A properly designed Radiant Heating Floor System should consist of a heat source such as a Highly Efficient condensing boiler and if you choose an in-direct water heater for your domestic hot water. There will also be various circulators (small pumps) to move the heated water from the boiler to your floors, and miscellaneous valves and controls to direct and regulate the heat and water flow. All of this is generally located in a mechanical area, such as a garage, basement or some other designated space. At this location there will be piping to various manifold locations usually located in closets or cabinets, these manifolds will act as supply terminals from which floor tubing (the tubing you don´t see) embedded in the floor will connect. Now, when you turn on a thermostat in one of your rooms a control will activate a circulator and warm water will flow to the open circuit in one of these manifolds sending warm water through the tubing embedded in the floor thereby creating Radiant Heat. A well designed and installed Radiant Heat System will provide years of comfortable, clean, dust free, quiet operation. Our top quality systems consistently out perform any other heating system on the market. Just set the thermostat and forget it. And of course, everyone is now concerned about going “Green.” So be aware, you also may now be playing a major role in energy conservation. Yes, you will reduce your Energy usage.
Radiant Heat History
We have come a long way since the Romans started the process of Radiant Heat called Hypocaust in their bath chambers between 80 BC and 450 AD. and continued on for over 500 years. This was done by building a fire in a hole just outside the bath chambers, by way of fire chambers and air intakes, the hot gases from the fire would pass under the areas to be heated and radiate up through the stone floors and heat the water in the baths. Some years later the Europeans used a similar method to heat their castles. Around the time of our great depression, engineers in Europe started designing similar systems used in schools and banks that would radiate heated gases up chambers through the plaster ceilings that would heat these structures. Through years past, we have perfected the Radiant Heat Systems to what they are now. Please read on...
How Radiant Heating Works
Radiant Heat works on the process of energy flowing by thermal radiation from the surface of an object, such as a heated floor, to the surface of a cooler object, such as furniture, walls, or the human body. Thermal radiation is heat transferred in the infrared portion of the electromagnetic radiation. It cannot be seen, but acts like visible light. Now enough with the technical engineering terms, basically what we're trying to say here is that the heat from the tubing in the floor radiates through the floor and to the items in the room and including the most important, you. It´s very safe and as natural as sunlight without the harmful rays. No sun block needed here!
How does Radiant Heat compare to conventional forced air heating
Let´s take a well designed Radiant System with a heated floor surface temperature of 84 F. The temperature just above the floor will be approx. 71 F, five feet above the floor approx. 70 F, and the ceiling 71 F. Now remember this, your exterior (skin) body temperature is approx. 84 F, make sense? This is why comfort is natural with Radiant Heat. Imagine you´re barefoot, wouldn´t you feel comfortable? Not too hot, not too cold, feels like you. Humm..
Now let´s examine a conventional forced air heating system. First you turn on the thermostat, and the forced air unit turns on full throttle, never throttling down until the room thermostat reaches set point. The register is now blowing out hot, dry, burned up dusty air at approx. 140 F, just above the floor the temperature is 66 F, five feet above the floor 70 F and the ceiling is 80 F. Because if this temperature fluctuation you feel hot or cold depending on your location within the room. Not very comfortable is it! Speaking about hot, dry, dusty air isn´t it fun to sleep with the forced air heating system on especially when you have allergies. Did we mention allergies? With Radiant Heat there is no duct work for dust, pollen or mold to accumulate in, and no air movement to blow it around. If you have a forced air heating system, take a look at the top of your refrigerator for the dust! Why Radiant Heat? Why not. Makes sense to me.
Radiant Heat Properly Designed
A properly designed Radiant Heat System should be custom for your home. No cookie cutter stuff here. We're talking about a system that once installed in your floor, needs to stay put, this is not to be second guessed. When we design a system we look at several factors:
Heat loss: How much heat needs to be generated to compensate for what´s going out. When we say going out, we mean; windows, doors, walls, insulation or lack of and infiltration (leakage of outside air into a heated space).
Design: What´s going to work for your home? When we design we must consider room by room heat loss, average outdoor temperature, the coldest day of the year and so on. Now we can figure the heat source, you´re boiler. Boiler size can range from 50,000 to 199,000 BTUs or larger. British Thermal Units (BTU), meaning the amount of energy required to raise one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. Now remember, boiler sizing can be tricky, it does require a few calculations. In sizing your boiler we want a little more than required but not too much, no need to waste money here. Boilers perform differently the other heat sources such as conventional water heaters that have temperature limitations, or tankless water heaters that like to see colder water coming back to them in order to fire up their burners. With highly efficient Radiant Heat Systems the whole idea is not to waste heat, so having cold water coming back to the heat source means too much heat is being lost somewhere. Now along with this information we can design Radiant floors.
Here are some examples;
Tubing embedded in a slab on grade. For this application we recommend a minimum of 1” foam insulation below the rebar and sand. Why heat the rest of the planet if we don´t have to? The idea is to radiate the heat into your home. Other options include, tubing embedded in a light weight (Gypsum) pour, where tubing is fastened down to the sub-floor and light weight concrete usually a 1 1/2” or 2” is poured directly over it. This process requires that the floor be engineered for the weight load. Gypsum weighs approx. 13 lbs. per sq. ft. Now if this doesn´t work, how about a pre-grooved floor panel system with tubing installed into the panels. These panels are usually an engineered wood product, approximately 24” x 48” or different dimensions depending on manufacture and are normally glued and stapled to the subfloor. This is an excellent alternative to concrete. What about tubing layout and sizing? We must design the tubing lengths just right, not too long and not to short. What we want here is balance, otherwise we may encounter warm and cold spots. Who needs that!
Then we need to find accessible manifold locations for the tubing to connect to.
Good locations include, closets, cabinets or maybe in the garage or basement where the heat source is located. Whatever the case, most accesses only need to be 18” square. The manifolds will have piping looped back to the heat source. Now if floor heating isn´t a practical option, there are other options, such as, baseboard or radiator heating. Now, don´t be fooled by radiators, the new high tech stream-line units are nothing like the old behemoths you´ve probably seen in older buildings. There are also fan convectors that gently move air over water heated fins all packaged in a neat little unit that recesses into the wall. For more information on these other products, please contact us @ 818-707-2666. Once all of this is figured out, we can start cooking, or heating! Now we can break the floor heating system into separate controlled areas called zones. We´ll talk a little more about this later, in controls. So now we have a system that heats water with a heat source (boiler) and we know the size in BTUs, we also have a road map of floor tubing to be heated. The rest is Hydronics, which simply means; The use of water as a heat-transfer medium in a closed loop piping system for a heating or cooling, this includes the using of circulators, valves and controls. And of course, all of the fun bells and whistles that go along with it! Wow, anyway that´s how we do it.
Heat Source: In the case of your heat source (boiler), bigger doesn´t always mean better. By over sizing your boiler you´re only wasting energy and money. A highly efficient system requires proper boiler sizing. Our fully modulating condensing boilers are 95 % efficient with stainless steel heat exchangers and carry an outstanding manufacture warranty. The “state-of-the-art” built in control (brain) will keep your system happy and humming. And if your boiler feels a little under the weather “the brain” will self diagnose itself. Saves time and money.
Circulation: Just like your body´s heart, circulators, little pumps, move around system fluid (water) that transfers heat from the heat source to the floor or some other form of heat emitter, such as baseboard, radiators, or fan convectors. Proper circulator sizing is extremely important for system efficiency and operation.
Control: You now have a heat source, a tubing design layout based on separate room locations and so on. So now we need to control the heat. It wouldn´t make sense to have a boiler come on full blast and heat the entire house the same temperature. What would happen if some of your rooms required cooler temperatures, like an office that houses your computer or a kitchen where food might be stored in a cabinet or pantry like chocolate, “Oh no, not the chocolate”! What about at night when you´re sleeping, wouldn´t it be nice to have a bedroom temperature at maybe 70º F, but when you get up and step onto the bathroom tile a warmer floor, maybe 78º F would really feel better. How about those nights when you´re cuddled up watching a movie or reading in your living room, of course you might want a warmer temperature in that location also? This is what we call zoning. The ability to separate or join rooms together by controls (thermostats). Try doing that with a conventional forced air heater! We can also control what the heat source (boiler) produces by modulating (stepping down or up the heat) based on the current outside temperature, so that on a really cold day the boiler revs up to ensure adequate heat and on a warmer day just cruises along to keep the chill off. It´s all pretty sophisticated stuff isn´t it? We can do it.
In-Direct Water Heaters: Did you know that from your single heat source you can also heat your domestic hot water for showers and faucets. Well, yes you can and we do this by using an in-direct water heater. Imagine the amount of money you could be saving by not having a conventional water heater and a separate forced air heater which when running could use up to 200,000 BTUs to heat an average 2500 sq. ft. home when fully on. Let´s say you have a boiler, 80,000 BTUs with an in-direct water heater, both units working together, like “peas in a pod”, that it! 80,000 BTUs, that´s all the energy being used to heat and produce domestic hot water for an average for a well insulated 2,500 sq. ft. home. You can see the savings, an energy bill cut in half! It works like this, the boiler has piping that goes to the heated areas for either Radiant Floor Heating, baseboards, radiators or some other form of heat emitter and also has piping to the in-direct water heater. When your turn on a faucet, shower or bathtub a separate circulator comes on sending very hot water (185º F plus or minus) from the boiler through a coil located inside the in-direct water heater, ensuring no chance of cross water contamination and then back to the boiler to be heated again. This hot boiler water immediately heats and stores water in the in-direct water heater tank. The recovery rate is almost instantaneous, making tankless water heater companies envious! The hot water coming out of the in-direct water heater use is tempered down to a safe 125º F. This in-direct water heater will always be a system priority meaning that domestic water will always be available for you. What do you know, another way to save some money!
Installation: Now you have a little information, but like a good magician we don´t reveal how it´s done, for this reason you need our professional company to design and manufacture components for your Radiant Heating System. A well designed system should cost you around $10.00 to $15.00 per sq. ft. This usually includes everything, so all you need to do is turn on the thermostats and enjoy. Additional floor panels like Thermal-board or adding an in-direct water heater may increase your costs. Remember, using only the industry proven, best quality, materials are recommended. Most contractors don´t need the headaches anymore than you do, so why cut corners here.
A custom Radiant Heat System does cost a little more than a conventional forced air system, but the results are worth their weight in gold. I guarantee it. Sometimes I think back to the days when I was younger and how I loved my 1966 Chevy Corvair, it was a fun car and a fun time. Funny thing is for just a few dollars more I could have bought a 1966 Ford 427 AC Cobra.
Please feel free to contact us directly or by using the email form above for more information; a member of our experienced team will be delighted to take your call 818.707.2666