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Is radiant cooling an appropriate technology to use in commercial buildings in the Northwest?

Researchers say the bottom line is that yes, radiant cooling can be a very cost effective means of cooling commercial buildings in most climates. Evidence suggests that applied properly radiant cooling could save significant energy in the commercial building sector, and may even increase occupants comfort, improve indoor air quality, and increased productivity.

A radiant cooling system works on the same principle as radiant heating, in fact in many cases the same network of piping as the heating system can be utilized. Basically the idea is that thermal comfort is determined not only by the temperature of the air around you, but a combination of the ambient air and heat being radiated to or from objects nearby.

A fairly large surface which is exposed to the building’s occupants must be cooler than the ambient air to provide radiant cooling. Occupants then radiate heat to the object causing a sense of cooling.  In practice, cooling is accomplished by chilled water circulating in an intricate network of pipes in panels or building components. Technically infrastructure can be in the floor, walls, or ceiling.

Radiant floors are popular for heating but have not been as successful for cooling because of condensation and other technical problems encountered. Walls are often not strategically located to give even heating to all occupants. Therefore the most popular choice has been ceilings thus far.The most common approach has been to use ceiling panels which makes the system modular, relatively easy to design, modify and repair.