While running a business, there are countless ways you can waste money during day-to-day operations. One of the major concerns for a business’s overhead is the utility bill, specifically, whether or not your business has an efficient heating and cooling system. Without an efficient system, your energy consumption, and therefore utility bill, can skyrocket. If your budget isn’t up to the task, you should address the potential problem before you’re stuck with a huge utility bill, or worse—no heat.
Reliability and energy consumption are the two major factors to consider if you’re in need of an upgrade. For some businesses, losing heat is an inconvenience, while others can’t run without it. Regardless, it’s definitely in your best interest to maintain the best possible commercial heating and cooling solution for your business because it can save you a lot of time and money.
There are many types of heating systems for commercial buildings, and the type of heating system you will need for your business depends on many factors, like the amount of space you have and whether or not there is an existing system in place. So what are the types of heating systems to consider?
When to consider space heating
Business owners with large buildings may be put off by the price tag of a central heating system and opt for purchasing unit heaters, especially if there are never customers in the building. Space heating can work well for businesses that only need to heat a small portion of their building to stay warm. Radiant space heaters are fairly energy efficient, but they can only heat a small space effectively, and the heat won’t always spread evenly. You can expect the typically radiant space heater to comfortably warm an enclosed area of about 150-200 square feet.
Beyond that, the cost of purchasing and operating space heaters to heat a large building is significantly more in the long run than finding an energy-efficient central heating solution that’s properly sized for your whole building. Better yet, there are a couple of heating solutions that allow you to control the temperature in different zones, so you’re never paying for heating you don’t need. These systems are especially useful in businesses with some areas that stay hotter than others, such as the kitchen of a restaurant.1
Types of central heating
Most commercial buildings will do better with central heating of some kind. An HVAC system specialist can help you determine the best kind for your particular space and budget. Here are the main systems to consider for your space:
Forced air heating system
A forced air system uses a furnace to heat air. Then, it blows the air through ducts to deliver warm air throughout a building. Forced air systems are probably the most common type of commercial heating system in the US, generally because they are the cheapest and simplest to install. While the older ones are not very energy efficient, regulations require them to meet certain standards of efficiency. Most commercial HVAC system specialists will have the necessary experience to install and maintain forced air systems, and they can share the same ductwork and outdoor unit that your air conditioner uses.
A furnace may use natural gas or electricity as a fuel source. Gas tends to heat up faster and work better in cold climates, while electric furnaces are easier to maintain and cheaper to install. Typically, the price of running a gas furnace is cheaper, however electric furnaces are often more efficient than their gas counterparts. You can learn more about a system’s efficiency by checking the AFUE rating. The higher the rating, the less energy is wasted creating heat.Of course, the choice between gas or electric may depend on which you can readily hook up to existing connections.
Commercial boiler system
Boilers pump heated water throughout the building, and emit warmth through radiators installed on the wall. Boilers can last a long time, and they don’t require an air filter, and they won’t blow dust or dry the air out as much as forced air systems. They also typically don’t need as much maintenance as a furnace. However, new boilers are typically more expensive and harder to install if you don’t have an existing system in place. They also don’t offer as many advantages as a heat pump system, so if you’re looking at installing a brand new type of system, you should explore all your options with your HVAC specialist.
While radiant heating may take a little longer to warm a room, it preserves the indoor air quality and provides even heating throughout a space. Radiant heat systems that underfloor heating sources are especially efficient because they take advantage of heat’s natural tendency to rise and there is no wasted energy from duct loss. While there are several types of systems, hydronic radiant floors are the most popular because of their increased efficiency. They pump heated water throughout the space, and some designs are equipped with zoning valves that allow you to turn heat on and off for different spaces.
One drawback of these systems is that the flooring can insulate your heater. It can be much harder to make a comfortable space if you want thick carpets installed. These systems can also be extremely complicated to install under existing floors, and they can increase the humidity in your space.
Heat pumps work by using heat transfer to move thermal energy from one place to another. Because heat will naturally move towards areas with less heat, the process doesn’t require nearly as much energy as other kinds of heating. The most common style of heat pump uses will attract heat from the air outside using refrigerant coils and pump it indoors.
While the initial price tag of these kinds of systems is more than traditional commercial HVAC systems, they more than make up with it through energy savings. A heat pump also has the advantage of working as an air conditioning system as well by reversing the direction of the heat exchange. While there are a few types of heat pump systems, a ductless mini-split system allows you to create separate zones so you can control the temperature in different areas for maximum efficiency.2
What to consider for new installations
If you need to add or replace a heating system to your building, an HVAC specialist can guide your choices on the most cost effective way to keep your building comfortable in the winter. In many cases, replacing your existing unit with a newer version of the same style will be the most economical choice. However, it may be worth exploring more modern appliances like heat pumps.
Proper sizing is just as crucial for energy efficiency as the type of heating equipment you use. Oversized systems will heat or cool the building too quickly, which may cause issues with humidity. It will also cause the system to short-cycle—turning on and off too much will allow it to use energy efficiently.
Undersized systems will struggle to properly heat the building. The strain of running too much will shorten the lifespan of the system and eventually cause mechanical issues that can lead to your system shutting down when you need it most. If you don’t consider the size and temperature requirements of your building, you will wind up wasting money in the long run.3
Professionals you can trust
Finding experts you can rely on is crucial for your business’s success. Simpsons Sheet Metal has offered commercial heating and cooling solutions to the Santa Rosa area for over 30 years. We work with businesses to provide custom installations that meet your space and budget needs, and we have the expertise you can depend on to repair and maintain existing systems so you’re not stuck in the cold. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation to learn more about how we can help.