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STEP Warmfloor commercial heating system applications

Here is a question for anyone that works in a commercial building: Are you truly comfortable during the heating season?

How many times have you heard comments from your fellow co-workers complaining about how uncomfortable they are at their work stations in the winter time? Either the air temperature is too cold or – in rare occasions – too warm. Chances are that many office workers have electric space heaters below their desks to help them be somewhat functional and productive as they shiver through their work days.

This discomfort is usually the result of a building’s commercial heating system, which is usually an HVAC system. Forced air heating systems just don’t provide even, comfortable heating – especially in larger buildings. Most commercial office buildings heat with forced air. The problem with using forced air for these office buildings is that the system can't satisfy everyone’s comfort zone. Either people are too warm or too cold – especially if your cubicle is located next to an outside wall or window.

Your body has a difficult time regulating its core heat when it’s next to cold objects. The law of thermal dynamics states that heat always moves to cold. So while you are trying to be comfortable, your body is giving up heat to the colder outside wall or window.

Let’s put it another way that will help you visualize this scenario. Think about a time when you’ve gone shopping in the winter at your local grocery store. Many of these grocery stores utilize forced air delivery systems as a commercial heating system. You’ve probably noticed that while you’re in the store, you’re most comfortable near the dry goods section. If you were to take a temperature reading, it would probably be around 70° F.

However, as you stroll through the frozen food section, you start to feel cold and uncomfortable. That’s because your body is giving up heat to the colder freezer compartments. If you were to take another temperature reading while in the frozen food aisle, you may be surprised to find that the air temperature in this section is also 70° F. This is called the cold 70 principle, and one of the main reasons why forced air heating is so inefficient.

The annual cost to heat a typical commercial building accounts for around 25 percent of the building’s total operating costs. Why do we keep designing buildings with HVAC commercial heating systems that are expensive to heat, but still leave the occupants feeling uncomfortable? Because that is the way the builder or designer has always done it. Old habits die hard! Let me give you an example of how one business changed the traditional method of heating a commercial building and how those changes have paid off.

A business located in St. Louis, Mo. designed its building with energy efficiency and comfort as a main priority. The 35,000 square foot structure consists of an office, warehouse and manufacturing areas. The design utilized the STEP Warmfloor electric underfloor radiant heating system for its commercial heating system, and the building is also insulated better than most other commercial buildings.

The building’s design and all materials used were chosen for their sustainability, efficiency and environmentally friendly properties. The building’s designers hope that it will serve as a showcase of energy efficiency, personnel productivity and well-being with future plans to be “off grid” though a combination of solar and/or wind power.

To keep track of the energy used by the heating system, the building’s owner sub-metered the electrical energy produced by the STEP Warmfloor heating element. The STEP Warmfloor system only consumed 85,244 kWh in 2010-2011 winter season. That works out to $5,000 for one heating season, or only 14 cents per square foot of heating space! That same building here in Minnesota would cost approximately 56 cents/square foot. That is an amazing cost to heat a commercial building – no matter where it is located!

Although the building’s owners are pleased with the lower energy costs, their employees are happy and extremely comfortable anywhere they work in the building. Comfortable workers should lead to better work satisfaction and work production.

Below are some pictures of this facility with the STEP Warmfloor product.