Heating for large spaces and public buildings: how to keep efficiency high and costs low

We’re in the news! This month our Managing Director Martin Emmerson wrote a feature for Tomorrow’s FM about effective heating for large spaces. Read the article below or click here to see our piece in the online magazine!

With facilities managers being challenged to keep costs down and buildings efficient, heating large spaces in the winter can present a challenge. Over the years, I have helped heat a number of different buildings covering everything from schools and churches to more unusual requests such as zoos and cinemas. All of these buildings have different heating requirements and usage, but they all have one thing in common; they can be heated effectively.

Effective heating

In my experience, the key to effective heating is simplicity. In an age of constant advances in technology, people are often surprised when I say that the basics of heating have not changed in the last 50 years we’ve been in the marketplace.

Each year, we see new weather warnings and more extreme weather. There have been harsher winter conditions over the last few years which have changed heating habits and consumer demands.  Subsequently, heating systems that respond quickly in harsh cold snaps are at a premium. So, what can you do to ensure your large space remains at a comfortable temperature without a premium price tag?

Keeping costs down

The equation for successfully heating any space has always been the same; how much heat is required to bring a given area up to a given temperature allowing for a building’s usage requirements and its heat loss characteristics. Once you’ve got the answer, the peripherals (time and temperature control, wireless technology, etc.) fall into place.

One of the age old questions when it comes to controlling heating costs is whether you should keep heating on in a large building while it isn’t in use rather than switching it off and back on again some hours later. The general advice is to have your heating on only when the building requires it. However, since large spaces take a lot longer for heat to be transmitted around the building than a small house for example, you’ll need to consider how quickly the building takes to heat to a habitable level.

The location of the building can also bear weight on what you should do in this instance – if the building could be susceptible to damp keeping the heating on could help save repair costs further down the line. Linked controls can also help you heat one room, while leaving other rooms without heating where required.

Your heater’s suitability for the premises and usage also plays a part – heating solutions designed for domestic premises may not be suitable for a large commercial space. Ensuring you have an energy efficient heater can help to keep costs down without compromising on warmth. If you’re unsure what heater is most suitable for your building type and usage, consult an expert such as Vulcana Gas. Purchasing the right heater for your usage from the outset will help keep costs down long term.

Insulation and safety

Even with the best commercial gas heating solutions, there are other ways your building may lose warmth. Identifying areas where insulation may be lacking or draughts may be likely to occur and taking preventative measures may help.

Many public buildings have door systems whereby if doors are opened, they don’t automatically close. Since public buildings often have a steady flow of visitors, doors can be opened and closed regularly. Ensure doors close after usage automatically or ensure they’re regularly checked by staff.  It’s no secret that heat rises, so many public buildings lose a lot of their warmth through the roof. If your building is old or especially cold, it’s worth considering if you need to undertake works to the roof area. While costly in the short term, long term savings could be considerable.

Efficient heating should also be safe heating. Heaters can be purchased with guards to protect members of the public – this is especially important if a building often has children inside it – for example if it’s a school. It’s also important for staff safety. Safe heating options include balanced flue convector heaters. These heaters provide comfortable heat to buildings and the room sealed heat exchanger makes it easier to clean for staff members. Some heaters, such as our Kestrel 250S also allow controls to be used under a lockable compartment for optimum safety. It’s important all heaters in a public space offer high safety standards as the consequences can be disastrous.

Comfortable heating for public spaces

Many people don’t consider how comfortable their heating is. Creating a warm environment is all well and good, but you’ll need to consider how fast the heater warms up and also what kind of warmth is being circulated. For example, if a space is being utilised regularly by groups, a high efficiency heater with a fast heat up time is required.

Large buildings can benefit from powered flue heaters. These heaters take air from the outside of a building for combustion and burn it to create heat in the building. When these heaters are combined with fan assistance, optimum air quality can be offered. While this is preferable in all public buildings, it’s especially important for those that will be used by the elderly or young infants where comfortable heating can help concentration.

The future of heating

I’m often asked what the future holds for the UK’s commercial heating sector? I believe being able to store electricity long term will open up opportunities not currently available. The recapture of excess heat production is underutilised and in my opinion is probably only in its infancy as a technology. The “one-stop shop” model is what we at Vulcana Gas are aiming for. We manufacture the heaters and can install and service them too. I believe this is important for our clients and busy facilities managers – having one point of contact for your heating solution can help ensure it is efficient and the right solution is provided.

To discuss heating your commercial space please contact Martin at mail@vulcanagas.co.uk.

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