Keeping residents safe and comfortable should be among the top priorities of any aged care facility. Climate control is a vital aspect of both of these priorities and in order to cater for a range of needs, it is paramount that the right heating system is selected.
Commercial hydronic heating provides a wide range of benefits for not only residents, but also staff, visitors and operators. While ducted systems for heating and cooling are commonly installed, hydronic heating is fast becoming the preferred option and can be retrofitted into existing premises.
Used for centuries across Europe, hydronic heating is now rapidly becoming the number one choice for climate control in Australian aged care facilities. In this article we will cover:
- What is hydronic heating and how does it work?
- Is hydronic heating healthy?
- Safety benefits of hydronic heating in aged care
- Efficiency and costs
- Design and installation benefits
What is hydronic heating and how does it work?
Hydronic heating is a very hygienic, safe, cost effective and eco-conscious approach to climate control. The majority of commercial hydronic heating systems work by water being warmed via a boiler and then circulated through a sealed pipe system to hydronic terminal units.
Once the heated water has reached a terminal unit, heat is transfed via radiant heat and convected heat into the living space, which not only warms the air itself, but also increases the temperature of objects within the room – from furniture and furnishings to people. This creates a very even distribution of warmth, which is comfortable and consistent and eliminates ‘drafts’ or cold patches within a room.
Is hydronic heating healthy?
In short, yes. The hydronic approach is deemed to be the most hygienic system when it comes to heating and cooling. It is increasingly being used in settings for child care and education, along with large scale residential developments and office buildings. This is largely due to the health, comfort and efficiency levels it provides. Let’s take a look at a couple.
Health Benefit 1: Improved air quality
Approximately 2.7 million Australians live with asthma and many suffer with seasonal allergies. Both of these problems are exacerbated by poor air quality, namely pollutants and moisture, and can be triggered by fan forced heating and cooling systems.
Unlike ducted heating and cooling systems, hydronic radiators, underfloor heating and in-floor trench heating do not use fan forced air to alter the temperature within a room.
Ducted heating and cooling solutions, along with free standing units such as blow heaters or oscillating fans, circulate airborne pollutants – this includes everything from dust mites and pollens to mold spores and any other matter that has built up within the air ducts or has settled within a room.
Another bonus with hydronic radiant panel wall heaters is that the warmth they produce doesn’t dry out the air like a ducted system. Dry air is another factor that causes respiratory irritation not only in asthmatics, but in the general public and it can also increase dehydration and dry eyes. Not ideal for anyone, particularly the elderly.
Simply put, by installing hydronic heating in your aged care facility you are providing residents, staff and visitors with improved air quality and drastically reducing the chances of transmission of airborne bacteria. In general, this will support everyone’s health, and in turn assist in reducing employee sick leave and spread of illness amongst residents and visitors.
Health Benefit 2: Easy to clean and maintain
Hydronic radiant panel wall heaters are very easy to clean – they only need a wipe down from time to time with a cloth and can withstand hospital grade disinfectants for regulation cleaning. As for underfloor or trench heating, these can be cleaned as per standard measures in an aged care setting.
Unlike ducted systems, there are no internal parts that need to be cleaned and maintained. Inspection of the boiler unit as per the manufacturer and warranty is generally all that is required to ensure your hydronic system is working optimally.
Health Benefit 3: Silent operation
Another beauty of hydronic heating is that it is silent. Zero noise pollution. No humming or blowing noises to disturb residents and staff.
Safety benefits of hydronic heating in aged care
Teamed with the health benefits are the safety features hydronic heating systems provide. The following benefits are key reasons why hydronic heating is increasingly being installed in safety critical environments.
Safety Benefit 1: Safe to touch surface temperature
Designed to be cooler to touch than standard wall heaters, the market now offers steel panel radiators, which ensure that the surface temperature remains below 50℃. For this reason Safe Touch Panels are the number one choice for installation in aged care and child care centres, schools and hospitals.
Safety Benefit 2: No fire hazard
Hydronic wall heaters and underfloor heating use warmed water to generate heat within a space. There are no open flames, electrical connections or fan forced elements that potentially create a fire hazard. The main operating features are completely sealed off, creating a fire hazard free solution.
Safety Benefit 3: Zero trip risks
With no cables between the unit and power points, hydronic heating units do not pose any trip risks to residents, staff or visitors.
This is also the case with the units themselves. As they are either built within the floor, flush to surface level, or wall mounted, there is no free standing unit that takes up floor space, which could be a potential trip hazard.
Efficiency and costs
While the installation of your hydronic heating system might be higher than a ducted option, it is important to consider other associated costs, such as the ongoing running and maintenance of your climate control solution.
It also pays to bear in mind that if you opt for a ducted system, the health of your residents and staff could be compromised by poor air quality. You may well be paying in other ways if there is a higher rate of employee sick leave or increased respiratory illness, particularly during Winter.
To keep a ducted system running optimally it is vital that the ducts are cleaned on a regular basis to avoid pollutant build up, which can contribute to poor air quality and pose a fire hazard, whereas this cost isn’t necessary with a hydronic system.
Estimated to cost 35% less than running a ducted heating and cooling system, hydronic heating certainly ticks the boxes when it comes to overall lower running and maintenance costs.
How efficient is hydronic heating compared to ducted systems?
Hydronic heating can be known to use up to 70%?? less energy than a ducted system. The radiant heat generated and transferred into a space also remains for a longer period than fan forced air and as it is evenly distributed, it results in efficient and comfortable warmth for a longer period of time, without requiring ongoing energy usage.
Using temperature controlled thermostats, you are also able to ‘zone’ your hydronic heating, allowing you to alter the temperature as needed in each space to suit the needs of the residents. Where required you can turn off the heating completely, all of which further increases the efficiency of the system.
Design and installation benefits
Another key benefit to hydronic heating is the flexibility of the product design.
Panel Wall heaters, specifically designed for aged care settings, are available in a range of sizes, which enable installation in every room size and shape. The depth of a panel radiator is another consideration, with the narrow profiles available they make a perfect choice for passageways.
In terms of finish, the panel radiators are often able to be colour matched to the existing or planned colour palette of your facility. The finish is also scratch and corrosion resistant, which is ideal in environments of high footfall and heavy use.
Can hydronic heating be retrofitted?
Absolutely. Panel wall heating, underfloor heating and trench heating can all be retrofitted within an existing premises.
The best approach is to contact an experienced hydronic heating professional to provide an onsite inspection. This will enable the consultant to advise on the best products and installation approach for your facility needs.
What is in-floor trench heating?
In-floor trench heating is a great option for facilities with floor to ceiling window facades and limited wall space. A trench is created along the window line of the space, recessed into the floor and covered with a grille.
From here, the radiant heat can transfer to the space, in much the same way as a wall heater or underfloor heating. Like the radiators, trench heating designs are flexible to suit the style of your setting.
The trench heating also counteracts the cold from the outside against the window, while still allowing the benefits of a large window for natural light and views.
Hydronic heating offers a number of health, safety and efficiency benefits for residents, staff, visitors and facility operators alike – and is without question the most hygienic climate control solution on the market.
At Hunt Heating Commercial we pride ourselves on our superior customer service and collaborative approach we take with each project. We can support you with planning, product selection and installation to suit your facility needs, as we have done with these previous clients within the Aged Care industry.
As Australia’s leading provider of commercial hydronic heating and cooling solutions, our consultants have shared their knowledge and expertise to support a myriad of projects over the years. We’ve designed systems for large-scale accommodation projects, office buildings and smaller commercial spaces.
Ready to discuss hydronic heating for your aged care facility? Get in touch with the team to arrange a consultation.