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New system providing cost effective alternative to AC

05 September 2019

Following the UK government’s commitment earlier this year to achieving nett zero carbon emissions by 2050, there are growing levels of discussion on the effects this will have on FM industry, due to the high level of energy and emissions accounted for by buildings and facilities.

With concern expressed over many years about the slow uptake of renewable energy systems, the perceived wisdom is that there has been no ‘silver bullet’ available that provides a viable alternative to the heating and cooling systems used for many years that uses less energy while delivering high output when required.

Where renewable energy options have been installed, these are frequently used to support more traditional HVAC plant and equipment. One of the more recent systems to be launched is seen to have the potential to change these perceptions, however, as it can be used as a ceiling-mounted radiant cooling or heating system which only requires water to be circulated through the lightweight panels.

The Radiana system is supplied by the company of the same name and was installed in its Hertfordshire office earlier this year, providing a valuable overview of its operation for all staff. Radiana is part of WMS Underfloor Heating and office manager Kerrie Dee recently explained how the installation has performed over the last four months. The company has been on site since 2008, providing plenty of time for it to get to know the pros and cons of its previous system.

“We had the same issues as many other offices where temperature was concerned, with some preferring it warmer and others wanting to work in a cooler environment, and usually divided between men and women, with women preferring higher temperatures,” says Ms Dee. This is another topic discussed by the PFM Editorial Advisory Board and seen as the issue most likely to be seen in every workplace.

“Maybe it was due to many of our staff having a high level of knowledge about heating and cooling, but the settings were constantly being adjusted,” she continues. “We installed the system around four months ago and it was great to see that office temperature stopped being an issue from that point.”

While this fact alone will attract the interest of FMs and hard service providers faced with the task of mediating between the two sides of the temperature debate in their facility, Ms Dee provided additional comment on other benefits that may well prove relevant to many settings.

“We’re continuing to monitor its performance, but the system is using less energy and we’re expecting that to be the case over the full year,” she says.

The 350 sq m office space only requires one 12kW air-source heat pump to maintain comfort levels, which will typically produce between four and five units of output for every unit of electricity used and should therefore result in significant savings compared with the requirements of traditional heating and cooling technology.

“Further to that, we have a number of people in the office that suffer from hay fever or asthma or similar conditions,” says Ms Dee. “It’s been very noticeable that there have been several comments from people noting that their symptoms have eased, quite a lot in some cases.”

With the growing focus on workplace wellbeing continuing to be discussed around the FM sector, the control of humidification levels and introduction of filtered air into the office through mechanical ventilation and heat recovery (MVHR) included in the Radiana system is accredited with improving the IAQ for the company’s office.

“This is something else we’ll be looking at over the winter season and we’ll be comparing last year’s figures for people taking sick leave with this year’s,” she says.

“Having removed the old system that recirculated air and – most likely – all the office germs that result in colds, etc, spreading around everyone very quickly, we think that we’ll see a reduced level of sickness this year.

“But perhaps the best thing is that it’s been very easy to operate and requires less maintenance – and we’ve only needed to provide a few people with access to the app because everyone’s happy. We were also pleased with how quickly it went in.

“Everything was installed in just over a week and that included a lot of extra discussion with colleagues that you wouldn’t see at other locations, as everyone was keen to see it.”

Radiana pre-contracts manager Ben Rowles provided a guided tour of the company’s facility to view the various elements of the system, beginning with the two LG Monobloc heat pumps installed on the exterior wall of the building. One is set to provide cooling and the other heating, with each serving their relevant buffer tanks.

The MVHR unit was installed under the roof of the company’s warehouse and distributes fresh air to the offices. Cold and hot water is distributed to the ceiling panels via a selection of manifolds, similar to those seen in wet underfloor heating systems.

“Although we’ve installed two air-source heat pumps, the cooling is being supplied by just one of these so we’re only using the 12kW to meet the building’s needs,” he explains. “We’ve also seen one of the hottest days on record and we were pleased to see how easily the system coped with this.”

While this again bodes well for those seeking to improve indoor comfort levels to meet wellbeing requirements, while also reducing expense, Mr Rowles outlines another potential benefit provided by the system: “We chose the Monobloc heat pump because it can be installed by anyone and this means that the worry of meeting F-Gas regulations has also been removed.”

He further explains the support provided to those installing the system to ensure that the rest results are achieved.

“We design and commission each system and have trainers working for us, so they can arrive with the delivery and provide training to the relevant personnel. We’ll continue to provide support throughout the installation and will then check it to make sure that everything’s good and then complete the final commissioning.

“We also provide a customisable app to control every system, which can be set to meet the customer’s requirements. Some people want to measure humidity levels, for example, so that will be included and we can also set alerts as required. We’ve also made sure it’s easy to incorporate it into any BMS system.

“It’s also easy to make changes as all you have to do is drain it down, make the adjustments, then reboot and refill,” says Mr Rowles.

While it is too early to describe the Radiana system as the ‘silver bullet’ that many in the industry would like to see, the results seen by PFM indicate that it is capable of delivering energy savings, controlling humidity levels and improving IAQ in a manner that will be seen as aligning with the aims of many companies’ environmental accreditations.

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