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new home in Northeast...radiant heat solution?

MSULLY
MSULLY Member Posts: 4
I'll be building a home in the spring and wanted some feedback on possibly installing a hydronic radiant heating system as the primary method of heat. First of all, I live in Maine, where winters can get pretty cold. With the new build, I'll be spending the extra money to insulate well, not sure just yet if I can do the spray foam or if I'm going with a dense pack cellulose solution. The home will be approx 2,000 sq foot ranch with a full basement.   I also plan to make some living space in basement, so I was going to install radiant tubing (pex) in the basement floors as well as on the first level of the house itself. For the main floor, I was going to put the radiant in some form of gypcrete to maximize the efficiency. I'm also leaning towards using a truss system for the first floor/basement ceiling. I think this would cover any worries about the added weight of going with gypcrete, as well as give me the ceiling overhead I'm looking for. I plan on keeping the house at a consistent temperature, so it won't be a case of turning it down during the day and turning it up at night. Lastly, I am leaing towards a pellet boiler to heat my home. A coal stoker is a possible alternative.  I had some questions on some things, and would appreciate anyone's opinions and their experience with radiant heating with a full basement.

1)

If I'm going to put the pex tubing in the basement floor as well,would I still want to put the main floor radiant in the gypcrete or could I achieve a comfort level by putting the radiant tubing on the basement ceiling simply using the reflective barriors, heat plates, etc? I wasn't sure if maybe the in floor heating from the basement floor would add enough extra heat rising to supplement the drawback of putting in the tubing on the underneath of the floors upstairs vs the gypcrete solution. And is my idea of radiant tubing in the basement floor overkill or is it a wise investment?

2)

The only other option I have considered thusfar is hot water baseboard, but I really like the appeal of the radiant solution from a comfort perspective and having no baseboards. But I'm torn as to whether I should install a backup source, and even put in baseboards to serve as a backup? That sounds expensive to me, I'm hoping radiant alone will give me what I need, but I'm not sure. Should I go with a backup?

3)

I want to go with hardwood flooring throughout most of the house. Whether that be engineered, bamboo, or regular hardwood. Probably tile in the bathrooms. From what I have read, engineered hardwood works best with radiant heat, and bamboo can handle it as well, but regular hardwood may be a problem. I saw another post where the user is going to install 2x2 stringers to nail the hardwood to as they were using gypcrete. Can I just go with a floating floor or would it be in my best interest to nail them down meaning I'd also have to put down stringers, which is another expense.

4)

Lastly, I want the best install that is going to be "quiet", meaning I won't experience some of the noise issues I've read about. If anyone has any thoughts I'd appreciate it. Sorry for all the questions, but I only get one chance to do this and I want to be sure it's done right.

Comments

  • CMadatMe
    CMadatMe Member Posts: 3,086
    Budget

    While we don't talk price Imdon't think this violates the rules.. What budget did you set aside for your radiant adventure? Budget dicates solution.
    "The bitter taste of a poor installation remains much longer than the sweet taste of the lowest price."
  • MSULLY
    MSULLY Member Posts: 4
    new home in Northeast..radiant heat solution?

    honestly, I have not even gotten to the point of pricing. While I know radiant is generally more expensive up front than baseboard, I guess I assumed the difference would not be drastic. I would not expect a 20,000 difference, if that's the case than I'd be forced to rethink radiant. But if I have to make some cuts in other areas of the home to get the heating system I want, I'm willing to do so to a point. Without getting into pricing figures as you mentioned, is there a typical % amount higher that I should expect to pay? I guess at this point I'm more looking for suggestions on how to go about installing it the right way, then I can take those ideas to a contractor for an estimate. I wanted to be educated a little more beforehand. thanks
  • CMadatMe
    CMadatMe Member Posts: 3,086
    Time to Start

    A new thinking process. Everyone wants a whole house radiant until they get the price. A better approach may be to put radiant in the rooms you spend the most time as well as the bathrooms. Bedrooms and rooms not used much might be a good place for panel radiators. Panel rads work real well with low water temps, provide a radiant/convection heat and are very easy to install.



    All is mute without starting with a room by room heat loss.
    "The bitter taste of a poor installation remains much longer than the sweet taste of the lowest price."
  • MSULLY
    MSULLY Member Posts: 4
    re:...time to start

    You say time to start a new thinking process, but you are not really indicating how much of a price difference I'm looking at. And I'm willing to put radiant in only certain rooms, but I still want to know how to best do it (i.e pex stapled under subfloor from basement, used with gypcrete, etc.)  I'd still like some feedback as to my other technical concerns.
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 5,689
    Your best bet.....

    Find a contractor.  Sounds like you have a home design in mind, do you have blueprints?  If you do, you could give those to a well qualified hydronics contractor.  He could do a heat loss, and give you a rough estimate, based on how the radiant will be done, as well as talk to you about equipment, control strategies etc.

    Installing radiant, you pay for superior comfort.  Also, logistically, you (or your contractor) will have alot more coordinating with the different trades.  If your putting tubing in the concrete, the concrete guy will charge you more, plus the hvac guy has to be on site earlier, and air up the tubing, and supervise the pour.

    If your doing a staple up with aluminum plates, more labor, plus you have to let the plumber know where things are going so he doesnt put pipes in the wrong place.  Same goes for central air.

    Or maybe you do radiant ceilings, extra work for the drywallers,or warmboard, in which case you have to account for the extra height when framing doors, etc.

    Gypecrete? Extra work, extra labor, extra weight.

    There's just too many variables, to tell you how much 'extra' it will be.  And it's kind of hard to call it extra, because it costs what it costs, and your not really comparing apples to apples.

    But like I said, give the prints to your hvac guy, or a supply house that could design your system, and that will put you in the ball park.

    And you could, with all bells and whistles, and the extra material/labor, get near that 'extra' 20k, but most likely you'll be about half that.
    steve
  • CMadatMe
    CMadatMe Member Posts: 3,086
    Agree

    With Steve upto the cost point. I think your closer to that 20 then you are to 10. But like Steve has said, it all depends on the design, control layout, zoning and of course heating plant type.

    There is no flat price difference and no 2 jobs are the same.
    "The bitter taste of a poor installation remains much longer than the sweet taste of the lowest price."
  • RobG
    RobG Member Posts: 1,850
    Find a contractor

    My suggestion would be to go to the "find a contractor" section on this site. Radiant heat is a wonderful thing, but you only get one shot at doing it correctly. Find a good contractor and he will work with you on all of your concerns / questions.  

    Rob
  • kcopp
    kcopp Member Posts: 3,990
    Where in...

    the great State of Maine are you.? I'm in NH right on the Border.
  • Tim Potter
    Tim Potter Member Posts: 272
    I’ll give you my experience with in floor radiant heat.

    WOW, I never would have thought I would know the difference in heating systems, but boy was I wrong. Even my wife comments on how even the heat is. My main house has forced ‘error’ heating/cooling and now that I have experienced in-floor radiant, I literally cuss every time the heat comes on & blasts me with hot air. I have been forced to consider a way to convert my house in Kansas to radiant floor, no easy task.

    Our House in Winter Park Colorado has the in-floor heating. Design temp for Grand County is -30 below 0, so yea its cold some nights, Add to that we are at 9200’. Our house is well insulated, 2x6 exterior with bat insulation. Were about ½ the size of your planed build with 1000 sq ft on main level Master BR & Ba, Hall powder room, Living room 20’ ceilings, Dining, Foyer, Kitchen all with tube in gyp. The walk out lower level, also about 1000sq ft, is exposed on almost 3 sides, has tube in slab. 2 more BR’s, 2 more Ba, utility room & Family room.

    I can highly recommend my system, BUT if you search around look for others who talk about radiant walls, ceilings, panel rads etc. Mark Eatherton is one who comes to mind, in his posts, he discusses there are other ways to enjoy low temp heating. Mark has a Mountain place about 40 miles west of mine where he is having fun designing all kinds of heating possibilities. There is WAY more than 1 way to skin the ‘low temp’ Cat so to speak.

    If you put your basement tubing in the concrete, (insulate it very well underneath!), yes it is a wise choice I believe, You could put the main floor tubing under the floor using plates, but its not as efficient as running it in gyp & needs higher water temps. You would need to insulate each bay under the tubing, so no heat gain could come from the basement to supplement the main floor.

    I would think if you use hardwood on main floor you would want to lean towards gyp with or without batons depending on type of floor. That would allow you to use lower water temps thereby being easier on the wood floor. In our House, we have tile in kitchen, foyer, dining, with area rugs in many places. We have carpet in rest of house, upstairs & downstairs. There are no comfort issues at all in any area. The other side of our duplex has same heating system with hardwood & carpet throughout. The right person can design it easily & you will be very comfortable.

    Designed correctly, there will not be any noise from the tubing.

    Your right, you only get 1 shot to do it right.

    STEVEusaPA has good advice for you

    You have to remember, some of the added costs of radiant also benefits you in the long run in other areas. Under floor insulation, a more comfortable basement, Gyp in main level, very quiet house, not to mention the low cost of heating with low temp water, saves you every month etc.



    Hope this helps,



    Tim
    Winter Park, CO & Lenexa, KS
  • Solid_Fuel_Man
    Solid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 2,456
    My $.02 in Aroostook County, Maine

    I have a 3,200 sq. foot house which I built in 2009.  I am on a 7" radiant slab, with 1000 sq. feet upstairs.  All bedrooms are upstairs, and 1,000 sq. feet of the 2,200 slab is heated shop and boiler room/wood storage.  It is the ideal situation in my opinion to have a huge thermal mass to be heated, no matter what the heat source.  I literally have no heating on the second floor, just the heated slab on the first floor beneath.  Second story stays 5-7 degrees cooler which is perfect for the bedrooms.  I used standard R19 in walls, with 1.5" Dow Tuff-R on the INSIDE with strapping then sheetrock on walls and ceilings all seams sealed.  Ceilings have standard fiberglass R38 above the 1.5" Tuff-R.  I burn 4 cord of wood in an standard inefficient wood boiler.  No oil.  I also have a 115 gallon indirect for domestic hot water which the wood heats as well.  If done correctly, there should be very little heat needed on your first floor if it's tight.  I'd consider a staple up system if cost is a concern, the Gypcrete would be nice but I'd say not needed if the basement is radiant.  However you'd have to run your pellet boiler at a higher temp, but if you plan on making domestic water with an indirect you'll have to anyway.  I'd consider and electric or oil water heater for the summer though, as I've not had good luck with pellet boilers heating domestic in the off heating season.  An indirect with an electric element would be ideal as far as cost, and no oil tank.  You may need a backup system for your homeowners to be satisfied though, I put in some electric baseboard which I've never turned on..... 
    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
  • Solid_Fuel_Man
    Solid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 2,456
    edited March 2012
    My $.02 in Aroostook County, Maine

    Sorry hit it twice....
    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
  • meplumber
    meplumber Member Posts: 678
    What area of Maine?

    There are several of us on here from all across the state. If we don't cover your area, we all know someone that can.



    I would start by finding a competent contractor in your area and let him make some suggestions. He can walk you through the process. The sooner you bring your building team together, the better the end result.
  • NRT_Rob
    NRT_Rob Member Posts: 1,013
    I have to contradict

    the solid fuel man... most people interested in radiant comfort are not happy with unheated upper floors. In superinsulated situations without a regular floor framing system (i.e. post and beam structures) you're more ideally situated for "cold 2nd floors" but if you have a joist cavity between floors, it's pretty hard to move enough heat upwards from a radiant system to heat a 2nd floor.



    typically a scaled down option is fine though... panel radiators or the like on the 2nd floor, radiant in bathrooms or something.



    we also like radiant ceiling in flat ceiling areas... that's ceiling DOWN. can do wider on centers and it's still low temp, faster install, cheaper than floor. cost effective compared to radiators or low temp baseboard.
    Rob Brown
    Designer for Rockport Mechanical
    in beautiful Rockport Maine.
  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666
    not happy with unheated upper floors

    I'll say. My house is a Cape Cod of 1150 square feet. Downstairs is radiant slab at grade and it heated pretty well (though it would have been better with outdoor reset for comfort alone), but upstairs (2 room needing about 3000 BTU/hr maximum in each room) were heated with 3 feet of fin-tube baseboard each. The house was all one zone, and the supply water was about 140F that was too much for downstairs (rapid cycling and hot floors at times), but not enough for upstairs. Hot air presumably rises, and I suppose it did, since there was always a cold draft coming down the stairwell, so warm air must have been going up. But it was always too cold up there.



    When I got a new boiler, I had the baseboard increased from 3 feet in each room to 14 feet in each room. And I had it piped as a separate zone from the downstairs. Finally got enough heat upstairs, and with outdoor reset and such, got much more comfort downstairs too.
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 5,689
    Hey Rob, quick questions...

    When you do radiant ceilings, you still like the 3/4" warmboard?  Also, do you insist (hopefully request) the electricians to use old work hihats?

    Always wondering.......

    Thanks
    steve
  • NRT_Rob
    NRT_Rob Member Posts: 1,013
    Usually

    we would only "juice up" the ceiling like that if we're doing cooling.



    can do heat only with wide on center, lightweight plates, and still be low temp/high output. not much reason to triple or quadruple the cost for heat only unless rock bottom water temps are a hard and fast requirement.



    If you do go that route just remember you really don't need to cover the whole ceiling. For reference we have 16" o.c. light plate here in our office, about a 10 BTU/sq ft load (low, of course) about 20% uncovered and we can keep setpoint at 95 degree SWT.



    not typical results of course, we have heat gain from computers and stuff, but still. ceiling can be powerful. but in cooling mode you really want every degree you can get out of the ceiling and Warmboard etc are a great choice.
    Rob Brown
    Designer for Rockport Mechanical
    in beautiful Rockport Maine.
  • MSULLY
    MSULLY Member Posts: 4
    follow up

    I am looking to build in Kennebec county. And thanks for those replies. It's very useful info. I may look into meeting with a pro that can give me a recommended design I think. I really want to avoid baseboards, and there is zero chance I'd even consider a forced air system. The radiant wall radiators are an interesting proposition, though I don't know much about them. I think I'd prefer the freedom of placing furniture whereever I like with not having to account for blocking a heat source. As someone indicated, if I put radiant in the basement slab as well I may be able to get by with first floor radiant with the pex tubing stapled under the floor versus what I'm assuming would be the more expensive gypcrete solution? As far as domestic hot water, I had figured it would be tied to the boiler, but someone said they did not have luck with pellet boilers providing DHW in the warmer months. Also, as I'm leaning towards a truss system for first floor support (mainly because I like the idea of little to no support poles plus it's easier to run your piping allowing greater ceiling height). I know the trusses is supposed to make it easier to run piping, cabling, electrical, etc, but I'm wondering if that is also the case if I went with a radiant tubing stapled under the floor as that would seem to me to make it much more difficult to do versus the traditional open floor joist.
  • NRT_Rob
    NRT_Rob Member Posts: 1,013
    no

    having heat on a lower floor does not mean you'll be ok with a naked staple up on the floor above. Your emitter selection depends on cost, water temps, but also importantly heat load and finish floor selection. hard to choose without that, and competing quotes.
    Rob Brown
    Designer for Rockport Mechanical
    in beautiful Rockport Maine.
  • Solid_Fuel_Man
    Solid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 2,456
    edited March 2012
    All true

    I should have mentioned your situation would be different than mine, I have open joists in shop and boiler rooms with finished space above.  Open web floor trusses, or even drywalled ceiling below 2x joists makes a huge difference.  There really is no substitute for having a warm floor beneath your feet, worlds apart from a scorched air system (cheap install) and completely different than fin and tube baseboard.  I should have not said staple up, instead aluminum transfer plates under sub-floor.  Anyhow, glad to read everyones input.
    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
  • meplumber
    meplumber Member Posts: 678
    Kennebec County

    NRT_Rob is right in your area and is one of the best at radiant applications. I suggest you take advantage of having this asset in your area.
This discussion has been closed.