Hydronic heating and cooling systems are considered the most efficient, greenest technology known to man for the efficient distribution of warmth and cooling; in other words, the ideal human comfort experience. For people who may not know what hydronics are, here's the definition:
Hydronics: A means of transferring the energy required for heating and cooling buildings utilizing water as the primary medium in an effort to maintain good human comfort and conserve energy resources.
And while we are in definition mode, allow me to introduce a couple of other terms that are critically important.
Comfort: My definition of comfort is being in a state of wellbeing, or not being aware of your surroundings. In this state, you are not hot, nor are you cold. Your sinuses are not too dry, nor is it too humid, and there is not a lot of noise in the background associated with the delivery of comfort. In short, if you have to think about your physical condition, you are probably not comfortable. Simply stated, if you are truly comfortable, you will not be thinking about it.
Mean Radiant Temperature: Mean radiant temperature, or MRT for short, is one of those things that cannot (normally) be seen by the bare human eye, but is the primary dictator of excellent human comfort. By definition, MRT is the temperature of those solid items surrounding your body. When the MRT is high, human comfort is achieved with a lower air temperature. When the air temperature is high, good human comfort is achieved with a lower MRT. MRT can be seen using an infrared camera, but most people do not have access to this wonderful technology.
Before I go into my dissertation, I want to quickly dispel a myth. People have been taught over the years that “heat rises.” This statement in and of itself is incorrect. Hot fluids rise. Hot air or hot water rise because of their differences in buoyancy compared to cooler surrounding fluids. Radiant energy travels in all directions, through the path of least resistance, including in a downward direction. The best explanation for comparison purposes is to think of being outside on a cool winter day when the sun is shining brightly and you are standing next to a dark colored wall. Your body can sense the radiant energy surrounding your body, and your body feels warmer than it really is due to this exposure to a higher MRT. Another prime example is sitting next to a campfire on a clear starlit night. Even though the ambient air temperature is low, your body can feel the radiation coming from the fire, and it feels warm and comforting on the side that is facing the fire. Your backside that is not facing the fire feels much cooler than the side that is facing the fire, so we rotate in an effort to even out this radiant exposure. If radiant energy only traveled upward, as in “heat rises,” we would have to stand on top of the sun in order to realize any comfort due to radiant energy. As was already proved in our previous statement about MRT, such is not the case.
Controlling heat loss from our bodies by manipulating the MRT will guarantee that most people will be comfortable under all conditions. As can be seen from the above graphic, radiational losses account for nearly half of the human body's heat loss.