Heating technology is constantly evolving, so it’s worth spending a little time considering the pros and cons of traditional heating systems, such as radiators, versus more modern methods including underfloor heating.
Radiators work by heating the air surrounding them through convection. The heated air rises towards the ceiling, and once it has cooled down it falls back to ground level to be heated by the convection of the radiator.
However, convection of warm air can reduce humidity, resulting in the heated area feeling stuffy, dry and uncomfortable. In addition to discomfort, the rising air temperature can lead to a reduction in oxygen levels, and even breathing difficulties if the air becomes too warm. The natural response is to open a window to bring in fresh air, but this lets the heat out, wasting valuable energy and money.
Underfloor heating, on the other hand, works by producing radiant heat. The entire floor or area is heated at a consistent temperature. This gives an even spread of radiant heat across the entire space, avoiding hot spots associated with convection heating, and overheating that may occur when people turn up the temperature to compensate for cooler areas.
Underfloor heating can be controlled by room or by zone, via thermostats, providing a bespoke heating response and even thermal comfort. This reduces the amount of energy required, and in most cases it is estimated that underfloor heating is between 20-25 per cent more energy efficient than radiators.
A further consideration is that there is no physical heat source for a resident to touch, or trip and fall over, reducing the potential risk of burns or accidents.
Where possible, thermal control should be discussed at the earliest opportunity in a care home design project. Factors to bear in mind include operative temperature, use of air conditioning, humidity and fresh air supply. Seasonal temperature changes, room sizes and function are also important.
Residents’ age, health and physical abilities can directly change their thermal sensation, metabolic rate, and regulatory response, so a comfortable environment makes a significant contribution towards their comfort and wellbeing.
Care Home Management explores energy & utilities in its September issue, which is out now. Read the latest issue online.