Exploring alternative radiant heating surfaces — Pt. 3

Aug. 1, 2013
As I pointed out in my last article, the possibility of having a well-meaning volunteer drywall installer with a cordless screw gun and very sharp screws in hand gave the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) and me some concern.

As I pointed out in my last article, the possibility of having a well-meaning volunteer drywall installer with a cordless screw gun and very sharp screws in hand gave the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) and me some concern. The AHJ wanted me to install thick metal nail guards over all of the points in the framing where the tubing crossed it. This would have created a significant break in thermal conductivity, and would have severely decreased the radiant wall panels’ output. I finally convinced the inspector that I would personally be responsible for the installation of the sheetrock in the areas covered by the radiant walls, as well as any issues that may arise. I don’t know if you have ever had the opportunity to volunteer to help build one of these homes for this excellent organization (Habitat for Humanity), but when the volunteers show up on sheetrock-hanging day, there are a lot of people who have the best intentions but little real-world experience. Mass pandemonium comes to mind.

We had installed the radiant panels in a very repeatable, orderly fashion, and each panel had the exact same configurations and dimensions as it pertained to tube centers, tubing entrance points, and tubing exit points. I decided there was no way that I could personally install the sheetrock in a timely manner and not create confusion and delay for the volunteers, so I opted instead to develop a methodology whereby the volunteers would have “story poles” that they could place directly in front of the affected studs. There were red Xs where they were to not install screws due to tubing, and green Xs where they were supposed to install the screws (where there were no tubes to possibly be hit).

Before these wonderful volunteers were turned loose on the project, the project coordinator and I had a training class with them, explaining the process of screw installation in the immediate vicinity of the radiant panels. I volunteered to stay on site during the sheetrocking process – which took less than a day – just in case there was a tube hit, and fortunately there were no tube hits at all. The story poles were kept in the mechanical closet after they were used, so that in the future, if anyone else needed to screw something into the wall, they too would have a good idea of where the tubing was located and could avoid the possibility of an inadvertent tube hit.

In addition to the story poles, we left photographic documentation of all radiant wall panels in their uncovered state (prior to sheetrocking) and a floor plan with the radiant wall panels highlighted. The system has been up and running for about 12 years now, and other than normal physical plant maintenance issues has not suffered any problems. As part of this project, we posted a note in the mechanical closet alerting future owners to the fact that radiant walls were incorporated into the dwelling and caution must be exercised when doing work in the area of the radiant wall panels.

The homeowner said this was the most comfortable home he’d ever lived in, and it had the lowest energy bills of any home he’d occupied. The feeling of comfort when a person walks into this home in the dead of winter has to be experienced. You are immediately enveloped in an invisible radiant blanket of comfort. You can’t really tell where the warmth is coming from, but the difference in radiant comfort is definitely welcome and noticeable. And one note of importance: The floor does not feel cold, or even cool. It’s just nice and comfortable.

As practicing contractors, I strongly recommend that you experiment with these wonderful comfort tools in your own home. Once you have personally experienced the comfort associated with radiant heat, you will then be able to tell your potential clients about these comforts on a first-person basis, as opposed to having to say, “I’ve heard that radiant is ‘the’ most comfortable method there is for delivering good comfort.” It makes all the difference in the world for your customers to hear it on a first-person basis compared to hearsay.

Tune in next month as we continue looking at alternative radiant heating surfaces in our efforts to “Grow Radiant.” If you have not yet become a member of the new RPA, by all means go to our website at www.radiantprofessionalsalliance.org and get signed up. It is an inexpensive way to support your industry.

Lastly, our annual meeting and conference information is posted on the RPA website as well. It will be held in Philadelphia the week of Sept. 16. Please check out the System Showcase competition, and if you have a project you think is worthy of attention, make sure to get it entered. We have a new feature with this year’s program: a $1,000 bonus for the “People’s Choice” award. This year’s show is going to be a great one. Join us, won’t you?

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