Experimentally-determined characteristics of radiant systems for office buildings
Radiant heating and cooling systems have significant energy-saving potential and are gaining popularity in commercial buildings. The main aim of the experimental study reported here was to characterize the behavior of radiant cooling systems in a typical office environment, including the effect of ceiling fans on stratification, the variation in comfort conditions from perimeter to core, control on operative temperature vs. air temperature and the effect of carpet on cooling capacity. The goal was to limit both the first cost and the perceived risk associated with such systems. Two types of radiant systems, the radiant ceiling panel (RCP) system and the radiant slab (RS) system, were investigated. The experiments were carried out in one of the test cells that constitute the FLEXLAB test facility at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in March and April 2016. In total, ten test cases (five for RCP and five for RS) were performed, covering a range of operational conditions. In cooling mode, the air temperature stratification is relatively small in the RCP, with a maximum value of 1.6 K. The observed stratification effect was significantly greater in the RS, twice as much as that in the RCP. The maximum increase in dry bulb temperature in the perimeter zone due to solar radiation was 1.2 K for RCP and 0.9 K for RS – too small to have a significant impact on thermal comfort. The use of ceiling fans was able to reduce any excess stratification and provide better indoor comfort, if required. The use of thin carpet requires a 1 K lower supply chilled water temperature to compensate for the added thermal resistance, somewhat reducing the opportunities for water-side free cooling and increasing the risk of condensation. In both systems, the difference between the room operative temperature and the room air temperature is small when the cooling loads are met by the radiant systems. This makes it possible to use the air temperature to control the radiant systems in lieu of the operative temperature, reducing both first cost and maintenance costs.