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Part Two: Desian

ThermlTly Active Floors

also examine the overall behavior of the space, including the long wave rauccessful design of a thermally active floor system requires an un- diant interchange among the room surfaces, thermal stratification of the air in derstanding of system physics and the use of sophisticated design the space, and the distribution of solar fluxes on the active and non-active surtools. The behavior of thermally active slabs is non-intuitive, and the faces of the room. Finally, the psychrometrics of the space must be evaluated intricacies of complex radiant couplings and stratification do not lend to ensure comfort and avoid condensation. themselves to rules of thumb. The geometric and thermal variations across The author accomplishes these goals using five tools; each aimed at a particprojects make the design task even more reliant on predictive evaluation ular aspect of the system performance. of the impact of detailed design alternatives. Fortunately, predictive The first is a simple calculation tool implemented with Engineering Equatools are available to ensure that the design maintains thermal comfort, tion Solver (EES) and using standard ASHRAE heat exchange algorithms. This tool replaces a complex spreadachieves energy efficiency and avoids condensation.
By Daniel H. Nail, P.E., FAIA, Member ASHRAE

Radiant Heating & Cooling Design Design of a thermally active slab system is unlike the design of a conventional HVAC system in that the behavior of the system may not be accessible through simple arithmetic calculations.

Two-dimensional heat transfer between fluid in the tubing, through the slab and floor finishes and into the space, must be evaluated, along with the impact of short wave radiant fluxes (solar) on the floor. Analysis of the system should

About the Author Daniel H. Nail, P.E., FAIA, is senior vice president at V^SP Flack + Kurtz in New York. He is an ASHRAE certified Building Energy Modeling Professional and High-Performance Building Design Professional.

ASHRAE Journal

February 2013

Aifside parameters: Conductivity Indoor air temperature = [75] [F] Overall heat transfer coefficient above floor = |2 008| [Btu'( hft^F)] Solar gain intensity = [4] Covers parameters: Total thickness of covers IX, = |0 79| [in) = jo 024| [Btu/ (h F)] x/(W/2) [Btu/(h ft^)]

Sunf) of products of thickness and conductivity of covers Thermal resistance of coverings = |o 18| Slab 8 tube parameters: Thickness of slab L = [ T i ] [In] [o87| [Su/(h It F)] [F hft^/ Btu)

Thermal conductivity of slab K =

Tube center4o-center spacing W = Tube intenof diameter = Tube exterior diameter Tube thermal conductivity = Water loop parameters: Water loop length = [ ^ [ft] Inlet water temperature = S[ Water owrate = i J i ] [GPfUl] [F]

|6| [in]

|()584| fm] [O 7S| [in] [o22[ ; ; ^ Radiant floor capacity - 37.5 Outlet water temperature > 64-5 Mean floor temperature T p / /f\ixn jF] |F] [F]


surface temperature at x = 77.4

Figure 1: Radiant heating/cooling floor analysis tool developed by Yizal Xia.

sheet that required iterative manipulation to determine the limiting factor for heat transfer in the system, slab to space coupling, fluid to slab coupling, or fluid flow rate, and then calculates the resulting performance. These procedures were developed before the creation of international standards for these calculations, now documented in ISO-DIS 11855 and EN 15377.' EES determines the limiting factor and calculates that performance with a more user-friendly interface. It allows the evaluation of alternatives in floor finish conductance, topping slab depth, tubing loop length and on-center spacing, supply water flow and temperature for different combinations of room temperature and absorbed solar flux on the floor. Based upon these inputs, it calculates the water temperature leaving the floor, the cooling or heating capacity of the floor per unit area and the surface temperature ofthe floor {Eigure I). The second tool calculates the pattern of solar irradiation on the building February 201 3

surfaces at various times of the year, including the shading of the building structure and the optical characteristics ofthe glazing {Eigure 2). This tool provides absorbed solar flux input to the floor evaluation tool in EES. This flux, and the solar heat gain that is absorbed by the glass and re-radiated or convected into the space, are used in the computational fluid dynamics (CFD) tool. The CFD tool evaluates the room level heat transfer for the space, including long wave radiation interchange among surfaces, convective heat transfer and buoyancy induced flow ofthe room air, cumulative impact of solar flux on both active and non-active surfaces in the space, and impact of ventilation supply air on the air temperature distribution in the space {Eigure 3). Heat gains in the space are specified for both radiant and convective components to more accurately characterize convectively generated stratification. The fourth tool provides validation of the psychrometric balance in the

Figure 2: National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation headquarters lobby solar patch configuration July 4, 2:00 p.m.

space. This evaluation can be provided in the CFD program by rigorous input of moisture sources and specification of moisture content of ventilation and infiltration air, or it can be provided by a mass balance calculation of moisture gains, airflow and infiltration to calculate a bulk moisture ratio for the ASHRAE Journal

space. This latter approach is appropriate for many projects, because condensation avoidance strategies will address locationspecific condensation hazards. The final tool for application to the system is a standard building energy modeling platform. A simplified version of the thermally active slab is input into the simulation program, incorporating pumping power and cooling/heating capacity. Depending upon the platform, sophisticated workarounds may be required to capture the cooling capacity variation of the system in response to solar heat gain. The primary intent of the use of this tool is to validate the energy savings from reduced transport energy of conditioning heat to and from the space. Figure 3: National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation headquarters The result of this design process will be lobby temperature distribution output from CFD analysis. a floor configuration with zoning consistent with the solar patterns on the fioor, tube spacing consistent with the maximum heating or cooling load, ventilation air sufficiently dry enough to avoid condensation, and supplementary heating or cooling provisions to handle any loads beyond the capacity of the radiant floor. Analysis of intermediate operating conditions should be performed in addition to the peak heating and cooling analysis. These conditions include high humidity, low sensible load operation, high solar, low exterior temperature operation, and maximum and minimum occupancy operation. Although these subsequent analyses may not inform the physical configuration of the radiant slab system, they may inform the control sequence design to ensure both comfort and condensation avoidance. A final important part of the design process is coordination of the thermal characteristics of the architectural ele- Photo 1: William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library showments of the space. An important consideration is the ther- ing bamboo plywood flooring over thermally active slab. mal resistance of the floor finish. Materials with excessive thermal resistance will increase the temperature differential Finish Material Capacity (Imperial) Floor Temperature between water in the tubing and the fioor surface. Ideal materials include stone pavers, ceramic tiles and terrazzo. Ac1 in. Stone Paver 20.1 Btu/lTft2 74.9F ceptable materials include dense wood finish materials such as processed bamboo plywood bonded directly to the fioor, 1.25 in. Wood Floor 17.3Btu/h-ft2 77.2F linoleum and polymeric floor coverings. An example of bamboo plywood finish fiooring above a thermally active slab is shown in Photo 1, at the William Jefferson Clinton Presiden- 5/8 in. (15.9 mm) PEX tubing; 9 in. (229 mm) on center; 300 ft (91.5 m) roll; 2 gpm (0.12 L/s) per loop; 61F (16.1C), inlet water; 20 Btu/ tial Center. This building has more than 50,000 ft^ (4647 m^) ft2 (63.1 W/m2) absorbed sunlight; 75F (23.9C) space temperature. of this active floor system. Thick porous finish materials such as cork or carpet are not Table 1: Floor performance with various floor coverings. desirable, although the author has completed several projects with dense indoor/outdoor carpeting without pads. In that case, a minimum density of 120 lbs/ft^ (1925 kg/m^). Lightweight both sides of the floor slab were active surfaces so that the ther- concrete has greater thermal resistance due to its much higher mal resistance of the fioor covering was less important to over- porosity. The design goal is to create the least resistance pathall heat transfer to the space. The thermal resistance of the top- way feasible for heat flow between the water in the tubing and ping slab is also important for maximizing heat transfer across the occupied space. Floor characteristics and performance of thefloor.The topping slab should be composed of concrete with high and low transmission floor finishes are shown in Table 1.

ASHRAE Journal

February 2013

Radiant Heating and Cooling System Layout

The thermally active floor Expansion Tank system is configured as an isolated loop connected by heat exchangers to the heating and cooling sources and thermally coupled to the space through tubing embedded in the floor slab. Loop isolation avoids introducing fouling and debris from the primary heating and cooling loops for the building into the small diameter tubing that will be embedded in the floor for the life of the building. A typical flow diagram is shown in Figure 4. The author's typical de- Figure 4: Radiant heating and sign for a multi-zone thermally active slab is a constant temperature (in each mode), variable flow approach. Depending upon the magnitude and use of the space, modulating valves will be on either each loop or on each manifold. If there is a modulating valve on each loop, the typical design would incorporate a slowacting two position valve. For larger spaces, with less small scale architectural articulation and with a transient occupancy, entire manifolds, incorporating up to as many as 10 loops would have a single slow-acting two-position valve for capacity control. Zoned capacity control is important in the cooling mode to modulate the floor in response to moving patches of solar radiation. A portion of the floor under full sun will require full flow, while a shaded portion of the floor will require significantly reduced flow to maintain the minimum floor temperature of 68F (20C). The circulation pump for this system has a variable frequency drive and a pressure controlling bypass, to accommodate very low part loads. The floor loop will use either two heat exchangers, one for heating and one for cooling, or a single four-pipe changeover heat exchanger. Control of supply temperature on the secondary side of the heat exchanger is easily achieved with a two-way valve on the primary side, controlled by a temperature sensor on the discharge of the secondary loop of the heat exchanger. The author has used 5/8 in. (15.88 mm) high density cross linked polyethylene tubing on almost all radiant heating/cooling projects to date. A common delivery method for this tubing is a 300 ft (91.4 m) roll. Maximum water flow through a loop of this tubing is between 2.0 and 2.5 gpm (0.12 to 0.16 L/s) (glycol solution maximum flow will be less). Extension of the loop length to 600 ft (182.8 m) results in a loss in capacity per unit area of between 8 and 10% under high solar radiation conditions. This measure may be cost effective for large undifferentiated floor areas.

Heat Exchanger


Floor Slab-


cooling floor flow diagram.

The shorter loop length is more appropriate to more varied floor plates. Manifolds should be located as close as possible to the served floor area. If 300 ft (91.6 m) loops are used, a floor area located 75 ft (22.9 m) from the manifold would expend half of the loop length as "home run" through an uncontrolled floor space. Location of manifolds early in the design process resolves the architectural accommodation of these elements. A wall recess of approximately 5 in. ( 127 mm) deep by about 20 in. (510 mm) high by about 40 in. (1.02 m) wide, is required for a 10 loop manifold, and provision of access panels can be controversial in a high finish space. Zone configuration, with temperature sensor in the middle, should respond to perimeter adjacency and solar "patch" patterns through the course of the summer day. Sizing circulation pumps for the radiant loop requires comparison of maximum system flow rates for both heating and cooling. Maintenance of the floor at a maximum temperature of 80F (26.7C) in heating mode can be achieved moving no more than 0.8 gpm (0.05 L/s) of hot water at 90F (32.2C). The heating requirement, however, is likely to have little diversity with most perimeter zones simultaneously at the above flow rate. Maximum cooling is likely to be highly diversified with insolated zones requiring full flow through the loop, while shaded zones require only 0.3 gpm (0.02 L/s) to maintain the minimum floor temperature of 68F (20C). Depending on the orientation of the glazed walls of the space and depth of the floor plate, diversity for cooling can easily be below 50%. The preferred method for sizing these pumps is to examine the insolation patterns on a number of design days to determine the maximum percentage of the floor area in sun over the course of the year, calculate the diversity for full cooling flow and compare that to undiversified full heating flow. February 2013

ASHRAE Journal



Photo 2: Lobby of Hearst headquarters showing thermally active floor (bottom center) and refrigerated water feature (bottom left corner).



Avoiding Condensation Proper system design and layout and proper control sequences are crucial in avoiding the possibility of floor condensation. With proper design, condensation should never occur, even in the most humid climates. Condensation avoidance strategies should consider the actual usage and microclimate of the project, in addition to generic peak humidity design conditions. For example, the peak exterior dew-point condition for a project likely may occur when a thunderstorm inundates a hot asphalt parking lot outside the building's entrance raising the local dew-point temperature above 80F (26.7C), much higher than the ASHRAE design condition. The peak internal latent gain may occur when someone holds open a door to February 2013

allow the entrance of a dozen drenched people. The generous safety factors recommended by this author are the result of this type of consideration. Below are some strategies to avoid condensation. The most important strategy for avoiding condensation on or within the floor is a supply chilled water temperature that is substantially higher than the dew-point temperature of the air in the space. The author's projects are usually designed around an entering chilled water temperature of 61F (16.rC). The dewpoint, at sea level, of air at 75F (23.9C) and 50% relative humidity is 55.1F (12.8C). This 6F (3.3C) dew-point temperature safety factor allows significant interior microclimate variation before condensation can occur. Using a supply chilled wa-

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ter temperature this high does have an impact of eooling capacity, but condenSupply Chiller Water Temperature Capacity (Imperial) Floor Temperature sation avoidance is the most important consideration. Table 2 shows a com61 F Water Temperature 20.1 Btu/h-fts 74.9F parison of capacity for a system using TF (16.rC) supply water compared 58F Water Temperature 22.1 Btu/h ft2 73.3F with58F(14.4C). A low leakage building envelope is 5/8 in. (15.9 mm) PEX tubing; 9 in. (229 mm) on center; 300 ft (91.5 m) roll; 2 gpm (7.6 U/min) also an important strategy for avoiding per loop; 61F (16.1C), inlet water; 20 Btu/ft^ (63.1 W/m^) absorbed sunlight; 75F (23.9C) condensation. Local high infiltration space temperature. rates can create local high dew-point microclimates within the building, leading Table 2: Comparison of capacity for a system using 61 F (16.1C) supply water to local condensation in spite of room compared with 58F (14.4C). humidity sensors. High infiltration rates further increase the interior latent load and increase the room trance. Entering hot, humid air will "float" above this pool ambient dew-point temperature, decreasing the condensation of cool air, preventing it from contacting and condensing on safety margin. Infiltration is almost never beneficial in a build- the floor. A supplemental strategy at the entrances is leaving ing, but it creates even greater danger for a building with slab out the heating/cooling tubing from the floor area adjacent cooling. to the entrance, creating a distance across which the humid An effective strategy for dealing with high humidity in- air must move (and be mitigated by mixing with room air) filtration at building entrances is flooding the fioor area im- before encountering the cool floor. In continental climates mediately adjacent to the entrance with cool dehumidified with both high heating and high dehumidification loads, the air. Location of displacement diffusers adjacent to entrances tubing may be embedded in the fioor near the entrance, but allows cool dry air to pool on the floor just inside the en- the control sequences can be set up to close al! control valves

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ASHRAE Journal

February 2013

on those loops near the entrance when the system is in cooling mode. The ventilation/dehumidification air system must also be designed with condensation avoidance in mind. The apparatus dew point of the system should be well below the entering chilled water for the floor cooling system. For highly dense occupancies, this differential could be as much as 10F (5.6C). The air delivery system should be designed to provide uniform distribution of air around the conditioned floor area. Although uniform distribution may not be as critical as in a space conditioned by an all air system, avoidance of stagnant areas where local humidity levels can rise is important to condensation avoidance. For systems with locally intense latent gains or with consistently open entrances, CFD simulations modeling two species (dry air and water vapor), can assess condensation risk. For many of the spaees that could benefit from thermally active floor systems, water features are an architecturally desirable element. Water features, especially splashing ones, are effective evaporative humidifiers for the space, leading to an increased differential between the supply air moisture ratio and the room ambient condition. However, water features can be turned from a negative to a positive element of the thermally active structure system by refrigerating the

water in the feature during the cooling season. Lowering the water temperature feature to several degrees below the floor entering chilled water dramatically decreases the evaporation rate from the water feature and provides a damper on room moisture ratio increase. If the space ambient dew-point temperature rises above that of the water in the water feature, the water feature itself provides safe dehumidification. In the Hearst Corporation headquarters, the sensible cooling capacity ofthe thermally active floor is supplemented by a large-area inclined water feature, called the "Waterfall," that runs parallel to the escalators to the lower level entrance {Photo 2, Page 43). Control sequences for avoiding condensation are relatively simple. Ventilation systems that feature demand-controlled ventilation will increase airflow in response to additional occupancy, thus raising dehumidification capacity in response to increased interior latent load. Also, ventilation/dehumidification system supply air leaving temperature can be reduced (reducing apparatus dew point) when space dew-point temperature rises. A safety measure is to incorporate afloorcirculation pump shutdown control in response to space dew-point temperature rising to within a safety margin ofthe space dewpoint temperature. The safety margin should be determined in response to potential latent load asymmetry within the space.

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Spaces with more intense localized latent loads, such as queuing zones, may require a larger safety margin. An important function of the control system is to detect and control humidity buildup during imoccupied periods. Infiltration during these periods can raise the internal dew point of air well above the chilled water supply temperature for the system. Porous materials in the space, including the grout on a tiled floor, can come to vapor pressure equilibrium with the humid air during this unoccupied period. When the floor is activated, condensation can occur. Even if the liquid water is not obvious, and does not present a slipping hazard for the occupants, it can support the growth of mold and mildew. To overcome this problem, a space dew-point temperature system should activate the air system in dehumidification mode whenever the interior air dew-point temperature approaches the typical supply chilled water temperature. When high unoccupied period dew-point temperature is detected, a morning dehumidification cycle should be invoked to dehumidify the space before the slab is activated in the cooling mode. Summary The design of radiant heating and cooling slab systems requires the support of powerful predictive design tools to

optimize the complex performance of this relatively simple system. The design process should evaluate the impact of design variables and the configuration of the conditioned space. Variables controlled by the designer include the center-tocenter spacing of the tubing, the transfer fluid flow rate, the thermal conductivity of the floor finish, and the tubing layout. The impact of these variables can be calculated in abstract to maximize the capacity of the system. However, the impact of the configuration of the space on system performance can only be estimated by a whole space CFD model. Crucial to the success of the radiant cooling slab is avoiding condensation on the floor. This goal can easily be achieved through observation of safety factors in the determination of setpoint temperatures, incorporation of control sequences to disable the system should conditions suggest impending condensation, and through configuration of the fioor layout to isolate the cooling surface from moisture sources. References
1. Olesen, B.W. 2007. "New European standards for design, dimensioning and testing embedded radiant heating and cooling systems." Proceedings ofClitna 2007 WellBeirtg Indoors. 1. Olesen, B. W. 2002. "Possibilities and limitations of radiant floor cooling." ASHRAE Transactions 108(2).

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