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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Thermal comfort in buildings using radiant vs. all-air systems: A critical literature review

  • Author(s): Karmann, Caroline
  • Schiavon, Stefano
  • Bauman, Fred
  • et al.

Hydronic radiant heating and cooling systems are considered as an energy efficient technology to condition buildings. We performed a literature review to assess if radiant systems provide better, equal or lower thermal comfort than all-air systems. We included only peer-reviewed articles and articles published in proceedings of scientific conferences. The publications found have been classified based on research methods used. These include: (1) building performance simulation (BPS), (2) physical measurements (in laboratory test chambers and in buildings) and (3) human subject testing / occupant based surveys. This review identified eight conclusive studies: five studies that could not establish a thermal comfort preference between all-air and radiant systems and three studies showing a preference for radiant systems. Very few studies were based on occupant feedback in real buildings suggesting a significant research need. Overall, we found that a limited number of studies are available and therefore a solid answer cannot be given. Nevertheless, there is suggestive evidence that radiant systems may provide equal or better comfort than all-air systems.

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