Design Brief: Radiant Cooling

July 1, 2003
 
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Table of ContentsRadiant cooling systems are more efficient, more comfortable, more attractive, and more healthful than systems that circulate air.

Unlike most cooling systems in California, which circulate cold air to maintain comfort, most radiant cooling systems circulate cool water through ceiling, wall, or floor panels. "Coolth" from that water is then absorbed by occupants and interior spaces according to the dynamics of thermal radiation.

These radiant cooling systems, which are popular in Europe, are rarely found in California buildings, however. That's bad news for building owners and occupants, because radiant cooling systems are more efficient, more comfortable, more attractive, and more healthful than systems that circulate air. Over their lifetimes, they are also less expensive to own and operate.

Given these advantages, radiant cooling is poised to make a big splash in California markets in all climate zones. Currently, there are two important barriers to its entry into these markets: a lack of familiarity with radiant cooling technology and lingering memories of moisture control problems experienced by a few pioneering systems installed decades ago. The latter barrier should be mitigated by recent advancements in sensor and control technology.

The first barrier, local industry unfamiliarity, will probably diminish as information becomes more widely available about successful applications in Europe, North America, and California. Healthcare facilities, which especially benefit from the way radiant cooling systems separate comfort cooling from ventilation functions, may lead the way.

 
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