Whenever We Can, We Heat Our Buildings with Radiant Systems
Rather than blowing hot air around, radiant systems use hot water in tubes to heat (usually) the floor. Fresh air windows can be opened, even in the coldest winter, to flush out stale air. Brisk yet toasty; the perfect comfort system. People who’ve lived with radiant never want to go back to central heating.
Most radiant heating systems in housing these day’s use plastic tubes filled with water in the floor. These “hydronic” systems space “PEX”
tubing (cross-linked polyester=PEX), about every twelve inches, either encased within the concrete floor slab or in a one-inch thick plastic tray
beneath the flooring. The water in the tube is heated typically by a boiler, which is a very well made, long lived super water heater that can
handle not only the floor heating, but also the other hot water needs in the home. Clean. Simple.
Will my toes fry?
The floor is heated to about eighty degrees. This is enough to keep you toasty even when its cold outside and the windows are open. The heated floor radiates heat upwards toward you and all the other solid objects in the room, like the furniture, the ceiling, and walls. These solid objects re-radiate the heat around so even though the air temperature from ventilation flowing through the room might be cool, people in the room
will feel warm.
Can I have wood or carpet?
Wood yes, carpet no. Radiant systems can have flooring made of tile, stone, slate, concrete, or hardwood. Carpet does not work well with
What about those electric mats?
Radiant sometimes uses electrical resistance heating instead of hot water, and this can make sense in a small space like a bathroom or kitchen,
always under ceramic tile, however, the hot water hydronic system is the best choice for larger areas.
In a pinch, we’ve embedded electrical resistance radiant wiring in special plaster in ceilings, and this works when a floor installation isn’t
Are these systems expensive?
More than standard central heating or wall heaters, yes, but like they say, you get what you pay for. Central heating, with forced air units that heat air and blow it around the space, are cheap to install, but in the long run cost about the same as a good radiant system, however,
radiant systems cause no dust, and no airborne illnesses.
These radiant systems are very well suited too for areas like coastal California where clean ventilation air is available. The air on this
coast is exceptionally clean because its traveled all the way across the Pacific and most of any pollution in it has dropped into the sea by the time we breathe it. If we use radiant heating, we aren’t concerned about wasting heated air* by keeping the windows open is cold weather. So we
let the brisk Pacific air flow through, flushing unwanted odors, moisture, and off-gassing from building materials off toward Nevada.
Radiant heating heats the solid objects in the room, not so much the air. All the atoms struck by the heat rays from the floor are heated, although air, being a gas, has many many times fewer atoms than solid objects (like people). So money paid to heat the water ends up heating the solid objects and very little money is wasted because of ventilation.