Heating and cooling a large building in a state like Colorado can be expensive. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), 7.5% of total expenses for the average commercial building is spent on heating, cooling, and ventilation.
The location of the commercial building, as well as the type of construction materials used to build it, plays a big role in these costs. Additionally, how well insulated the structure is another key factor in energy efficiency.
There is a wide range of heating options for a commercial building, each with advantages and limitations. One popular system is a rooftop unit with variable air volume (VAV), which serves as both heating and cooling:
Packaged rooftop units (RTUs) normally include a condenser for air conditioning, and a gas or electric boiler for space heating. In climates where the unit must provide air conditioning with low outdoor humidity, it is also possible to add an economizer, which reduces the cooling load on the condenser. In all modes of operation, fans are used to blow air into a duct system that distributes it among the separate indoor zones.
Traditional VAV systems suffer a drastic reduction in energy efficiency when subject to part load conditions: if all building zones are at partial load with their dampers half-closed, duct pressure increases and the system may become noisy. In addition, the extra pressure represents wasted fan power. However, it is possible to achieve excellent results through the use of automation and variable frequency drives.
Find out more here: Heating and Cooling System Configurations for Commercial Buildings
These units have come a long way with their energy-efficiency capabilities. They can provide the ability to reduce energy costs by reducing energy consumption and peak demand.
Boiler Heating System
Another type of heating that has come a long way in the efficiency arena is the boiler system. The newer systems are environmentally friendly and use fuel-efficient condensing technology.
This video shows how a building is heated with two boilers that provide piped hot water heat:
Boilers can run on either natural gas or electricity. No doubt the units that run on electricity are significantly quieter but depending on utility costs, they both have advantages and disadvantages.
Heat Pump Units
The other main source of energy for a commercial building is the heat pump. These units are for climates with moderate heating and cooling needs and offer an energy-efficient alternative.
These units basically do the opposite of an air conditioner:
The most common type is the reversible air-to-air heat pump, which either operates in heating or cooling mode. Large heat pumps in commercial/institutional buildings use water loops (hydronic) for heat and cold distribution, so they can provide heating and cooling simultaneously.
Integrated heat pump systems, providing space heating, cooling, water heating and sometimes exhaust air heat recovery.
An additional method of heating, which isn’t a great option for buildings with a lot of square footage, is a fan coil unit (FCU). It’s a simple system that only uses a heated coil and a fan to re-circulate indoor air.
For questions about any of the above systems, call your Denver area commercial building contractor to learn more about your options.