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Radiant heating is a technology for heating indoor and outdoor areas. Heating by radiant energy is observed every day, the warmth of the sunshine being the most commonly observed example. Radiant heating as a technology is more narrowly defined. It is the method of intentionally using the principles of radiant heat to transfer radiant energy from an emitting heat source to an object. Designs with radiant heating are seen as replacements for conventional convection heating as well as a way of supplying confined outdoor heating.
Radiant heating heats a building through radiant heat, rather than conventional methods such as radiators (mostly convection heating). The technology has existed since the Roman use of hypocaust heating. Underfloor radiant heating has long been widespread in China and Korea. Another example is the Austrian/German Kachelofen or masonry heater. The heat energy is emitted from a warm element, such as a floor, wall or overhead panel, and warms people and other objects in rooms rather than directly heating the air. The internal air temperature for radiant heated buildings may be lower than for a conventionally heated building to achieve the same level of body comfort, when adjusted so the perceived temperature is actually the same. One of the key advantages of radiant heating systems is a much decreased circulation of air inside the room and the corresponding spreading of airborne particles.
The radiant heating systems can be divided into:
Underfloor and wall heating systems often are called low-temperature systems. Since their heating surface is much larger than other systems, a much lower temperature is required to achieve the same level of heat transfer. This provides an improved room climate with healthier humidity levels. The maximum temperature of the heating surface can vary from 29–35 °C (84–95 °F) depending on the room type. Radiant overhead panels are mostly used in production and warehousing facilities or sports centers; they hang a few meters above the floor and their surface temperatures are much higher.
In the case of heating outdoor areas, the surrounding air is constantly moving. Relying on convection heating is in most cases impractical, the reason being that, once you heat the outside air, it will blow away with air movement. Even in a no-wind condition, the buoyancy effects will carry away the hot air. Outdoor radiant heaters allow specific spaces within an outdoor area to be targeted, warming only the people and objects in their path. Radiant heating systems may be gas-fired or use electric infrared heating elements.
An example of the overhead radiant heaters are the patio heaters often used with outdoor serving. The top metal disc reflects the radiant heat onto a small area.
- History of Radiant Heating & Cooling Systems - Part 2, By Robert Bean, Bjarne W. Olesen, Kwang Woo Kim. ASHRAE Journal, vol. 52, no. 2, February 2010