If you’ve ever had radiant heating in your home, you can’t go back,” vows Tom Schefer, manager of LeDuc & Dexter’s newly formed Hydronic Department. By going back, Schefer is referring to central or forced air heating, which is found in most homes. “Radiant heating has no fans, there’s no dust, no pollen and it’s silent. It’s like standing in sunshine, the heat radiates directly to you. It’s total comfort.”
In effect you are standing on the heating element, the floor, where the heating tubes are embedded. Most new construction uses a lightweight concrete over pour on the tubing layout to create a heated slab floor. A boiler heats the water, which is circulated through the tubing by the manifold box or boxes. The floor is heated and in turn the entire room receives the radiant heat that rises evenly from its source. Thermostats and timers can control the temperatures of rooms or sections of the home while other areas or rooms are set at a different temperature or can be shut off entirely with zone valves or actuators.
“Radiant heating is very energy efficient,” says Schefer, “it’s more expensive to install than forced air heating but there is a 25% savings in energy cost to operate an average sized system. It would cost about $20,000 to install radiant heating throughout a 3,000 square foot home with 6 thermostats to control it.”
About 50% of the local residential radiant heating market is in remodeling and retrofit projects. Baseboard and under floor systems are used for these applications, such as the quick-track method, which is prefabricated plywood with a groove through it and an aluminum reflector under it. Typically it is laid on top of the sub floor with tubing and it replaces an over pour. The quick-track method can also be used in new construction when the structural environment will not support a concrete slab. The quick-track method is actually more expensive than the over pour method.
Most of the radiant Hydronic heating systems are being installed in custom homes. Schefer and his Hydronic Department are presently starting a high-end residential project in Rutherford in the Napa Valley that employs a geothermal radiant heating system, which heats well water to supply the heating source.
In the end, of course, it’s not any one of the many innovative methods or systems that sells the idea of radiant Hydronic heating. The selling point is the level of comfort that the system delivers to the homeowner. As Schefer reminds, “Once you’ve had radiant heating, you’ll never go back.”
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