Many people have their own interpretation of this acronym. Some say Keep It Simple Stupid. I prefer one I developed, which is Keep It Sweetly Simple. A perfect fit for hydronics.
As most practitioners know, hydronic systems can be extremely flexible. Physically, there is almost no limitation to the number of operating fluid temperatures that can be generated by these mechanical marvels. I, too, am guilty of using and abusing this flexibility.
I once had a system that had a primary loop, a secondary loop, a tertiary loop and a quaternary loop. Three distinct operating temperatures: low-temperate radiant, medium-temperature fan coil units and high-temperature hot water base board loops, each with its own individual circulators and zone valves to service the connected loads. That was back in the day when higher-temperature equipment was the norm, and we had to keep the atmospheric-fired boiler flue gasses above the dew point, necessitating a primary loop to service the cast-iron boilers.
My, how time changes a person’s beliefs and expectations!
I also remember walls and walls of circulators in photographs that won the former Radiant Panel Association’s annual Showcase Contests. It seems like the more pumps you had on a given wall, the better your chances were of winning the contest. Circulator manufacturers loved it; environmentalists hated it. I remember doing a calculation at one time and determined that I could probably meet one-fourth of the home heating load just on the motor standby losses of all the circulators in the picture.
As our designs become more efficient, it is imperative that the system designers not get stuck with a “one pattern fits all” mindset.
Today a designer/installer puts forth extra effort to reduce the wattage of electrical consumption whenever possible. As our designs become more efficient, it is imperative that the system designers not get stuck with a “one pattern fits all” mindset as it pertains to the radiant panel configuration.
Like most things in life, “design condition” loads vary based on exposure and application. Systems requiring three different temperatures mean having two or three different methods of temperature control, which complicates the mechanical design.
Instead of only using 12-inch-on-center tubing patterns throughout, consider using one supply temperature, and changing a panel’s output by increasing or decreasing on-center tubing density to match the given load per square foot. You will end up with a significantly simpler mechanical package, which will result in a lower installed cost for the heat source and control package.
This will also result in less long-term maintenance and operation requirements for the system, bringing us back to the real meaning of K.I.S.S., keeping it sweetly simple.
I remember watching Dean Johnson on television walk into a mechanical room with hydronic radiant floor heat, and the first words out of his mouth were, “Boy, this system looks really complicated …” The consumers of today are very tech savvy, but many are still intimidated by some of the mechanical marvels our industry generates on a daily basis. I am just as responsible for this scenario as the next guy. I have some systems out there that would put a submarine mechanical room system to shame.
Think about ways that you can simplify your system installations. The solution is not always in the same room as the problem. Think outside the mechanical box, and remember that reducing your time in the mechanical room frees you up to do other things, personally and professionally. I know the pride associated with standing back at the end of the day, looking upon your day’s work and the feeling of gratitude that comes with it; however, we as an industry have to work smarter, not harder.
In the long run, the installed cost of the system will be about the same, but the labor required to bring it to fruition decreases significantly.
Sometimes we get so used to doing things a certain way that we lose sight of labor- and money-saving techniques that we could and should be employing in the field. Pre-fabbed boiler/pumping packages are a prime example. A contractor looks at these devices, and when he sees the price, quickly backs away from the catalogue. What this contractor fails to realize is that labor is his most expensive, precious commodity.
He can spend two or three days manually fitting five pounds of sugar into a two-pound bag, or he could spend half a day bolting factory-supplied and tested boxes to the wall, making a few mechanical connections to the heat source and distribution system, and then spend the rest of his free time selling another system or spending time with his family.
We fail to see the excellent value in these labor-saving packages. In the long run, the installed cost of the system will be about the same, but the labor required to bring it to fruition decreases significantly.
More importantly, the consumer sees these boxes as the “heating system” instead of viewing it as the mechanical control room of a submarine, and that will result in more indirect sales to you. Word-of-mouth advertising from a satisfied consumer is the best, most reliable means of getting additional business; not, “Boy, this system looks really complicated …”
Remember: Work smarter, not harder. Join the Radiant Professionals Alliance and let us show you how this can be done. Happy high-efficiency hydronicing!
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