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Alternatives to Climate Panels

Marc K.
Marc K. Member Posts: 15
I have a customer asking me "why climate panels?" (made by Viega, but others make them as well.)  It's for a 5000 sq. ft. space, a 2nd floor, that currently has a plywood subfloor with 14" of cellulose blown in below it. Low heat loss, maybe 15 btus/sq. ft.  He's talking about putting down aluminum flashing over the whole plywood subfloor, then stapling down pex tubing, at 6"-8" centers, then putting down firring strips either every 16" or closer if necessary (including as close as in between the pex runs back and forth) and then installing the finish floor.  Why won't this work? I told him I thought there was an issue with all the air space, and that perhaps all the tubing would need to be covered with sand to create a mass.  Has anyone tried something like this or similar? I've used climate panels, and I like them, but they're not cheap.  The question is, are they necessary?  Thanks for any advice.


  • NRT_Rob
    NRT_Rob Member Posts: 1,013
    if you're going to site build a panel

    build a good panel, don't emulate the "aluminum on the wrong side and no decent tubing groove" climate panel/quik trak method.

    get some GOOD lightweight plates (omega groove, nice fit, no sloppy U grooves), PAP tubing, and put the aluminum wings on top of the furring strips with the tubing groove between the strips. it's more labor as you have to cut or rout your own returns, but the strips are about the same amount of work, and there is no silicon step.

    I like a 7" to 9" on center with 1" gaps... then strips are 6" or 8" wide, no waste.

    can get fancy and juice it up with heavy gauge plates in high load areas too if you like. But the light plate method will beat climate panel/quik trak method any day, and the heavy plate require rabbet cutting the panels to let the plates "inset".

    Or heavy plates in the joists will also do just as well as climate panel/quik trak, with a regular subfloor. in many cases that might even be an easier installation, and it's cheaper. Depends on the joist situation though.

    Honestly the only time I see quik trak specifically as an advantage is when you absolutely have to have a 1/2", overfloor option.

    If it's new construction you can consider Warmboard too for a lot better peformance and easier install, but it's not cheap either.

    Hope that helps!
    Rob Brown
    Designer for Rockport Mechanical
    in beautiful Rockport Maine.
  • Gordan
    Gordan Member Posts: 891
    There are plenty of alternatives

    It's not all about the coverage area of the aluminum. First the tubing needs to be able to transfer heat to the aluminum, then the aluminum needs to be able to transfer heat to the room you're heating. To do this, you need a good contact area between the tubing and the aluminum - some sort of aluminum-lined groove for tubing to snap into - and you need as little R-value as possible between that aluminum and the finished floor. What your customer is proposing would limit the contact "patch" to the very top and bottom of the tube. Thin plates are cheap. Why not install them so the "wings" contact the flooring?
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,263
    edited September 2010
    the better the conduction transfer

    the lower the supply temperature required. If that helps.

    Conduction is the best transfer of energy from the fluid, to the tube wall, from the tube wall to the flooring. Aluminum in direct contact with then tube, and the flooring will provide the best transfer .

    You do have some low loads, the less conductive methods would probably cover that.

    There is a movement on to heat the space with to lowest supply temperature, it leverages low temperature condensing boilers but also it's a good practice if you want to mix solar thermal in, at some later date.

    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • Alan (California Radiant) Forbes

    Why create more work for yourself when you've got a manufactured product that takes care of everything?  I think you will find that it's cheaper in the long run.

    It probably will work, but what a pain in the butt.  Furring strips? Sand?
    8.33 lbs./gal. x 60 min./hr. x 20°ΔT = 10,000 BTU's/hour

    Two btu per sq ft for degree difference for a slab
  • Bob Bona_4
    Bob Bona_4 Member Posts: 2,083

    I remember a few years ago, Hot Rod addressed this. Sand does not conduct heat like thought. There are minute cavities between the granules x the thousand that actually insulate, and what about settling over time? Now there is an air gap. And sand will soak up moisture quite easily, not desirable under a finish floor.

    I, too, would go with a prefab product. The results will be predictible and can be calculated. A one-off homebrew one can never tell.
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