The advent of electronically commutated motors (ECMs) and sophisticated zoning controls are shaping the radiant market as the general public continues to learn of its benefits and applications, which span walls, ceilings, and cooling applications.
PUMPS AND CONTROLS
Michael E. Wilburn, president, Infloor Heating Systems, said radiant is becoming even more desirable, thanks to the energy-saving benefits of ECM pumps.
“These circulators can be set up for variable fixed speed, constant pressure, and proportional pressure,” Wilburn said. “And, they use up to 85 percent less electrical energy, which makes them environmentally friendly.”
Consumers are always interested in saving energy, which, in turn, saves money, said Wilburn.
“These systems are able to adjust to the correct flow rates based on the number of zones calling at any given time. Using ECM pumps would also simplify the piping in the hydronic system and reduce the need for pressure differential bypass devices,” he said. “Using these types of pumps would also allow contractors to carry fewer pumps on their trucks for replacements.”
One of Infloor’s most popular products is its pre-piped and wired mechanical boards.
“We’ve implemented ECM pumps into our mechanical boards along with a magnetic dirt separator to increase the life of the pump,” Wilburn said. “We size the circulators based on our Infloor OEM LoopCAD design for the project, which allows us to select the correct pump for the system. This product also allows users to achieve better system performance.”
Mark Chaffee, vice president of governmental affairs and sustainability, Taco Comfort Solutions, said consumers who are unaware of radiant’s benefits often find that the technology more than exceeds their expectations.
“Even after the U.S.’s exciting ‘radiant renaissance,’ which many would agree was the period between 1995 and 2005 — when it seemed that everything new in hydronics was exclusively tied to radiant heat — radiant is still a viable trend in the HVAC industry. People who’ve never experienced it ask for it, and it seems that most installers who do hydronic work have had experience with radiant heat, which can be installed in floors, walls, ceilings, and with the use of radiant panels, too,” Chaffee said. “One common concern, chiefly among old-school hydronics contractors, is that the technology was too complicated. Taco has put a lot of resources into research and development to demystify radiant and toward making out-of-the-box solutions that do the job with elegant simplicity.”
Watts Radiant, a Watts Water Technologies Inc. Co., recently released its ThermalPro pre-piped insulated pumping stations for mechanical rooms, which are available in a variety of non-mixed and mixed configurations. They allow installation and connection of a boiler (or other hydronic heat source) to any component in a heating system. The stations come complete with supply and return connections, a check stop, isolation valves, sensor wells, a pressure bypass valve, and a circulator. All units are completely encased in compact multi-piece foam insulation and can be installed as either an independent unit or combined in a header containing up to five units with both mixed and non-mixed units.
In addition to the ThermalPro, Michael Breault, senior product manager, hydronic radiant, Watts Radiant, mentioned the company is working on producing a control system across its brands to help simplify the installation process.
“We’re aiming to take the technical challenge out of the mechanicals,” Breault said. “We’re focused on zone synchronization. Previously, radiant and hydronics systems operated in an autocratic society. The thermostat would say, ‘I need heat,’ and the boiler would provide it, resulting in the boiler going on and off and failing to provide efficiency. We turned it into a democratic society. The thermostat calls for heat, and the boiler control says, ‘I got a call for heat, do any of the other zones need it? OK, this zone needs it for six minutes, another needs it for four minutes, and that zone doesn’t need it, so it can wait.’ We’re loading up the boiler so it answers one call for heat at the peak efficiency.”
Breault said he’s seen documented cases of 3-year-old boilers that have more than 200,000 cycles on them because every zone is calling for heat independently.
“With this tekmar Watts Radiant controls strategy that we’re embarking on, we’re trying to look at the whole system. We want to know what’s happening in every part of the house with every thermostat, pump, mixing valve, heat source, etc. We want to know how they’re being used and how we can get them all to perform more efficiently as a complete unit. I can make the boiler really efficient, but the system may be bad, and I can make the system really efficient, but the boiler may be bad. Why not make it all work together?”
Uponor North America showcased its Climate Control Zoning System II control system for radiant in-floor systems, which features an innovative technology called Autobalancing.
The new Autobalancing technology in the system calculates the actual energy needs of single rooms and adapts the heat output of each loop by controlling the actuator’s on and off cycle. For example, a short loop might get 20 percent on time while a long loop receives 60 percent on time. This technology allows the system to react to temperature changes faster and offers greater energy savings in the process.
“The beauty of Autobalancing is it continues through the seasons, throughout the household’s changing usage patterns, and completely removes the need for manual balancing of the system,” said Jeff Wiedemann, product manager, controls at Uponor.
The complete Climate Control Zoning System II offering consists of a base unit, an expansion module, and digital or dial thermostats. A single base unit in the system can support up to six thermostats and eight actuators. Adding an expansion module will increase the number of thermostats and actuators the system can handle to 12 and 14, respectively.
“With the new Autobalancing technology and the ease of installation with a wireless system, the Climate Control Zoning System II is our best controls offering yet for residential radiant floor heating systems,” Wiedemann said.
Continuing to broaden its scope and product offerings to better serve an expanding high-efficiency requirement in the marketplace, Superior Radiant Products Inc. introduced the SRP AccuRATE® Control with BACnet connectivity. The control is fully customizable and can be used to operate any of the company’s infrared heating products.
The control has the ability to operate as an independent building management system, can monitor and control modulating infrared heating systems, and may fully monitor schedules and actual temperature conditions in the heated space within an intuitive, fully customized interface.
“The infrared industry is really focusing in on improving its control interfaces with a focus on energy efficiency,” said Timothy Seel, North American sales and marketing manager, Superior Radiant Products Inc. “The benefit for contractors is that it makes things much more straight forward when it comes to providing the high-end stuff. A lot of our equipment goes into industrial spaces that have other concerns than building management. Our dependence in the past has been to emulate what a thermostat does, and now we have the capability to provide a much more visual interface than what was previously available with this level of equipment. We can now draw a map of the building, locate the equipment on that map, and provide a diagram of what’s on and off and what’s available.”
Another trend now experiencing significant growth in the commercial sector is radiant cooling, which is now available through floors, walls, and ceiling panels. Among those innovations, perhaps the largest growth has occurred in hydronic chilled beam systems.
“These systems circulate chilled water through tubing embedded in a metal ceiling fixture to wick away heat,” Chaffee said. “What makes this technology so interesting is its broad applicability for commercial structures. Key advantages include conservation of interior real estate and water. Water, which is the main transporter of thermal energy, is much denser than air and permits a very high energy-carrying capacity and a smaller transport system.
“Because chilled beams are ceiling-mounted and do not use drain pans, the chilled water supply temperatures must be above the ambient dew point. As a result dehumidification, or latent cooling, is handled by a separate 100 percent dedicated outdoor system [DOAS] supplying dry, conditioned air to the space.”
Semco LLC introduced its latest chilled beam cassette, the LYRA II™, at the AHR Expo. The 2-by-2-foot active chilled beam cassette is capable of delivering personalized pinpoint temperature and humidity levels via a digital controller.
The LYRA II is a quiet, cooling/heating chilled beam capable of precise airflow patterns and velocities for smaller spaces under 300 square feet, such as offices, hallways, or patient rooms in commercial, hospital, and educational new construction and retrofit applications.
The LYRA II is an all-in-one mounting cassette designed to fit 2-by-2-foot ceiling grids. It also digitally controls 11-150 feet per minute discharge velocities. Its 8.5-inch-deep enclosure is designed to suppress turbulence and operational airflow noise to below 20-dB levels.
“A traditional chilled beam only throws in two directions while the LYRA II throws in four directions,” said Steve Ulm, director of marketing and product management, Semco. “This gives us more control at the micro level as we get a better flow pattern in the room. When people feel more comfortable, they’re more productive.”
Ulm said the company is focusing on providing optimized comfort at the most intimate level.
“Our products are designed to make water-source hydronic systems more efficient. We’re geared to micromanage them down to the individual room versus large zones of multiple rooms. This makes everything more efficient because we’re dealing with the delivery of comfort at the smallest level. With our systems, you don’t have to deal with large amounts of water; you’re only dealing with micro amounts of water.”
Original story by Herb Woerpel on ACHR News, which can be viewed here.
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