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Heating Systems Overview

Some way of measuring the extra heat necessary for warming up would be useful. However, energy flows are difficult to evaluate and only recently has the CIBS developed the concept of ‘admittance’ and ‘Y-values’ these are in the same units as U-values but represent the heat flow between the structure and the room in relation to changes in temperature. U-values represent energy transmitted through the structure and Y-values represent energy admitted into, or absorbed by, the structure itself.
A lightweight building will respond very quickly to heat input while a heavy building will respond slowly. If the admittance of heat into a wall (indicated by its Y-value) is the same as the transmittance (U-value) then the response ratio is 1 to 1. If the admittance is twice the transmit- tance, the response ratio is 2 to 1 and so on.
The response of the whole building depends on the proportions of different materials. For instance, windows absorb hardly any heat into the glass. When all the Y- and U-values for all the parts of a building have been evaluated and proportioned, we obtain the overall response ratio. There is no need for us to get involved with Y-values but I have mentioned them to explain how the responses in Table 2.1 are obtained.
If a 2.9 class of building were to be heated only once a week in winter, the heating system should provide about 2.9 times the heat output needed for steady-state heat loss in order to warm up the fabric reasonably fast. This is the kind of system sizing that is necessary with
churches etc. However, with domestic property, even a slow-response one, the heating is on every day and little or no increase in size is necessary to allow for the warm-up period, although running costs are affected.
Domestic response
It might take only an hour to bring a house up to comfort level every morning. However, if you go away in winter and close the heating down for a week, on your return you will find that it takes a good bit longer than an hour; it might take over 24 hours with a slow-response property.
Most heating systems designed over the last 20 years are oversized. This is primarily because standard U-values were overstated until 1970, when more accurate measuring was possible. However, most calculations were made by rough rule of thumb or by using calculators, which for safety always over-sized. On top of this most installers went to a higher-rated radiator than necessary, again to be on the safe side. They then totalled the radiator emissions instead of the room heat losses and added an excessive ‘cold weather margin’ to determine the boiler size.
The resulting systems were quite often 50-70 per cent oversized; if since they were installed, the level of insulation has been improved, it is quite possible that systems are twice as large as necessary. Therefore the warming-up period is never a problem but it is by accident not by design.
Nowadays the cost of installation, even DIY, is considerable and no one wants to pay for a system twice as large as necessary. But if you calculate more accurately just the right heat losses it is more important to know about the response of the building if you are not going to get upset with a longer warm-up period than your friend whose heating was put in 15 years ago. He may have a rapid warm-up because his system is oversized but he is paying extra every day for its inefficient use of fuel.
A building will take even longer to heat up if it has to wait a long time for the heating system to reach its operating temperature. As we saw in Chapter 1, greater comfort is created by incorporating some radiant heat. However, it takes some time for the water and the components to warm up and a quicker system response is obtained by warm air.
As with buildings, the more intermittent the heating the quicker the response required, but due to its lack of radiant heat, which necessitates a higher air temperature, many people do not like the warm-air atmosphere. In addition it is very difficult to fit into an existing house.
To get the best of both worlds we need a radiator system with as rapid a response as possible. This means reducing the water content and the mass of metal in the system because, like the structure, it all has to be heated up every time the system is switched on.
Apart from the use of specific components to reduce the water volume such as low-content boilers or microbore tube, response can be speeded up if the whole system is small in proportion to the property. This and many other advantages are provided by insulation.

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