When Bigger Isn’t Better: How An Oversized Heating System Can Cost You

Whether it's heating a small office or a large warehouse, it's a good idea to have your commercial heating system's capacity match the spaces you're heating. But time after time, many heating specialists make the mistake of installing a system that offers more capacity than those spaces actually need. Learn why oversizing your heating system could prove a costly mistake and what can be done to prevent that from happening.

More Cycling, Less Longevity

One of the biggest concerns with operating an oversized heating system involves the phenomenon of short cycling. This occurs when the heating system stops and restarts constantly within a very short amount of time in an effort to maintain its thermal set-point temperature. Here's an example of how short cycling typically plays out in a typical heating environment:

  • Your oversized heating unit quickly brings temperatures up to your desired set-point, usually within minutes depending on the size of the heated area.
  • The heating system shuts down before the unit can evenly warm temperatures throughout the entire space, resulting in cold spots and uneven heating.
  • These uneven areas trigger another thermostat call within minutes of the unit shutting down, prompting it to restart.
  • Indoor temperatures once again reach the desired set-point, but the process repeats itself over and over again.

The constant stopping and starting adds a great deal of stress to various components within the heating system, including the blower motors and heat exchangers. As a result, oversized commercial heating systems generally suffer higher levels of wear and tear than their properly-sized counterparts. The excess wear can also take years off the lifespan of your heating equipment, meaning that a replacement could be in order sooner than you've expected.

More Waste and Higher Costs

An energy-efficient commercial heating system is designed to gradually reach a steady state of operation during its burn cycle until desired temperatures have been reached. When properly sized, the unit will maintain its operational duty cycle for longer periods while generating a lower thermal output. An oversized heating system, on the other hand, will hit its thermal set-point temperature and cycle off before it's able to reach an efficient operating state.

The end result is a series of inefficient duty cycles that burn more energy and eventually cost more money to maintain. After all, it's no secret that oversized heating systems are capable of wasting more energy through their excess capacity than a properly-sized heating system.

Less Comfort for Workers and Customers

But the biggest downfall of oversized commercial heating systems is the inadequate comfort that these systems often provide to those working or shopping inside of your climate-controlled spaces. Workers and customers alike may complain about portions of the building being too warm or too cool due to the uneven heating provided by an oversized heating system. Sudden breakdowns can also become a serious concern, as oversized heating systems can sometimes fail without much warning.

Such breakdowns can result in a drop in customer satisfaction and/or worker productivity. During instances of severe cold, it can even directly affect shopping and work areas by prompting a temporary shutdown until the heating system can be brought back online.

How to Right-Size Your Commercial Heating System

Having your heating system sized properly by a commercial HVAC specialist is the only way of avoiding the complications that an oversized system can have on your business. However, figuring out the size of your new commercial heating system involves more than just calculating the square footage of your building.

When calculating the appropriate amount of heating capacity needed for a particular space, HVAC specialists must consider a broad range of variables, including solar heat gain, air leakage, and the amount of heat given off by electronics, lighting, and even people performing various activities. When combined with other factors such as insulation and the overall design and position of the building itself, your heating experts can come up with a solution that offers the appropriate level of heating comfort and efficiency for your building.

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