When specifying systems to control temperature in your self-build, the key is to balance style, substance and sustainability to ensure the end result ticks all the right boxes. Greg Cooper from Radiana looks at why radiant cooling could be the answer to the challenge
It’s almost a given that newly built homes will be hugely efficient to run and very well insulated. However, while ensuring that all the correct regulatory boxes are ticked, when it comes to indoor climate control, it’s equally important to also consider the holistic balance of wellbeing, thermal comfort and efficiency. If there is a focus on just one aspect, and not the others, it could create an imbalance. For example, you might have an efficient home, but if you are simply not happy with the aesthetics of the building – and you don’t get enough natural light – you may not be happy living in the space.
When specifying materials and technology for your new home, consider how to make the indoor temperature comfortable all year round – this includes being aware of what glazing contributes to heat gain and orientation of the building, and how individual needs or personal preferences can be addressed with energy efficient technology.
EFFICIENT & COMFORTABLE
To ensure newly built homes consume less energy than existing housing stock, Building Regulations have been tightened over the years. This of course has many benefits, yet when a home is very well insulated it often overheats in the summer months. The other aspect in addition to overheating is the increased use of glazing in today’s homes – another aspect which further increases the need for cooling in the summer months.
As such, rather than cooling being an afterthought on a warm day, it’s important to consider how you can incorporate technology into the very fabric of your home to achieve the ultimate thermal comfort.
Specifying the right air-cooling system used to just mean considering the size of the build, the zones to cool, and how the system is controlled. But there’s now a need to satisfy a much longer list of needs – from achieving the best possible air quality, wellbeing and comfort for those who’ll be living in the space, to ease of installation, maintenance, and the system’s long-term impact on the environment.
SWITCH UP THE PHYSICS
When you think about cooling an environment, one traditional option is air conditioning – however, as an overall approach, it really misses the mark when it comes to balancing style, substance and sustainability.
Aside from often being an eyesore on the ceiling or wall in a domestic setting, the way this technology works is to force air into a space. Not only is this unpleasant and ineffective as it does not cool the space evenly, but this constant blast of air, especially if recirculated, could also spread virus particles around, while dehumidifying the air. Air conditioning units also consume a fair amount of energy.
However, if we shift the physics and take a closer look at cooling spaces from a different perspective, it’s easy to see why radiant systems have increased in popularity, as they tick many more boxes.
RADIANT COOLING ADVANTAGES
Radiant cooling works by absorbing the heat radiated from objects and the rest of the room through cold surfaces. This is achieved by passing cold water through pipes installed in the ceiling panels, which are discretely mounted into the ceiling as plasterboard style panels, which in turn cools all the surfaces in the room. This process creates the ultimate thermal comfort, and increased sense of wellbeing for occupants.
When 70% of the ceiling surface area is fitted with active ceiling radiant cooling panels the result is a highly desirable ‘3D cooling’ effect, with no hot or cold spots within a room. All of this is achieved while being kind to the environment too, as radiant systems can deliver up to 50% energy savings, and also require less maintenance when compared with air conditioning systems.
By its very nature, this responsive, ‘silent running’ radiant energy transfer method is also not dependent on the movement of cold air to cool the space – meaning there are no uncomfortable draughts and issues with virus particles circulating. This can create the ultimate thermal comfort – and greatly improved air quality for everyone to enjoy, wherever they are situated in the room.
Coupled with an intelligent control system, radiant cooling panels provide total flexibility, allowing you to create different temperature zones within an open plan space, depending on solar gain and personal preferences. In addition, you can maximise the benefits of your renewable energy source, as radiant ceiling panels are also designed to effortlessly integrate with existing and emerging technologies – with heat pumps being a natural choice to pair with radiant water-based systems.
EASE OF INSTALLATION
The next, and arguably most crucial benefit at the build stage is the ease of installation and build sequencing. In the same way as traditional plasterboard is fitted, radiant cooling panels are designed to be quick and easy to attach – directly to the ceiling frame. As such, in comparison to air conditioning, this technology reduces the number of trades to co-ordinate at your site – it also removes the need to sequence hot works and the handling of ozone damaging gases. These are often aspects of a build which can cause delays and issues on site when traditional air conditioning has been specified and needs to be commissioned.
Once up and running, your bank balance will also benefit from around 40% energy savings and less maintenance, compared with air conditioning, making your ‘green’ home even greener, while ensuring
a comfortable indoor climate all year round.
Greg Cooper is managing director at Radiana