperature of the space and the hydronic water temperature.
Radiant heating and cooling can be used in most applications, but care has to be taken to monitor the supply air dew point, as mismanagement of this can cause condensation to build up in the space and create problems such as mold. Radiant systems are best served in areas that contain low latent heat, i.e. spaces that do not contain a high volume of active people such as fitness centers.
If the space meets the humidity requirements, radiant heating is an attractive alternative to conventionally ducted systems.
How Radiant Heating Operates
A radiant heating system delivers heat directly to building spaces through piping beneath floors, panels in walls or ceilings, mounted modules on ceilings or walls and mounted equipment on ceilings or walls. Through radiant heat transfer, these hot surfaces supply heat to the people and objects in each room. The closer people are positioned to radiant panels, the more they will experience this heat transfer.
Radiant panels mounted on walls and ceilings are generally constructed from aluminum and heated by electricity or hydronic tubes; however, new technology is being developed constantly.
Advantages of Radiant Heating
Radiant heating systems are often more efficient than forced-air systems because they eliminate most duct losses and provide uniform heat. Well-designed systems can lead to long-term financial benefits.
Radiant heating panels can be individually configured for each room, which may result in energy and cost savings. Rooms that aren’t occupied frequently can be set at a lower temperature until they’re in use; radiant heating’s quick response time ensures that they will reach a comfortable temperature rapidly.
Building occupants with allergies may also prefer radiant heating because, unlike in forced-air systems, dust, dirt and other allergens aren’t blowing into rooms through ducts.
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