When it comes to heating commercial spaces, fan convectors are often overlooked regardless of whether or not they are the optimum heating solution. But it’s worth taking a look at the benefits says David Higham
Fan convector technology is often missing from the curriculum on heating engineer courses, so it’s no wonder that many commercial installers do not have fan convectors on their radar and/or believe that they do not have the knowledge to install them. In fact, the installation is exactly the same as a radiator; it connects directly to the central heating system – the only difference between the two is the requirement for a power source to operate the fan.
With regards to the heating process, a hydronic fan convector distributes heat evenly throughout a room using forced convection. It contains a fan and a heat exchanger (aluminium fins with copper pipes) connected to a standard two-pipe central heating system. Hot water, heated by the boiler, is passed through the heat exchanger and the heat from the hot water is transferred to the aluminium fins. Cooler air is drawn in by the fan and heated as it passes over the heat exchanger before being expelled gently back into the room.
Modern fan convectors can be installed in a number of positions to suit user requirements; on the wall, at low or high level, in the wall, in the floor, in the ceiling or under a kitchen unit. They can be versatile, quiet to run and easy to install making them a worthy competitor in the heating industry.
Why use a fan convector?
Holding just five per cent of the water content found in an equivalent panel radiator means fan convectors have much faster response times because there is less water to heat. Lower water content means that they can easily adapt to the ever-changing weather temperatures because they have greater flexibility and are easier to control.
Not only do users have to wait for radiators to heat up and cool down, they are difficult to control beyond their thermostatic radiator valve (TRV) settings and at least 10 per cent of radiator heat is lost in the wall behind it. Most fan convectors have multiple heat output settings to enable either a quick heat up or background heat to maintain the room temperature. Because fan convectors use forced convection, the direction of heat is controlled and equally distributed to ensure that no heat is lost.
Compared with radiators that are very hot to touch, all fan convectors are by design, low surface temperature appliances, which eliminates any risk of injury in places where hot surfaces might be a safety concern, such as nurseries, community spaces and residential settings.
Independent research from BSRIA* revealed that Smith’s fan convectors use 24 per cent less energy than traditional panel radiators to heat a room. The research also revealed that a saving of 31 per cent could be achieved when fan convectors are connected to a lower temperature system, such as those driven by renewable technologies including ground or air source heat pumps.
Fan convectors can not only assist in reducing business costs and carbon footprint, but they also have the flexibility to be positioned on the ceiling, in the floor or at a high level which fundamentally alleviates the pressure for more floor space in the premises.
Due to their ability to provide almost instantaneous heat to larger spaces, where more than one radiator would usually be required, fan convectors have been universally acknowledged to be the optimum heating solution for many light commercial properties and public facilities, especially where they are used intermittently and when heat is required quickly. Although room types and sizes vary dramatically, Smith’s products are designed to heat up to around 12kW which means they are most compatible in the following properties:
• Nurseries, schools, colleges and universities
• Churches/places of worship
• Leisure and sports centres
• Small office complexes
• Railway stations
• Nursing/care homes
Compatible with renewables
Many businesses are beginning to opt for renewable technology to support their heating system to reduce their business costs and carbon footprint. However, when businesses select a heat pump as their energy source, and compromise with a panel radiator, the investment in renewable technology could be considered to have been wasted.
Fan convectors on the other hand operate effectively at system water temperatures as low as 35°C meaning they are truly compatible with renewables. A standard domestic radiator is essentially designed to operate at much higher temperatures, around 70°C. While it is theoretically possible to run them at lower temperatures, their performance and heat output will be dramatically reduced and their physical size will have to be substantially increased. So, to ensure the heat pump runs continuously, which is when they operate at their optimum efficiency, organisations can consider pairing it with modern fan convector.
Fan convectors are a worthy competitor in the heating industry and deserve more than just a second look. Providing a highly effective, economical and simple solution to heating small and large commercial spaces, the advantages and versatility they offer over radiators in a number of heating scenarios means fan convectors remain a positive choice to meet the demands faced by today’s heating engineers.
With new legislation coming into effect from 1 January 2015, all Smith’s motors above 125W must be electronically commutated (EC), meaning that speed control will be incorporated within the fan convector and higher efficiency than the equivalent alternating current (AC) fan will be achieved to reduce running and life-time costs.
// The author is the CEO at Smith’s Environmental Products //