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Heating and Cooling with Chilled Beams

Chilled beams are ceiling-suspended convection HVAC systems that use circulated chilled or heated water to induce air flow to cool or heat a building. First developed in Norway in 1975 and widely used throughout Europe for decades, chilled beam technology is slowly gaining in popularity here in the U.S. as an energy-efficient, low-maintenance option.


The term “beam” is somewhat of a misnomer, as chilled beams were named for their long, narrow appearance and are not part of a building’s structure. There are two basic types, passive and active. Both types can be recessed within a suspended ceiling system or mounted just below the ceiling. Multi-service chilled beams can integrate other building services such as lighting, sprinklers, smoke detectors, etc.


On passive chilled beam systems, chilled water is circulated through a cooling coil. The cooled air passing over the coil naturally descends as warm air continually rises, resulting in convective air motion that cools the space. An active chilled beam relies on primary air supply introduced through high-velocity nozzles to induce air flow up through the beam and back down into the room. Active beams provide greater cooling capacity and better humidity control than passive systems, and can be used for both heating and cooling.


There are numerous advantages to chilled beam technology over conventional systems, depending on the application. These include significant energy savings, simplicity of design and control, smaller ductwork and air-handling units, less noise, minimal maintenance, increased occupant comfort, and improved indoor air quality. Disadvantages are dew-point and humidity control concerns, appearance, conflicts with lighting and other ceiling-mounted devices, and ceiling height limitations (chilled beams are not suitable for ceilings higher than 14 feet).


For more information on chilled beams and whether they are a good option for your building, please contact MSC at 973-884-5000.