Heating a Hangar: A Parametric Analysis of Simulated Heating Systems

The economic implications of heating a typical hangar have significant impact on the life-cycle costs of these types of buildings. Specifying the appropriate system can make a tremendous difference.



Munich HangarTo demonstrate this, a recent analysis was conducted by architectural engineering firm Westlake Reed and Leskosky in Washington, DC in which three different heating options – overhead infrared, unit heater and radiant floor heating systems – were compared by simulating them in a 75,000 sq ft hangar with typical glazing and skylights.



The scenario was applied to five cities across four different climate zones, including San Francisco, Nashville, Salt Lake City, Boston and Milwaukee.


The analysis used a conservative assumption that the hangar door would be opened for 15 minutes twice a day during the heating season to move aviation and maintenance equipment in and out of the space.

Drastically Reduced Energy Consumption With Hydronic Radiant Heating

In a radiant heating system, warm fluid circulates through PEX pipes which are integrated in the floor structure. The warm floor provides heat to the space both via radiant exchange, as well as natural convection. Because heated air is not the primary mechanism for heat transfer, thermal stratification is greatly reduced leading to lower heat loss through the roof structure.


Heat from the radiant system is associated with the floor’s thermal mass, so when doors open, less heat escapes and catch-up time is greatly reduced after the doors close.


When the consumption of heating energy is compared across each of the cities, there is a 40- to 55-percent savings between the radiant heating system and the benchmark unit heater system.


Annual Savings ChartAnnual energy consumption is only part of the savings though. When the systems are compared over a 30-year life-cycle and components such as maintenance costs are rolled into the analysis, total savings across the range of climate zones were calculated from $400,000 to over $1.5 million.


Although we are used to seeing impressive energy savings by heating or cooling a space using hydronic radiant systems, example applications – such as this look into hangars – beg the question why designers do not consider radiant more often. With numbers like these, radiant should be on the table in all design conversations about similar spaces. Let’s push beyond traditional technology and design for a building’s life-cycle!


For the full story, watch the webinar about this study, here.



By Ryan Westlund