06 Sep 2021

An Alternative Cooling Method to Air Conditioning

There’s always much debate about how we should control our indoor climate, never more so than when you are making big decisions regarding the specification of a system for your own self-build or property renovation. Here, Greg Cooper, Managing Director at climate control specialist Radiana, compares some of the options available and the benefits of radiant cooling systems when it comes to build sequencing, health, wellbeing and creating standout for a property.

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Specifying the right air cooling system used to just mean taking into consideration the size of the build, 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.

However, addressing all of the above and more needn’t be a cause for concern – it simply requires a change of physics, which radically alters how cooling systems work.

When it comes to cooling a building, air conditioning is often specified as a luxurious climate control solution, yet as a system, it can miss the mark on many of its aims – one being to cool a room evenly. If you’ve ever worked in an office with air conditioning on a hot day, you’ll know about the feeling of being chilly under the breeze of the AC unit, while a colleague a few metres away can’t feel any benefit and is asking you to boost the airflow. Not only is this unpleasant and ineffective, but this constant blast of air, especially if recirculated, could also spread virus particles around, whist dehumidify the air.

Aside from often being an eyesore on the ceiling or wall in a domestic setting, air conditioning also consumes a fair amount of energy and, to function, throws warm air out of a building. This factor is contributing to the ‘urban heat island effect’ we’re increasingly experiencing in our major cities. The energy generated from all the people, buildings and modes of transport in these busy metropolitan locations is making the area warmer than the rural areas surrounding it and, in turn, decreasing air quality. All things considered, AC units can create a less-than-comfortable environment and don’t truly have the best interests of homeowners and planet earth in mind.

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 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 or tiles, which are discretely installed into the ceiling or walls as plasterboard-style panels, which, in turn, cools all the surfaces in the room.

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.

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 creates 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 also provide total flexibility allowing you to create different temperature zones within an open-plan space depending on solar gain and personal preferences.

The next, and arguably most crucial, benefit at the build stage, is ease of installation and build sequencing. In the same way as traditional plasterboard is fitted, radiant cooling panels are quick and easy to attach directly to the ceiling frame. As such, in comparison to air conditioning, this new cooling technology reduces the number of trades to coordinate 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 that can cause delays and issues on site when traditional air conditioning has been specified and needs to be commissioned.

Once the radiant cooling panels are up and running, aside from providing total comfort for everyone to take advantage of, the environment and your bank balance will also benefit from around 40% energy savings and less maintenance, compared with air conditioning. Taking it a step further, this innovative tech is also designed to effortlessly integrate with existing and emerging renewable technologies, with heat pumps being a natural choice to pair radiant water-based systems.

All in all, when compared with air conditioning, radiant cooling panels come out with top marks. Not only are they designed with the future of renewable technology in mind, quick to install and maintain, they also significantly enhance the enjoyment of the home, which is the ultimate goal when specifying products to create a property with unique standout quality.”

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