Understanding heating (and cooling) a little better

At this time of the year [i.e. winter] we know that the library takes about 2 hours to heat up in the morning. One of our volunteers has to come in at about 8am so that the building is ready for the public for opening at 10am. We have realised that this is not a sustainable way of heating the space...

Aircon outside units

This little blog article explains something about the advice we got from Lyn Jeffries at local firm Phoenix Aircon about how we could better heat and cool the building. It was a fascinating visit and we finally got to understand what those boxes [pictured above] on the outside of buildings actually do: they both heat and cool spaces.

Read more to find out what this means for the library and many other similar community spaces...

What we have at the moment

Maindee Library is a pretty simple building with one large long space and two smaller ones: the kitchen and meeting room. It seems that the heating system includes one powerful boiler [with its own boiler room] which then sends hot water throughout the building to a number of cast iron radiators.

This setup will be familiar to most of us who have spent time in old Victorian public buildings such as schools or hospitals. Aesthetically it is re-assuring and you can feel the heat when you are next to the radiator, but it is hard to manage and pay for...


The reason why it takes so long to heat is that it requires a large amout of water to be pumped around - and therefore a large amount of energy. Looking again at the photo above, it has to be said that we have really dodgy lighting in this building also!

So once the space does get heated up we have to look at where it escapes. Clearly we have no double glazing in this building and the large roof light in the rear of the building sucks up the rising warm air. Furthermore there is next to no insulation in the roof. The image below shows that there is a small amount of material in the suspened ceiling. Lyn called this insulation 'decorative'; and he also added that the block material had a further impact of reducing the amount of light that reflects back down into the space. The good lighting in this photo below was supplied by strong natural daylight last week...

Library insulation?

What could be done instead?

Lyn explained that modern air conditioned ventilation systems both warm and cool. They are effectively like fridges with a reverse button - so that as well as sucking in hot air in the summer they will suck in cold air in the winter. Having measured up the space inside the building with his lazer device [below] Lyn reckoned that there would be two or three of the 'cassette' units mounted in the ceiling. These would be connected with some outdoor units [see image at the top of this blog article] which go on the outside walls. There is no need for mains gas as it all works off electricity and there is no boiler. And we could use the boiler room as a space for a new toilet too!

Measuring up

This is just one of the options available to us as we look to improve the library. We are grateful to Lyn for his visit. And for those who really want to understand how this works there is a really nice article on the Phoenix Aircon website which explains all...

Related Links

All about air conditioning on the Phoenix Aircon website

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