Most multifamily buildings and subdivided commercial buildings go one of two ways when it comes to paying for heat: either the building owner supplies it through a central heating system at a fixed monthly cost or each space is equipped with its own heating and cooling system. But in Plumbing & Mechanical Engineer, columnist John Siegenthaler proposes a third way: metered heat.

“Central heating and cooling plants have been used in many North American buildings for decades,” he writes. “But until recently, most of these systems lacked the ability to accurately measure the thermal energy usage of each space served by the central system. Without such measurements, it is not possible to know where the heating or cooling energy goes, and follow up with ‘pay for what you use’ invoices.

“That situation is changing in North America. Modern hardware for accurately measuring the thermal energy transferred from a central plant to each building space is now available. It’s called ‘heat metering,’ and presents a growing opportunity for those involved with hydronic heating or cooling systems.”

For buildings using propane that have multifamily or commercial tenants, propane meters can be used to allow tenants to pay as they go for gas. But installing individual heating systems for small spaces with low design heating loads can often result in oversized heat sources. By using centralized heating systems and measuring heat consumption, buildings can efficiently produce the needed heat while also encouraging efficient consumption by their tenants.

Read more.