Side-by-side laboratory comparison of space heat extraction rates and thermal energy use for radiant and all-air systems

Publication Type

Journal Article




Radiant cooling systems extract heat from buildings differently than all-air cooling systems. These differences impact the time and rate at which heat is removed from a space, as well as the total amount of thermal energy that a mechanical system must process each day. In this article we present measurements from a series of multi-day side-by-side comparisons of radiant cooling and all-air cooling in a pair of experimental testbed buildings, with equal heat gains, and maintained at equivalent comfort conditions (operative temperature). The results show that radiant cooling must remove more heat than all-air cooling – 2% more in an experiment with constant internal heat gains, and 7% more with periodic scheduled internal heat gains. Moreover, the peak sensible space heat extraction rate for radiant cooling (heat transfer at the cooled surface, not the cooling plant) must be larger than the peak sensible space heat extraction rate for all-air systems, and it must occur earlier. The daily peak sensible space heat extraction rate for the radiant system was 1–10% larger than for the all air system, and it occurred 1–2 hours earlier. These findings have consequences for the design of radiant systems. In particular, this study confirms that cooling load estimates for all-air systems will not represent the space heat extraction rates required for radiant systems.


Energy and Buildings



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