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Important conversations to be had — Pt. 2

June 13, 2017
This brings up the subject of programmable thermostats and high mass radiant heating The programmable thermostats, even the smartest ones, don’t speak the same language as the intelligent boilers do Today’s intelligent boilers will ignore a call for heat if the outdoor air temperatures are above a preset condition

This is a continuation of last month’s article, “Important conversations to be had — Pt. 1”, about meeting the consumer’s wishes, wants, needs and expectation as it pertains to their comfort delivery system.

This also brings up the subject of programmable thermostats and high mass radiant heating. Most of the people who have substantial experience in the area of radiant heating and programmable thermostats knows that the two don’t work well together, especially in today’s world of intelligent boilers.

You see, the programmable thermostats, even the smartest ones, don’t speak the same language as the intelligent boilers do, so the thermostat tries to over compensate by starting early in order to achieve the consumers dictated time and temperature schedules. This will result in erratic and over temperature conditions that aren’t going to meet the consumers comfort needs. The only good and recommended application for these programmable thermostats is in the bathroom/bathing environment. Program the floors to be warm when the consumer is using the bathroom for bathing in the early morning and late evenings. Otherwise keep the bathroom at regular temperatures being maintained throughout the home. And we’re not talking about a deep set back condition here. In fact, I wouldn’t suggest the bathing room be allowed to cool down more than a few degrees overnight (say 68°F) and that you attempt to boost it no more than 2 to 4 degrees, and only when the consumer expects it to be warm.

I’d also suggest the addition of electric radiant floor heating in addition to the hydronic floor heating in these bathing areas. This will allow the delivery of warm floors during the non-space heating seasons without having to fire the heat source, pumps, controls, etc. It will require the use of either two separate set point controls, or a two-stage control.

Today’s intelligent boilers will ignore a call for heat if the outdoor air temperatures are above a preset condition, typically 65°F. Again, if the consumer is not made aware of these limitations, they may be dissatisfied with the end results.

If the consumer chooses to utilize radiant floors, you need to ask them questions about their intentions as it pertains to floor finishes. If they say carpet, ask them why. If they say because they don’t want their feet touching cold floors (which is the primary reason people use carpeting), remind them that they are paying a premium for the warm floor concept, and that it is not a good idea to place high R value finished goods over the top of their heat emitting surfaces. Avoid placing too much heat, if any in an internal pantry or food cupboard area. If it is on an outside wall, and its door is always open to adjoining spaces, it really doesn’t require much heat to remain comfortable. Heat and canned goods are not a good combination.

As it pertains to zoning needs, remember that the consumer may not have had more than one or two thermostats in their previous homes. At a minimum, there is a need for three zones. Common daily use living spaces, uncommon non-daily use living spaces and of course sleeping facilities. Ask them if they want additional zoning. Explain to them that although radiant is not conducive to deep set backs on a daily basis, that it does make sense to keep unused rooms set for a cooler temperature when not in use. Like the kids’ bedrooms — the kids are away at college. When they know the kids will be home, turn those zones back up a few days in advance during the heating season to allow everything to become stabilized, temperature wise.

Ask them if they ever intend to use any “Alternative Energy” sources for their home. It is important to know this in advance, because alternative energy is generally limited in its temperature of availability. If the answer is yes, then you will need to take this into consideration in the design, layout and application of their heat emitters. It is what industry friend John Siegenthaler refers to as “Future Proofing” the design, and if it’s not taken into consideration in the early stages of design, it will be difficult, if possible at all, to fix after construction has been completed.

Ask them where they’d prefer to have their remote manifold locations placed. It is best to place those manifolds in a closet, where future access is guaranteed, and disturbance of furniture and other finished materials is kept to a minimum. If the consumer intends to install custom shelving in their large walk in closets, make certain that your manifold location will work with their final intentions.

Remember, in most cases, there are wearing components in the manifold section that will eventually require repair and or replacement. Having to saw open a nice California Closet in order to gain access to zone control valves is not going to sit well with the consumer in the long run. Coat closets make excellent manifold locations.

Lastly, once you have gathered all of this very important information, before leaving the customer, read back all of their wishes, wants, needs and expectations to confirm that you are headed in the right direction. Never assume that the customer knows everything they need to know. Remember, you are the expert here. They may have done some research, but they are not thinking about the same potential issues and how to avoid them, like you the professional is supposed to be doing.

The end result of all of this will be a very satisfied customer, who will promote you and your system and services at every opportunity they get, in a positive way. If due diligence is not performed in this manner, they will spread ill will about your system after they move in, and the fact that it wasn’t what they expected it to be.

Listen first, ask questions, listen again, make notes, read your notes back to them to confirm their wishes, wants needs and expectations, manage their expectations and you will have done an excellent job as a comfort contractor.

Mark Eatherton material on this website is protected by Copyright 2017. Any reuse of this material (print or electronic) must first have the expressed written permission of Mark Eatherton and CONTRACTOR Magazine. Please contact via email at: [email protected].

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