Radiant heat has been used in homes for quite a while, and the reasons are easy to understand. According to GreenBuilder.com, “The water in a hydronic radiant floor system has the capacity to transport energy 3,500 times greater than air, so it can heat (and even cool) using less energy than a forced-air system.” Because of this efficiency, comfort levels can be achieved with lower thermostat settings and at a lower cost.
Radiant heat is generally set up in zones, so that high use areas, such as baths, kitchen and family rooms can receive more heating, while areas with less use such as dining rooms or guest rooms can be kept at a lower setting.
Uponor has developed a system that makes installation of radiant heating simple. Their Fast Trak™ uses an interlocking grid of panels that snap easily together. Installers lay down the panels then remove the adhesive film to secure these panels in place. Then flexible plastic PEX tubing is laid in a pattern, snapping into place on the grid in a continuous loop without any glue required. The system is bled and energized zone by zone to ensure a well-pressurized loop with no air bubbles. The over pour of concrete is then completed over the grid and PEX tubing. Uponor markets Radiant Ready 30E™, a small pump and boiler unit to heat the water directly, best used in smaller applications or retrofits.
For whole home applications, a larger boiler system is recommended. One company, Daikin Atherma offers a air source heat pump that can not only heat household hot water, but can heat and cool a home in a highly energy efficient process. The company offers two types of systems, each involving an exterior compressor and interior units to distribute the water among the heating systems, hot water tank and heat/cool convector fans. Another interesting feature of Daikin’s Heat Pump is the ability to integrate with solar collectors to reduce the draw on electricity and increase efficiency.
Radiant heat has its fans, however, some users find reaching a balance in temperature in certain rooms may be challenging at first. It’s essential to have a plumbing and heating contractor who understands the dynamic nature of radiant heat and is able to design a system that meets the homeowners’ specific lifestyle.