If you own a manufacturing or commercial building in a temperate climate, you may find that ensuring a comfortable (or at least habitable) temperature for your staff members is an expensive and time-consuming process. For those looking to keep heating and cooling costs down or eventually transition to a fully energy-independent facility, finding an HVAC system that can utilize your building's own unique advantages and outputs is key. One option that hasn't been widely used in the U.S. until recent years is the chilled beam. Read on to learn more about this heating and cooling method and how switching to an active or passive chilled beam system could save you thousands of dollars (or more) in annual energy costs.
What is a chilled beam system?
The term "chilled beam" refers to an active or passive system that generates climate-controlled air by passing this air over (or through) a tube of chilled water. In many respects, these systems are similar to geothermal heat pumps — except that instead of utilizing the earth's own constant temperature to create warm air in winter and cool air in summer, chilled beams take advantage of their much smaller space requirements and are able to perform this entire process above ground.
In addition to being quieter and taking up much less space than many other conventional commercial HVAC systems, a chilled beam system is ultra-efficient. Because both active and passive chilled beam systems require only constant airflow and cooled water to operate, rather than an electricity-hogging condenser unit or fuel-sucking furnace, you should notice an immediate decrease in your utility costs once a chilled beam HVAC system has gone "live."
What should you consider when deciding whether to convert to a chilled beam HVAC system?
Before making your decision, you'll need to perform a few calculations. First, you'll want to determine what you're currently spending on a monthly or annual basis to heat and cool your building. This number can give you a baseline as to your continuing HVAC expenses, and installing a system that requires hefty up-front costs and isn't proposed to reduce this baseline amount by much may not be a good investment.
You'll also want to consider the projected lifespan of your existing HVAC system and the existence of any tax credits that could help lower your business's tax liabilities for the calendar year in which a purchase is made. Replacing an HVAC system that is already outdated or on its last legs is an easier decision than tearing out and revamping a nearly new one, and federal or state tax credits to defray the costs of a new system can often serve as a tipping point in the cost-benefit analysis.