Heat By Design

Most facilities have a dedicated heating system. There’s usually a massive furnace, boiler, or even an array of them. It costs a lot of money to heat a whole facility. The bigger a facility is, the bigger the heating bill. There’s just no getting around it. Or is there?

Use What You Have

There are other ways to heat a facility that are gentler on your wallet. Consider that every piece of equipment, fixture, and person is a source of heat. The laws of thermodynamics state that energy moves from higher to lower concentration, it tries to equalize. If you put one person into a confined, but cool space, their body heat will eventually warm the space up. If you get under freezing blankets, the blankets keep the heat in and increase the temperature.

This heating effect extends beyond people. It applies to equipment. Almost every light is going to generate heat (LEDs don’t generate as much heat, they’re very efficient). If your facility has a lot of heat generating equipment, that can be used to heat the air around it and raise the net temperature of the facility.

In these set ups, it’s also possible to take advantage of solar heating, without installing any significant equipment. If you want to heat water with the sun, you need equipment to store and heat the water. Air on the other hand, isn’t anywhere near as hard to heat. Install some skylights and ensure there’s some dark colors for the sun to shine on (and create heat from). Admittedly, it may require large skylights to heat a facility, but the net result is improving the interior lighting (reducing your electric bill and improving the appeal of the facility to customers) and creating a ton of heat.

That’s three heat sources: employees and customers, equipment producing waste heat, and using natural lighting. The last part of this strategy is to ensure there’s lots of insulation. This heating strategy relies on building up numerous small heat sources until its enough for the whole facility. Every watt lost is going to be a pretty significant loss.

Too Good To Be True?

At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss this approach to heating, except that it’s already been done. The Mall of America, located in Bloomington, Minnesota does not use a significant central heating system. The core of their heating uses skylights, waste heat, and body heat from their customers and employees to maintain a seventy degree environment year round.

The Mall states on their website:

MOA does not use a central heating system; instead, 70 degrees is maintained year-round with passive solar energy from 1.2 miles of skylights and heat generated from lighting, store fixtures and body heat

MallofAmerica.com, February 2019

This approach to heating won’t work for every facility. Some building designs won’t be very accommodating. In other cases, it’s just not safe or feasible to capture the waste heat of industrial equipment. Considering the staggering savings, it’s something worth considering for every new facility and may even be a viable retrofit to existing ones.

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