Plan Ahead for Next Winter: Is Radiant Heating Right for Your Building?
The winter of 2014-15 is still several months away, but it’s not too early to start planning for revisions or expansions to your commercial heating system. One option that continues to gain attention is radiant heating. The following brief introduction to radiant heating and how it can be used in your building will help you understand this technology and whether it is right for your needs.
What Is Radiant Heating?
Radiant heating supplies heat directly to a room’s floor, walls, or ceiling. The heat is provided by either warm air, electric cables, or most commonly, hot water circulating through a series of tubes. Heat radiates from these sources and warms the floor or wall surface, then is transferred from the heat source to the room. The heat rises and gradually warms the room and its occupants from the lower extremities upward. Radiant heating is very effective because it heats evenly over a relatively large surface area.
Types of Radiant Heating
There are three major types of radiant heating systems:
- Air-heated: Air-heated radiant systems heat a layer of air beneath the surface of the floor. The warm air then heats the floor, and heat is transferred upward into the room.
- Electricity-heated: Electricity-heated systems use a system of electric cables embedded into the floor itself. Sometimes they use a large mat of electrically conductive plastic in a subfloor under a covering of tile. These electric cables generate heat, which radiates upward through the floor.
- Hydronic: Hydronic radiant heating systems are based on series of sturdy pipes embedded directly in the material of the floor, usually concrete. The pipes can also be placed within a layer of gypsum, concrete, or other appropriate substance applied on top of an existing floor or subfloor. Hot water is circulated through the pipes, providing heat that radiates upward to heat the room and its occupants. The hot water is most often produced by a gas- or oil-burning boiler or by a water heater that uses kerosene, gas, or solar power. Hydronic radiant heating is the most popular type and provides the greatest range of benefits for a commercial establishment.
Benefits of Radiant Heating
- Improved heating efficiency: The direct heating provided by radiant systems means they can heat an indoor space with the thermostat set at a lower temperature level. More heat reaches the occupants of the room, which increases both efficiency and effectiveness.
- Decreased costs: By operating a radiant system at lower thermostat settings, less energy is used and costs are decreased.
- Quiet operation: Since there is no air circulation in a radiant system, there are no fans, blowers, or system components that produce noise.
- Improved use of indoor space: Radiant heating components are placed out of sight, usually in or under floors. They require no ducts, vents, registers, or other features that could take up wall or floor space. They leave more room for commercial design elements, shelving, equipment, or other items.
Considerations When Installing Radiant Heating
- Cost: Purchase and installation of a radiant system will usually cost more than a standard furnace, but the costs should be offset relatively quickly by the efficiency and effectiveness of the system.
- Installation type: A “wet” installation embeds hydronic pipes and tubing directly into the floor or inside a layer of material on top of an existing floor or subfloor. “Dry” installations suspend the hydronic tubes in an open space under the floor or subfloor.
- Floor coverings: The floor should be covered with a material that transfers heat easily, such as ceramic tile. Linoleum, vinyl, wood, or thin carpeting could also work. Heavier floor coverings will prevent heat from rising from the system and cancel out its effectiveness.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection and Alarm Systems in Mechanical, Commercial and Residential settings. For more information on radiant heating and its benefits, and to view projects we’ve worked on, visit our website!