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Cost Effective Radiant Floor Heating System For Soon To Be Home

I have been doing a lot of research for the radiant systems to go into my soon to be built home. I am on a strict budget and will be using the funds for the HVAC system plus some extra for the radiant floor heating. My questions are: The aluminum Vs. graphite rolls under the floor, Any reason to go with one vs. the other. Really though the ultimate question is what type of system should I go with that I can afford on a 15k budget. Above subfloor systems vs. under the subfloor systems. I like the pre-formed subfloor material that you can just lay the pex tubing into, but wow so expensive. And the laying down of sleeper board with aluminum and pex in between seem good and maybe not to costly.

Then there is the under subfloor and man I have seen the cost's of the pre-formed sheets and got to say there has the be a roll you could cut to fit and apply way cheaper then that. Any help is greatly appreciated. I am the owner / designer of the home and will be assisting the the contractor during the building phases as I can.



  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 5,689

    (no one under 40 should get that)

    Tony, this Is definitely the case of you get what you pay for. If you go as cheap as possible, you will hate it. Sounds like you have a little time to make a decision, so here is what I recommend:

    1. Have an installer that knows radiant.

    2. Submit your plans, including all floor coverings, and building materials (r values) to a supply house who can completely design your system, and do a proper heat loss. At the time of the design, you will get a complete list and price of all materials, a heat loss, piping diagrams, etc.

    3. If the numbers work for you, then proceed. If not, putting a system together on the Internet, and mixing and matching different products, tubing, components, and systems together is going to give you a lifetime of headaches.

    Yes radiant will cost more then any other system, but properly done, it will save money, and provide you with much more comfort than any scorched air system.

    To more specifically address some of your points, the more expensive systems just work better. Others trade cost with more labor intensive methods. If your doing tile, you have the opportunity to put the tubing in wetbed. If you are building from scratch you can put the tubing in a properly insulated slab. That's why I recommend getting a true radiant pro in there during design, and that will save you money with the system.
  • Ben_17
    Ben_17 Member Posts: 18
    thin slab?

    Have you thought about doing a thin slab on the main floor? When I built mine 5 years ago I poured 1.5" of slurry with my pex in it. Even with my very open concept house I didn't have to add any additional structural support.

    Now as to getting a professionals help.... YES but talk to other people who they have done the same type of work for. My professional had done lots of floors but ..... I can tell you for sure that he has never done any as the only heat source like my place (you will see my posts on here).

  • Simply Rad
    Simply Rad Member Posts: 169


    Your budget seems unrealistic for a radiant floor heating system.  Materials alone could easily cost that much, depending on the home size.  I have found that panels radiators are very comfortable, easy to install, easy to control with TRV's and economically priced.  Panel rads such as Buderus are very economical. 

    Jeffrey Campbell
  • NRT_Rob
    NRT_Rob Member Posts: 1,013
    edited February 2012

    two posts for the price of one!
    Rob Brown
    Designer for Rockport Mechanical
    in beautiful Rockport Maine.
  • NRT_Rob
    NRT_Rob Member Posts: 1,013

    what is your square footage.

    Where are you.

    what kind of home construction/insulation are you going for?

    these are starting points but no answer can be definitively given without load calcs.
    Rob Brown
    Designer for Rockport Mechanical
    in beautiful Rockport Maine.
  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,839
    Please define "Cost effective"...

    Hydronics are NOT cheap, nor inexpensive. If you try and substitute a wall hung tankless water heater for a true space heating appliance, you WILL regret it, and it WILL cost you a LOT more than it would have if you'd have used a real boiler in the first place.

    I've never understood the use of that term Cost Effective. What is your comfort and sanity worth? I don't know anyone that can put a price on human comfort, but I do work for attorneys who can put a price on DIS-comfort...

    If you are looking for inexpensive, then go forced air. You will have to sacrifice efficiency and comfort in the process, but you at least get heat.

    If you are looking for silent comfort and efficiency, go hydronic, but expect to pay 2 to 3 times as much for a good system.

    Investing sweat equity won't reduce your overall costs by that much. If you are really mechanically inclined, and really think you can tackle all of the elements associated with a good installation, hire someone like Rob to do the design, and maybe a local plumber to do the work (soldering and heavy lifting) that you don't want to do, but be careful where you draw the lines of responsibility. Some plumbers don't want anyone else messing around with their jobs.

    Sorry to be brutally honest, but hydronic heat, while one of the most efficient and comfortable, is NOT cheap.

    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • battletoad79
    battletoad79 Member Posts: 2
    Thank You

    I understand from all of your post's that radiant floor heating is really expensive. I live in Oregon about 30 miles inland from the coastline. I have talked with other people and my own father-in-law put in a system with geo-thermal and I don't believe all systems to need to be in the 30 to 40 thousand range. I understand that the newer systems are more efficient.

    My house will be 1400sq ft on the first floor and 1140sq ft on the upper floor. I will have a large wood stove in the grand room for the main heating source and have a bid of 9k for the HVAC system.
  • kcopp
    kcopp Member Posts: 3,990
    One of the 1st...

    rules is to NOT talk pricing numbers. You mentioned geothermal... that's whole other price line. Very expensive, prob the most expensive way to go. To defer costs see if you can find a contractor to work w/ you. You do some of the tubing labor and he do the design and boiler hook ins.
  • NRT_Rob
    NRT_Rob Member Posts: 1,013
    the price range you are considering

    depends on what "really expensive" means. If you're doing a lot of the grunt labor this could be in range for you, especially if your electrical rates are low enough to consider an electric boiler for heating as some others in Oregon I've worked with have. That can really reduce the initial cost.

    devil's in the details though. Load calcs would be necessary to know what kind of radiant emitters would even work for you and that is what drives a good chunk of the cost.
    Rob Brown
    Designer for Rockport Mechanical
    in beautiful Rockport Maine.
  • Tauno
    Tauno Member Posts: 3

    Looking at your drawings I have some questions.Why,carpeting on your 1st floor, it will greatly affect the radiant system. Where do you plan on installing your boiler, manifolds, pumps, etc? The space for the water heater will be very small considering the staircase above.

    I built a house (3000 sq ft) a couple years ago and went through smilar issues. Tiangle Tube propane boiler with indirect WH, slab radiant heating in basement,  Myson radiant panels in all other areas and a Masonry heater in great room. Cellulose insulation in walls and ceiling, scissor trusses to provide more insulation in vault ceiling area. I am located in MI and my annual heating cost are relative low, 600 gallons of propane and 7-8 face cords wood. Putting money into good insulation and a well designed heating system pays for itself in the long. As said before, hydronic heating is not cheap up front but when it opperates as designed, it is fantastic.

    Not related to heating. Why two washer/dryers set ups? Why a shower in the 1st floor laundry area.
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