Benefits of Commercial Underfloor Heating and Trench Heating

Monday, 11th October 2021

Clients are becoming more eco-conscious when it comes to decision making for commercial developments, whether they be government facilities, private education institutions, through to retail, recreation centres and accommodation sites. 

Hydronic heating and cooling solutions can provide an unparalleled level of indoor climate solutions both domestically and commercially. With hydronic underfloor heating and trench heating offering a host of benefits for all stakeholders.

What has been used for hundreds of years across Europe as a highly energy efficient heating and cooling approach, is now gaining momentum across commercial and residential settings here in the Southern Hemisphere.

If you haven’t already explored Hydronic underfloor and trench heating for your commercial projects, the time has come and here’s everything you need to know:

  • Hydronic heating 101
  • Underfloor and trench heating - an overview
  • Putting health and safety first
  • Design benefits
  • Reduce costs & environmental impact
  • Commercial project feature 

underfloor heating, hydronic heating

Hydronic heating 101

Consisting of minimal moving parts, the majority of hydronic heating systems work by heating water, then circulating it through a sealed piping system to hydronic terminal products installed within as designated area. Typical terminal products include wall mounted panel radiators, underfloor heating and trench heating.

When a terminal product receives heated water it begins to heat up, radiant and convective heat transfers into the designated area, warming objects and air . This results are an even distribution of comfortable heat that is sustained for a longer period than any other climate control method. 

Underfloor and trench heating overview

Hydronic underfloor heating

Commonly referred to as ‘in slab heating’ or ‘in screed heating’, hydronic heating is a highly energy efficient way to alter the ambient temperature within any internal space, which can also be used for cooling.

Hydronic underfloor heating suits a wide range of commercial settings and is incredibly effective at providing comfortable ambient temperatures across  large areas, in an economical and efficient manor.

There are a number of options when it comes to underfloor heating installations. If the project is a new build, the system can be installed as ‘in slab’ or as ‘in screed’ which includes an important layer of insulation, concrete is poured over either option securing the system into place.

Solutions are also available for existing premises, with different methods available depending on the floor materials and structure. An experienced hydronic heating consultantcan advise on the best options for your project. 

Trench heating

Like hydronic underfloor heating, trench heating works by natural convection, emitting a gentle and comfortable heat that evenly covers the entire space.

Trench heaters are mounted within compact ‘trenches’ and placed strategically around an indoor space, the trench convectors  are covered with a grille which is designed to fit flush with the existing floor level. 

underfloor heating, commercial heating

Putting health & safety first

Prioritising health and safety is always important, and integrating hydronic heating firmly ticks both of these boxes for commercial settings. Benefits of installing underfloor heating and trench heating on the health and safety front include:

Improved air quality

As Hydronic systems do not rely on any fan force to alter air temperature and distribute heat, there is significantly less dust, allergens, mold spores and other airborne pollutants being circulated throughout the space. The fact that 2.7 million Australians live with asthma, and many experience seasonal allergies is reason alone to consider making hydronic underfloor heating the choice for climate control in your commercial projects.

Improved air quality can positively impact the overall respiratory health of the occupants and improve both mental health and productivity. These are particularly important factors if your commercial space is an office building or aged care where people will spend large amounts of their time.

No fire risk

Due to the sealed pipe construction of Hydronic underfloor heating and trench heating and the fact that the energy source is water, means there is no risk of fire hazards in using these solutions. The ‘no fire risk’ factor is particularly important and beneficial for large commercial spaces that are multi level high rise.

With alternatives such as ducted heating,  there is the risk of build up of grime, dust and other particles around the heating elements, which if ignited can pose a huge fire risk. Ultimately ducted heating systems are a high maintenance and high risk option to keep the safety aspects in check, particularly in locations where the heating is used regularly during cooler months. 

Design benefits

Space efficiency

While it might be practical to have wall mounted panel radiators within a domestic setting, many commercial spaces don’t often have a great deal of wall space available for various reasons, which is where both hydronic underfloor heating and trench options come into their own.

This is particularly relevant to commercial spaces with floor to ceiling glass windows and minimal walls, as both underfloor and trench solutions integrate seamlessly into the overall design. Floor space is also free with these solutions, providing architects and designers freedom to design spaces as they please.

Discreet

Both underfloor heating and trench heating options are discreet ways to incorporate climate control systems into a commercial building . No bulky units hanging off ceilings or walls, or demanding floor space and pulling visual focus from more desirable elements.

Flexible floor coverings

Polished concrete and tiled surfaces are the most effective flooring materials for those with underfloor heating, but there are a number of alternative coverings that can work successfully, including some carpets and timber floor boards.

Trench grilles

If you incorporate underfloor trench heating, design flexibility is provided with the grille covering. Flush with the floor level, grilles are available in a wide range of colours, finishes and materials, providing options to suit all interiors. 

commercial underfloor heating, hydronic heating

Reduce costs & environmental impact

While the initial installation of hydronic underfloor heating or trench heating may be more costly than a ducted system, it is important to keep in mind the financial outgoings when it comes to ongoing running costs, maintenance and repairs.

Lower running costs

Underfloor heating with a high-efficiency condensing boiler is known to reduce running costs by up to 25% compared to a ducted system.

Both trench heating and underfloor heating don’t lose as much heat and once the space has warmed to the desired temperature, it remains for much longer compared to anything created by an air forced system.

The larger the commercial space, the sooner you will find the hydronic heating system will pay off the cost of the purchase and installation.

Longer system life span

Because there are fewer moving parts that make up hydronic underfloor heating and trench heating systems, there are less mechanical hic-ups that can occur and will more than likely outperform and outlive their more mechanically technical opponents.

Whilst it’s important to ensure regular boiler inspections, generally speaking they require far less servicing and repairs and there isn’t a maze of duct work to be kept cleaned to reduce the aforementioned fire risks.

Less environmental impact

Compared to ducted fan forced heating solutions commonly used across commercial projects, hydronic underfloor and trench heating is by far the most sustainable and energy efficient option for a complete central heating and cooling system. Hydronic heating is 35% more energy efficient than ducted systems.

You’ll find that energy consumption will be reduced overall if the space is well insulated and zoned using smart thermostats to control the temperature in each area, or turn it off completely in zones when it is not required. 

commercial heating, underfloor heating

Commercial heating and cooling project feature

As is commonly the case with many modern office spaces, the Council House at 2 Collins Street, Melbourne, doesn’t have much wall space, but instead, large areas of glass facades.

For this project, Jaga Mini Canal Trench heating was installed, with great success. The downward cold airflow, which is standard with extensive window frontage, frequently causes discomfort. The trench heaters create a curtain of warm air with the cold air layer from the glass. This system provides the benefits of a radiator, without needing the wall space.

The final outcome of this full design and commercial build was Australia’s first ‘Six Star Green Star Design Rating’, approved by the World Green Building Council. 

underfloor heating, hydronic heating

In conclusion

The benefits of installing hydronic underfloor heating and trench heating into commercial projects is clear. Whether you’re upgrading an existing commercial heating system, or considering options for a fresh project, selecting the best solution across all fronts is vital.

As leaders in the hydronic heating and cooling industry in Australia, we respect that every commercial project has its own unique demands and challenges when it comes to managing climate control. Contact us to arrange a consultant site visit or general discussion about your latest commercial heating project needs. 

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