Thermal stratification is often overlooked, but it can be the single biggest cause of wasted energy in commercial buildings. The concept is fairly simple: Warm air naturally rises, so some of the energy used to heat a space escapes through the roof. Your heating system then needs to work harder to compensate for the lower temperature at ground level. Overcoming this saves energy and reduces costs.
Destratification fans mix the air, so the heat doesn’t get a chance to settle at the top. Strategic placement at ceiling level creates a gentle stirring effect and the temperature is distributed evenly throughout the room.
In a stratified building, the temperature differential can be as much as 10 degrees C. The air at ceiling level could be approaching 30C, while at floor level it is uncomfortably cool and the heating system is still working to warm the space. The effect is particularly pronounced in large warehouses, where the warm air sits high above the level at which staff are working.
With effective destratification, the differential can be reduced to just one or two degrees. Heating systems do not need to work to replace rising heat, and the uniform temperature allows occupants to be more productive.
According to the Carbon Trust, destratification can save as much as 20% on energy bills in buildings with high ceilings. But it’s essential to use an experienced mechanical services provider that understands the nuances of thermal stratification and can install a solution tailored to your space and your work.
The Carbon Trust also recommends thorough training on controls and a commissioning check – such as those provided by 361 Degrees as standard – that addresses three key areas:
- ceiling temperature throughout, compared to floor level;
- air velocity at floor level, to avoid draughts;
- noise level, to avoid disruption to work.
A Year-Round Problem
Although the effects of thermal stratification are most obviously felt in winter, when heating systems work hard to raise the temperature, poor air distribution can be almost as costly in summer. When warm air gathers overhead the building can overheat, creating an unpleasant environment for staff. If an air conditioning system is installed it will work harder to compensate, just as the heating system does in winter, and running costs will increase.
No matter the season, a good flow of air is vital to keeping your staff happy and healthy, and your energy costs low.