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What Do You Think? - New Product SmartTrac

PhotoGuy Member Posts: 28
I'm new here and looking for input.  This is just my first question of what I would guess will be many!  Like other DIY'ers, I'm looking for two things; project done correctly and as low a cost as possible!  (Correctly trumps cost!)

That being said, I just started looking around for what I can use for radiant floors. This project is new construction with almost all the drywall up (and everything done that goes before that - electrical, insulation, etc.). The last thing I need to do before the mill-work and paint is to get the radiant floor in. 

I did research in the past and saw the usual stuff when it came to above floor sandwich with aluminum plates.  Now, I see that Watts Radiant has a new product on the market called "SmartTrac" panels.  Along the same line as something like Uponor Quik Trak or Viega Climate Panel, these are 2' x 2' pieces of pre-cut MDF notched with grooves to accept pex 3/8" (1/2"od) tubing.

I am finding no information when it comes to reviews on this product.  Not a big surprise as they came out with it last September I believe.  I wouldn't expect many reviews but I would have expected some - at least some opinions on it.  So far all my searches turn up nothing! 

I am interested in this product for two reasons.  First is cost.  I can easily make these 2' x 2' pieces on my own and save a ton of money.  I would think shipping is the greatest savings when it comes to products like these (MDF is heavy!).  I also have a friend that has access to a CNC machine and is more that happy to help.  The second reason is the aluminum - or should I say lack there of!  This is another large cost that is molded into other products like the two I mentioned.  Watts Radiant used to have a product called "SunRay" that was much like this SmartTrac that replaced it.  The difference was that once the pex was inserted in the "open spaces" of the SunRay, aluminum sheets were placed over the grooves perpendicular to the pex.  Now, with the SmartTrac, there is just the tight groove that the pex goes in - no aluminum is used at all.  I called Watts Radiant and they stated that the aluminum in the past was not worth the cost.  According to his customers, cost/benefit ratio of aluminum did not justify it's use. 

My whole project will consist of tile floors other than in the bedrooms.  The bedrooms will have floating engineered wood.  So, what do you think of this new stuff?  Any input is obviously appreciated.  Thanks in advance!  

Here is a link to the product which includes a couple standard videos: <a href="http://www.wattsradiant.com/products/smarttrac/">http://www.wattsradiant.com/products/smarttrac/</a>


  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,328

    Have you done a heat loss calculation?

    Are you using a condensing boiler.

    The manufacture has data on the output of the panel.at different temps. http://www.wattsradiant.com/support/literature/#/wattsradiant-products-hydronic-smarttrac/IOM-WR-SmartTrac

    Non aluminum plate system will require higher water temps.This will give you lower efficiency with a condensing boiler.

    What recommendations does the flooring manufacture have regarding water temps. Be sure not to void the flooring warrantee.

    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,514

    As to what material the panel is constructed from seems like MDF but with only 1/8" at the grooves for thickness I find it hard to believe. It is water sensitive as they stress moisture prevention needing extra attention.

    Don't like being tied to 1' centers, and no aluminum to lower water temps, and spread heat. Output not so hot.

    Don't know how cost relates to a more robust warm board, or roth panel
  • Harvey Ramer
    Harvey Ramer Member Posts: 2,221
    My personal opinion.

    I would be nervous using MDF in a floor. It turns to crap at a hint of moisture and I have never seen a floor that didn't get water spilled on it.