Deciding on a Heating System for Your High-Rise Construction Project

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When planning any kind of multi-story construction, especially here in the northeastern United States, deciding how you will heat the building is one of the most far-reaching decisions you will make. Not only may you be limited to certain options based on where the building is built, but the utility structure can have a huge effect on your construction costs as well as ongoing expenses for the building itself.

In many parts of the country, developers are limited to two basic choices for heating: electric and natural gas. Here in the northeast, especially in older larger cities like New York and Boston, additional options are available. Let’s look at some of these options and discuss pros and cons.

Electricity

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Electric heating is one of the easier and more versatile options, in part because it’s readily available in most places and in part because you can include air conditioning and heating in the same basic system if you like. The down side is usually cost. The cost of electricity in New York is nearly the highest in the nation, for example, so many builders in this area find electric heating to be very cost-prohibitive.

Heating Oil/Fuel Oil

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Heating oil is more common in the northeast than in other parts of the country, and therefore it may be an option at some building sites. The advantages of oil heat are that the oil is generally not as volatile as gas, is dense and burns hot—meaning less of it can be used to heat more efficiently, keeping costs lower. The biggest downside (besides being a higher-polluting energy source) is that fuel oil is being phased out. It’s available in fewer and fewer areas (only 1 percent of buildings in NYC use it), there are fewer suppliers for the oil itself, and if you install heating/fuel oil as your heat source, you’ll probably have to change it out eventually for something else.

Steam

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Steam heat is another common option in the northeast, and many NYC high-rises use it because steam rises naturally, making it more cost-effective as a heat source than most other options. Steam can also power air conditioning if you install an absorption chiller, and steam can reduce the need for humidifiers. The primary disadvantage to steam heat is that it’s not available at all sites.


Natural Gas

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By process of elimination, natural gas is rapidly becoming the default heating option for high-rise buildings. It’s more common and accessible than steam or oil and nearly as available as electricity—just not nearly as expensive. It also burns cleaner than other energy options. The main disadvantage might be higher construction costs.

Which heating system is right for your high-rise construction project? The answer may depend on which utilities are available at your site, your budget and a cost analysis. Wellbuilt can work with you to help you decide what is right for you. To learn more, give us a call at 1.866.846.4874.