All contractors would naturally like to build the best possible buildings for those who will use them, be it themselves, or other lessees. It is clear, of course, that the low energy consumption ranks high and hydronic heat is currently the industry's preferred heating method in commercial buildings. However, with ongoing legislative changes hydronic heat will not be such a good idea in the future. This article presents eight reasons why developers should not have hydronic heat in their future commercial buildings.
The main argument for hydronic heat today is that it provides great flexibility with respect to the energy supply. In the choice of heating system, there are several parameters and policy choices that must be made. This results in an unmanageable mixture of social benefits, available energy resources, cost considerations, operating parameters, service and maintenance, system expertise, etc.
Eight reasons why developers should not have hydronic heat in their future commercial buildings
- Hydronic heating systems are disproportionately expensive to install and operate.
- Hydronic heating systems require a lot of adjustment, maintenance and expertise.
- Hydronic heating systems are inflexible in the event of renovations.
- Hydronic heating systems are slow to regulate and are often controlled over quite large comfort zones.
- Hydronic heating systems are moving in the direction of such small amounts of water that it will be a challenge to regulate.
- Hydronic heating systems need to have wastewater treatment plants in order to maintain efficiency.
- Hydronic heating systems have relatively large losses at every stage up to the heat source.
- Hydronic heating systems involve several parallel distribution systems for the building’s energy.
Hydronic heating systems are optimal when heat pumps are used, or the availability of waste heat (heat energy in the form of hot air, water or steam unutilised in the energy production process and thus lost to the environment. All other energy supply to hydronic systems require a separate heating plant that uses either an electric boiler or a furnace using fossil fuels or biomass, which in any case will lead to emissions that are not good for the local environment.
In 2010, emissions from heating and other energy use in the building sector, as well as emissions from district heating production amounted to 5% of Norway's total greenhouse gas emissions. This provides every reason to build on the foundation that has been laid and phase in solar and wind, as well as hydroelectric power as the preferred energy sources, and an electrically-based distribution system.
Solar cells in combination with heat pumps provide a good argument for hydronic heat; everything else would indicate that we build on electric heating as the main principle of what we establish as new standards for passive and active houses, and that our buildings and systems going forward will produce more energy than will be consumed in the building's lifetime.
Should future legislation (TEK 15) reflect the natural conditions we have in Norway and what new technology and increased knowledge will lead to?
Stein Gerhard Johannessen
Development Manager, Electrical Engineering and Building Automation