RECENTLY, WE WERE approached by a customer of ours whom we had inherited via an "orphaned" system. For those who are unaware, an orphaned system is one in which the installing contractor has either gone out of business or is no longer allowed on the property. Both cases applied in this situation.
These folks were preparing to develop a large, private equestrian center and wanted our expertise on the comfort and hot water heating systems to keep the occupants warm and comfy. They also wanted copious amounts of hot water for things such as washing animals, cleaning stalls and washing off ranch equipment. When we originally began talking, they wanted a heating system for the whole horse barn, cattle barn and shop/caretaker's facilities.
After a little research, I became aware that horses and cattle shun heat. In our initial interview, the owners told us that they wanted radiant floor heating systems throughout the horse barn area. In checking with people who make it their business to work and treat such animals, they told me that although humans would love to have heated floors, stock animals prefer a cooler environment. Therefore, the scope of the project became much clearer — and much smaller — than we originally thought.
As design and zoning discussions proceeded, we determined which areas would require radiant floor heating for human comfort and those areas where a dry floor would be important to ensure against prized animals slipping and falling due to ice or wet, manurecovered surfaces. We also looked at the potential domestic hot water loads.
We selected a physical plant that had the functional ability to deliver the radiant comfort in those areas serving human beings, had the ability to generate copious amounts of continuous hot water, and could keep those certain critical areas free of water and ice. We settled on a modulating-condensing heat source and tied it into the rest of the systems using conventional tubing and control logic.
The horse-washing area of this beautiful barn was done using higher than normal tubing density (9 in. on center vs. the rest of the horse barn at 12 in. OC) and was equipped with a dualsensing thermostat. Under normal operating conditions, an air-sensing thermostat controls the horse-washing area, typically kept at about 60° F. This area is also served by a slab-sensing thermostat, equipped with a 12-hour twist timer, that allows the whole horse wash to be heated up during livestock-washing operations.
The horse wash is actually in the center of the horse barn and is directly exposed to two drive-through garage doors. The reason for the high-density tubing is to allow for open-bay washing at conditions near or below freezing while preventing the water on the floor from turning to ice.
It is also critical that the room air temperature-sensing thermostat not be in an area that could possibly injure a horse or other livestock if they ran into it. We were not allowed to have any devices, such as thermostats and thermostat-covers, hanging out to possibly snag on a passing animal or, worse yet, its rider. This required us to tuck the thermostat away in a location where it could sense temperature but not be in the way.
When dealing with atypical situations, you must think outside the typical box and consult with the owners, architects and, in this case, veterinarians before specifying and installing the equipment. You must also consider all possibilities as they pertain to exposures and potential liabilities.
This fabulous barn houses some expensive animals, a few exotic animals and some very important human beings, their owners. The task of keeping everyone and everything happy is the task at hand. We're always up for another challenge, but this one proved much easier than originally thought.
The key to success for this type of project is to meet early with the architects and design team and determine which areas need to be served by the hydronic system. You must also talk to the customers to determine their wants, needs and desires. Finally, you must consider safety requirements for both humans and animals.
Once all concerns are expressed, prepare an initial design, and run it by the owners to make sure it meets their final needs, wants and goals. If it does, you can then go back to the design team members with the necessary information to tell them what kind of space allocation you'll need to meet the owners' goals and provide a system that is conducive to being serviced and properly maintained.
To simplify matters — and equipment selection — choose a design fluid temperature that will work universally, avoiding the need to compound equipment required to protect against thermal shock and condensation. By using a low-mass modulating condensing boiler in this case, we actually saved on the installed cost of the physical plant vs. selecting a conventional system that would have required long-term condensation protection, as well as surface/emitter protection. It may require you to ask the consumer to reconsider his choices on final floor finishes, but it is worth it from the standpoint of comfort delivery and overall system satisfaction.
Tune in next month as we compare readily available below-slab insulation used in typical snow-melt systems. Until then, Happy Hay Burner Hydronicing!
Mark Eatherton is a Denver-based hydronics contractor. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 303/778-7772.