Radiant Cooling: The Condensation Misconception

Radiant cooling

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In the article Très Bien for Large Scale Radiant, Robert Bean addresses the frustrating misconception that radiant cooling in commercial buildings leads to condensation problems.



“…humidity management is necessarily required by the HVAC system for microbial control over pathogens (bacteria, viruses) and allergens (molds and dust mites); and to promote respiratory and thermal comfort for occupants; and for the dimensional stability in hygroscopic materials like wood. When managed for these priorities, condensation on radiant cooling panels becomes a moot point.”





In my work, being an advocate for radiant cooling in commercial buildings, I have seen similar reluctance based on the condensation discussion. All seem to stem, as Robert mentions, from the air-based portion of a hybrid system not adequately addressing the human comfort element.


Switching the thought process from “What does my air system have to do to allow efficient operation of the radiant side?” to “How does my radiant system complement my well-designed air system?” would go a long way in bringing radiant cooling into the forefront of design practices (especially in the eastern portion of North America).


I echo Robert’s sentiment of separating the various components of a hybrid system, e.g., thermal comfort, IEQ, latent and sensible cooling. This movement toward decoupling and optimizing, especially given the great strides on the controls side, will certainly move us in the direction of high-performance buildings.


Robert’s article includes some good examples of existing projects where hybrid HVAC systems including radiant have managed to remove the inherent conflicts, enabling the individual components to do their jobs without negatively impacting the performance of the others.



A highly recommended read.



By Ryan Westlund, EIT, Systems Engineering Specialist