17 Year update on my Hydronic Radiant Heating System since 2005 - Good vs Bad
Last Post 27 Oct 2022 02:26 PM by sailawayrb. 2 Replies.
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mikeinnycUser is Offline
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24 Oct 2022 04:53 PM
Here's an update on my 100 percent hydronic radiant heating system since I began back in 2005.
The Good Vs Bad. Well almost all of it's good.... almost :)This is about my experience with Radiant heating and what my thoughts and views were over the course of the time frame.

My setup is still the same setup that we designed almost 2 decades ago. During my remodel I hired a licensed plumber which wasn't easy to find back then. Especially someone's "dad" with experience and knowledge with radiant heat. Today, I still remain friends with the plumber since I believe I was his confidence kick starter to radiant heating industry and it's success story. He's filthy rich now by parlaying into RE. Yes, he called his master plumber dad and daddy knew what to do. Back in 2005, I decided to go all in with the Newest latest and greatest Hydronic Hot water radiant heating. I knew in Italy this was already happening so I figured lets do this.
Well today everyone's doing it like Solar.
I'm still using oil heat which is now very expensive to heat with fossil fuel in NYC with a 30 percent markup over spot heating oil. This is probably going to be my last year with expensive oil however electricity cost 33KWH in NYC almost 50% increase because of the delivery charges Con Ed tacks on this year alone.
I'm thinking a heat pump or evacuated tubes.... that's another story. To think I paid $1.40 a Gallon just 2 years ago now add a $4 spot+ to this.

I have three different zone with three different setups. The first one was the cement Slab on the first floor. This was perhaps the best type of radiant heat for me. The worst part was giant I-beams of steel getting bob catted and pushed into the basement through a tiny hole in the front of my house created by these steel workers then telling me to watch my basement to make sure my basement didn't catch on fire. Yes they need to secure the load of the concrete weight and lots of supporting non adjustable welded steel poles that had to be professionally torched in place. That was not fun as my wooden house still made The Amityville Horror sounds almost one month later. About 2 months later we were ready for the cement. Once that was done it was on to the tiles. Hiring tile guys that knew radiant heating again the same story. Everyone says they can do it but making sure they do it right is another story. I made sure they made a walkway so that they didn't puncture my tubing while they were walking through the house. They were very good and careful to make sections of concrete island that were laser leveled. I was not lucky with the other trades that just didn't give two craps and walked on my tubing. I had made sure to keep the pressure testing extra long because of that. The slab of cement contained about 6 inches to 4 inches of cement. Each loop was 150 feet to 250 feet range. Nothing exceeded 300 not even my outside cement walkway which is yet to be used but its ready when I hit the lottery.

The Second Zone was a staple up to the back side of 100 year old oak floors. This perhaps was the most painfully slow process that I had to remove each and every nail out from the floor as well as install aluminum sheets along with aluminum staple up plates. The sheets were to transfer the heat evenly throughout the wooden floor.  This was a step you cannot skip or you would feel the cold spots as wood sucks transferring radiant heat when compared to cement. No comparison between cement floor and a staple up! Both will achieve the same temperature but the clear winner is the cement slab. Why? because the cement slab will hold its temperature for hours....wood not so much. Both temperatures can be equal but my love goes to the cement floor that is just me and my cats. One interesting note is that my heat loss was greater upstairs as I was remodeling the entire home. As a result I did have drafty windows which were all replaced with Anderson 400 series and was the best decision to date. My only regret was using spray foam ...which leaks a tiny annoying amount of freezing cold air. I later went on to work at Anderson and they told me never use spray foam. Yup found that out then I used rock-wool to seal those gaps. I still have unfinished projects :) regarding the upstairs each room has a zone value controller so that every room can have a different temperature. Now my wife and my daughter like the room freezing to death. I told my wife she needs to sleep outside and I guess its me that's going. Needlessly, I'm upside with my cats on the first floor! I'm kidding or am I? My daughter keeps the heat almost off to 62F in here room. I like it 72f in my office. Everyone wins meaning my wife and kids.

The last zone or third zone was Radiant WALLS. Now this is some interesting $HIT. I did this to my basement and I have such a low heat loss in my basement I can literally use piss warm water to heat my basement. Very interesting and VERY FAST SETUP for radiant heating that you don't have to touch the existing floors. Since I needed the height in my basement and the only way to do the job right would be to insulate the hell out of the floor losing like a foot! So I did the walls. I will definitely incorporate this kind of wall heating in the future. I really do like this why? Because it's instant heat FAST. My Basement is now my office since I won't work in the City for various reasons. Well I bet you can guess the downside too. She loses heat faster than a NYC subway car. 

The Pros:

The cement slab floor is always be warm and it never loses heat once fired up. The floor is like a warm beach but only after you balance the zones. Once it's balanced then everywhere you walk is almost the same temperature. I have become spoiled as I don't like forced hot air at all after enjoying radiant floor heating for years. Each different house I walk into you can tell the difference right away. Pets absolutely love radiant heating slab flooring....I mean love it. My cats are upside down with their paws in the air that's how much they love it.
Radiant Heating just feels normal and it's out of sight out of mind like breathing until you go elsewhere then you remember what you have. Also one temperature is fine for the open space first floor which is beautiful. Upstairs that's not an option thankfully. Ill get to that later.

The Cons: When you first get started every year on a freezing cold day I mistakenly turn up the thermostat (with a slab sensor) and wind up roasting everyone to death. Yup I make the same mistake over and over. I like warm hot weather my wife hates hot weather and humidity so No Florida for me. Very sad.... anyway I don't know if its just me but but my thermostat is NOT SMART, and no need to be. Once you set it and forget it your good to go but I have to remember yearly that one can't make the SLAB floor heat faster! :) I use the yellow taco Bumble Bee Pumps set at Delta T 20F so I don't crack my floors with a large differential especially when you first turn it on for the season. That was a big saving from my Brutus 011 Tacos. They were a beast but no delta or not enough so I changed them out.
Back in 2003, I fully restored an old Victorian home in NYC. There were some challenges such saving the old oak wooden floors. This required using a staple up to heat these floors.
See these original pictures still hosted here. 100kb is too small for my latest pictures but its all the same. Oh I forget to add that drilling 100 year old oak wood burns bits like mad. Not to mention you might get a cracked jaw :)

The Cons: This may seem insane to most but don't talk about radiant heating to certain NYC people. They wish you the worst life seriously. I was so happy originally when everything was working and installed that I use to tell everyone. Well, it really makes people feel bad or like they made a mistake with forced hot air. Steam heat is DA BEST! yup go along if you dare. I'm not wrong! Occupy Radiant Heating Street is a thing here.  The only other con about radiant heating is that because of my setup I do get some rust from the boiler in the lines every few years. Thus you must clean out the old boiler rust or use a heat ex changer with the radiant heat. My setup was boiler water directly at 170F mixed own to 130F yes that a waste but then again oil use to be cheap. I also have an 80 Gallon indirect tank for DHW.

In Short, I recommend radiant heating to anyone as long as you remember to start the loops at the windows and doors. Too many contractors just wing it with the loops and do it incorrectly with the last line of the loop at the greatest heat loss. I can tell you builders that did this totally backwards and F%^ked up the radiant heat experience as it overheats certain newer homes.  They even used the return as supply but HEY its green energy right? You definitely can do it just take your time with the blueprints first. I used loop cad not sure if its still around but that helped me tremendously.
best of Luck and I hope to do another update if I'm still here :)

newbostonconstUser is Offline
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24 Oct 2022 06:18 PM
Very through explanation. Glad it works for you....I am sure it is toasty warm...sad your wife doesn't like it hot...

I have built two radiant houses and I ended up turning the heat off in one floor for both houses. Latest house is supper efficient so the floors really aren't even that warm...Got to remember that the heat goes in all directions(I didn't do the expense of insulation in the joist) so that is why I only need it running on the one floor.

Very nice...
"Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience." George Carlins
sailawayrbUser is Offline
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27 Oct 2022 02:26 PM
Nice writeup! As you indicated, concrete slab is by far best HR method. You are also sadly correct that there are many who do HR but few who actually do it well. We continue to use LoopCAD for all our HR designs, but like all software you first need to have the required engineering knowledge or it's just garbage in and a garbage design out. John Sigenthaler's Modern Hydronic Heating is a good place to start learning about this craft.
<a href="https://www.borstengineeringconstruction.com/">Borst Engineering & Construction LLC</a> - Competence, Integrity and Professionalism are integral to all that we do!
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