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Radiant Floors

February 7, 2009

Radiant floors have a well-deserved following. They are quiet, they heat the area where you most want heat, there is no dust created, no drafts, and they take up virtually no floor area. On the other hand, you can’t double up and use the distribution system for both heat and air conditioning, they are hard to service once they embedded in your concrete floor, and the are notoriously slow to respond to thermostatic commands, because there is so much thermal mass that the changes in temperature can be very slow to manifest themselves.

Radiant Tubing before pour

Radiant Tubing before pour

This is all information I knew ahead of time. I had been in houses heated with forced hot air, and I knew how noisy, drafty and dusty they can be, even if the efficiency of using the same ductwork for heating and cooling has great appeal. For this house, polished concrete cried out for radiant, and I’d had good success with ductless air conditioning in past projects, so I went forward with the radiant plan.

Tied down tubing

Tied down tubing

What I didn’t know, but now do, is that radiant floors require a simply crazy amount of plumbing. It’s not just each little black plastic tube has to get carefully tied down to the mesh before you pour your concrete, or that there is a maximum length of each tube (270 linear feet?), but after all that is done, each and every tube has to come back to a manifold and each zone has to have its own manifold, and each zone needs controls adequate to balance and “tune” the system for proper operation. It felt like miles of plastic tubes where then connected to miles of copper, interspersed with super expensive manifolds and controls that virtually filled the mechanical room.

JC Plumbing Starts Work in Mechanical Room

JC Plumbing Starts Work in Mechanical Room

Pumps and Manifolds everywhere

Pumps and Manifolds everywhere

Those little electric space heaters are looking very efficient right now.

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