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The National Research Council of Canada's Institute for Research in Construction is using robots to measure whether forced-air heating or hydronic radiant heating is more effective for making occupants comfortable.
Researchers are using a special "ventilation and wall research house" on the institute’s Ottawa campus. Two automated three-dimensional robotic systems will measure and monitor thermal conditions in five directions. The robots roam through two rooms, with sensors attached to pivoting booms: One room is heated by forced air, the other by hydronic radiant heat.
The evaluation involves comparing vertical air temperature, floor temperatures, drafts and air velocity. The council will also compare energy savings.
In the institute’s June 2007 Construction Innovation newsletter, it reports its believes that radiant systems have the potential to provide more uniform temperature conditions from floor to ceiling, and therefore provide more comfort. "Due to the physical properties of water, a hydronic system can transport a given amount of heating energy using less than 5% of the energy required by a conventional motor paired with a fan-set. Combined with more efficient forced-air systems, hydronic systems also have the potential to offer improved comfort and substantial energy savings," the newsletter states.
The current experiments will be on-going until the fall.