Heating things up in commercial spaces

Heating in commercial spaces

Alex Burgess, National Sales Manager at Clyde Radiators looks at the wide-ranging factors to consider when specifying radiators within commercial environments, and how the correct specification can help to meet carbon reduction targets.

Whilst radiators have been primarily associated with residential developments and replacement domestic heating systems, they are also key to the successful design of commercial spaces. Workplaces need to meet the needs of the modern working environment and provide a comfortable and usable space for occupants, whilst adhering to increasing energy targets and requirements to reduce carbon impact. As such, selecting the right heat emitters for the space needs careful consideration.

Energy efficiency

In 2019, the UK government set its target to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and since then there has been a significant push for new and existing commercial spaces to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.

Many will be aware of Approved Document L of the Building Regulations, which is dedicated to the conservation of fuel and power and raising the energy performance of buildings with clear and well-defined targets for the fabric of the building and the equipment used. For the commercial sector, Part L2 offers important guidance for the design of new build and refurbishment projects and looks to ensure that energy efficiency is at the forefront of design.

It says that non-domestic buildings should be looking to update heating systems with low-carbon alternatives such as heat pumps.

Beyond this, there are a number of further initiatives like the government’s Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC EES) that emphasises the need to reduce carbon output through taxation. In addition, the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), Feed-in Tariffs (Fits) and Green Deal initiative all encourage the use of new technologies in the commercial sector.

UKGBC (UK Green Building Council) is also calling for office spaces to reduce energy demand by an average of 60% by 2050 and strive to become net zero in their operation.

Whilst this might seem like a mammoth task, even small steps like ensuring the right heat emitters are installed will go a long way to improving the energy efficiency of commercial buildings. As such, working with manufacturers to identify the level of output needed from radiators to sufficiently heat the space will help to ensure that the most appropriate solutions are selected. According to Opus Energy, the optimum temperature range for sedentary work is 21-23°C. Whilst it may sound obvious, it is important that the radiators installed can reach and maintain this temperature to not only ensure worker comfort and productivity, but also the health and carbon footprint of the system.

To heat any space effectively and efficiently, the radiator must be able to match its heat output performance to the space - and the benefits of this are not limited to occupant comfort. Installing a radiator that cannot and will never achieve the heat required or conversely, overheats the space, are potential scenarios that will both place potentially huge and unnecessary demands on the central heating system to try to compensate for the gap.

What’s it made of

Consider also, the material of the radiators. For example, opting for aluminium radiators can make controlling the temperature of a room much easier, making radiators manufactured from this material more efficient. This is because aluminium is a superconductor, which means it responds to thermostatic changes very quickly and can heat up (or cool down) a room much faster than alternatives, therefore placing less demand on the system heat source. Aluminium is also fully recyclable at the end of its useful life, which improves the environmental impact of a project. Furthermore, thanks to its thermal inertia and ability to perform with lower water temperatures, aluminium radiators work more effectively with renewable energy sources such as ground source heat pumps or solar power.

To aid temperature control further, a thermostatic radiator valve (TRV) should be added to all applicable heat emitters. TRVs are designed to maintain a constant temperature in a room by automatically adjusting the flow of hot water until the desired temperature is reached, improving efficiency.

It is also worth speaking to customers about additional measures they can take once radiators have been installed. For example, Opus Energy suggests that reducing the office temperature even by just 1°C can result in significant energy savings. In fact, lowering temperatures by 1°C can “save enough energy to print over 40million sheets of A4 paper” and “turning the heating down by 2°C could save £140 on a £1,000 bill”. As such, it is crucial that heat emitters are user friendly and work as efficiently as possible.

Occupant safety

Another key consideration is the safety of building occupants. Many may not realise that radiators can reach high temperatures that pose a burn risk if people come into prolonged contact with them. Opting for low surface temperature (LST) radiators can help to avoid this, as they are designed so that their surface temperature never exceeds 43C.

For further protection, opt for LST models that have tamper-proof features to prevent unauthorised access to heating controls such as valves and thermostats. For example, the outer casing of our LST models house the emitter controls to prevent tampering – and they also ensure that no exposed pipework carrying hot water presents any risk to building occupants. The covers can also be easily removed to enable access and cleaning when needed.

Finally, look for products that have rounded corners or edges as this will prevent injury if someone accidentally comes into hard contact with the radiator.

Design matters

Radiators are seldom considered important to the overall aesthetic of a workplace, but they can make a significant difference to the overall look and feel. For many companies, the colour of office spaces is an important consideration and can be used to represent a brand or signify a particular mood. For example, blue symbolises relaxation and calm, yellow is often considered to be a cheerful colour that evokes happiness, and green can encourage creativity and relieve stress.

To achieve a cohesive room design, look to manufacturers that offer a wide range of heating solutions in a selection of colours and size configurations as this can make finding the right product much easier.

Space saving

In commercial developments where space is a premium – or a radiator simply doesn’t work with the aesthetic of the space, such as in reception areas or glass atriums – heat emitters that can be concealed or positioned within the floor are a great solution. 

Likewise, radiators in a vertical format can also make the most of available wall space without compromising on performance. These also can be used to create impact and drama, to complement an interior, particularly when coupled with a coloured finish.

Peace of mind

To provide customers with reassurance that the heat emitters chosen can deliver the thermal performance to successfully heat the space, check that they are compliant with BS EN442. This demonstrates that the radiators have been tested to Delta T50 (the legal standard measure for heat outputs) – and this assists with correctly specifying radiators for each individual application. Furthermore, radiators that have been accredited by an independent body such as BSRIA provide solid evidence of products that are compliant and fit for purpose.

In commercial spaces, selecting heat emitters that ensure occupant safety and environmental efficiency is key. Low water content radiators as well as models that can be used with a variety of heat sources, will ensure the longevity of the products installed.

Alex Burgess is National Sales Manager at Clyde Radiators

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