Radiant Ceilings Are A Cool Way To Save Energy

October 10, 2002
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Radiant ceiling panels have chilled water running through narrow pipes that are attached to the backside of the panels. According to Invensys, water has 300% more capacity to absorb heat than air does. (Photos courtesy of Invensys.)
RALEIGH, NC — Radiant ceiling technologies are being introduced to the United States and Canada by Invensys Energy Management. This technology can cool offices at a reported energy savings of up to 30%, while minimizing the risks of airborne hazards, according to the company.

The product cools by running chilled water through ceiling-mounted panels that exchange heat from the warm air in the room. These systems do not require large air ducts normally used for air conditioning. Instead, they use small ducts that directly feed in fresh air, eliminating the need to recirculate air.

“Radiant ceilings from Invensys have been proven effective in installations around the world, particularly in Europe,” says Dan Wesner, Invensys director of operations, Radiant Ceiling Technologies. “We are introducing them now to North America to help property owners and their tenants in the U.S. and Canada.”

According to Invensys, radiant ceiling technologies could help reduce the risks of airborne hazards in two ways:

  • They eliminate the recirculation of air. Thus, any airborne threats introduced in one area of the building will not pass through the HVAC system to contaminate other areas.

  • In addition, because only fresh air is being introduced into the system, other filtration technologies can be implemented at a more affordable cost and can be more easily monitored and reinforced.

    Window-bordered rooms can stay cool without air conditioning, even in direct sunlight, because of radiant ceilings' direct absorption of heat energy.

    ENERGY-EFFICIENT COOLING

    The technology is based on a thermal energy exchange between the heat load in a room and the ceiling panels above. The ceiling panels have chilled water running through narrow pipes that are attached to the backside of the panels.

    As the ceiling is warmed from the heat in the room, the panels conduct the heat through the ceiling to the chilled water. As the water leaves the room, it carries the heat with it to a chiller, where it is cooled and returned to the ceiling. Water has 300% more capacity to absorb heat than air does, according to Invensys.

    Since radiant ceilings absorb heat directly, the amount of air that must be conditioned, treated, and filtered is dramatically reduced. This means the air-handling equipment can be smaller, which in turn can reduce energy costs by up to 30%, according to Stanley J. Mumma, Ph.D., Professor of Architectural Engineering at Pennsylvania State University and a Fellow of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers.

    HIGHER RETURNS FOR BUILDING OWNERS

    The radiant-ceiling system from Invensys (which can be used both to heat and cool) also requires less duct space between floors than traditional air conditioning systems, letting architects add another floor every eight to 10 floors and still stay within the original height design, the company says.

    “They can save about two feet per floor,” Wesner says. “So with every eight to 10 floors, you can put in an additional floor.”

    Radiant ceilings are designed to be flexible. They come with a variety of panel selections and installation options, and can be installed in any room size or shape, in any color and with built-in fixtures, according to Invensys.

    “It’s highly desirable, and the installation cost is competitive with that of traditional air conditioning systems on a first-cost basis,” says Wesner. “It’s an investment with a life-cycle payback period of only a few years. That’s because building owners also save energy and maintenance costs along with gaining more usable rentable floor space.”

    They can also be retrofitted into existing structures, adding value to existing commercial properties. “Building owners who remove the old ductwork can immediately raise the ceilings and increase their facilities’ rental attractiveness,” Wesner says.

    But a building owner doesn’t have to convert an entire building to radiant ceiling technology. The owner can simply earmark specific areas, such as computer rooms. “Just as heat lamps are used to warm specific areas, radiant ceiling technology can supplement existing cooling systems to target an area exactly where colder air is needed,” Wesner says.

    For further information, contact Sue Carlson, P.O. Box 2940, Loves Park, IL 61132; 815-637-3688; sue.carlson@invensys.com (e-mail); www.ies.invensys.com (website).

    Publication date: 10/14/2002

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