The Wonders of communal underfloor Heating: Barbican Estate

There are 2014 flats in London’s sprawling Barbican Estate, and each one is literally plugged into the wonder of communal underfloor heating. Electric cables have been inserted under the floors in each flat to provide the underfloor background heating, which is powered by off-peak reduced tariff electricity.

How is communal Heating Controlled?

During the “heating season,” which spans from October 1 to April 30, the City Corporation, in its function as Landlord, provide electric under-floor heating, with some flexibility in extraordinary weather conditions.

When the outside temperature drops to 1.70°C/350°F, the system is designed to deliver heating up to 15.60°C/600°F. The target internal temperature may not be reached if external temperatures fall below this level.

The amount of heat produced varies from day to day, depending on how long the underfloor heating pads are turned on. The outdoor air temperature levels around the Estate determine this.

Residents have little control over the amount of background heating in their apartments. Controls known as ‘trimmers’ have been installed to adjust heating levels down from the estate provided amount, and some extra heating has been provided with storage heaters where minimum levels of heating could not be reached, within particular flats, in order to achieve individual levels of comfort.

Keeping a communal heating system running efficiently

To keep the system running, energy inputs are run consistently. There is a basic nine-hour off-peak charge period, which can be supplemented with an additional four-hour off-peak charge if necessary.

Each flat have installed permanent window vents, that are necessary for preventing condensation and should not be obstructed.

The amount of direct sunlight streaming in through the windows, as well as the strength and direction of the wind, can affect the ambient temperature within each apartment. The underfloor heating system will only respond to outside air temperatures, and these fluctuations will be unique to each flat.

During periods of milder weather, the system may supply little or no heating. This is common, and residents should heat their homes with their own equipment if necessary

Trimming the temperature in each flat in a communal setup

The Barbican Engineers can regulate the heating settings in each flat using a master control system (trimmer). There are several alternatives available:

Each room’s underfloor heating pads can also be switched between “on” and “off” modes. For example, some people prefer to turn off the heat in their beds.

The flat’s general temperature setting can be modified from low to high, but keep in mind that the chosen setting will apply to the heating in every room where the under floor pads are turned “on,” and it is not feasible to change the temperature setting between rooms.

Maintenance in a Communal Heating system

Residents do not perform any repairs of the system, especially anything that require penetrating the floors, as this may cause harm to the electrical lines in the floor screed. Considerations need to be taken when installing a new carpet, to let the installer know that the flat has under-floor heating so that appropriate underlay can be provided.

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