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new construction advice

mke99 Member Posts: 2
Hi all,

I am building a new house. Want to make it as green as possible. Will go with geothermal and solar panels.

Now trying to decide forced air vs radiant heating. I live in midwest, so will need ducts for AC. My contractor wants to do radiant hydraulic heating in the basement within the concrete floor and in the bathrooms under the tile, but forced air everywhere else.

The house is going to be quite large and will have 2 stories and the basement.

Money is the issue and I do have a budget. I know radiant heating has some "comfort and health" advantages, but here I am looking just at the financial aspect. At the end, one of the big reasons for me to go green is to get the money back in the long term.

So, any suggestions as far as the cost vs efficiency goes?

Can I get away with radiant heat only, or will I still need supplemental forced heating?

How much additional expense do I incur to put radiant heat?

Will it be more efficient than forced air and good quality furnace? Will I recoup the extra cost?

If I go with radiant, should I use light weight concrete or special prefabricated plywood for tubng?

Thanks so much.


  • Harvey Ramer
    Harvey Ramer Member Posts: 2,239
    Simply put,

    if you go with a well designed radiant heating system, you will never regret it regardless of the initial cost. The entire premise of building and living in a house is after all, merely a solution to provide physical and physiological comfort. Why not be as comfortable as you can as much of the time as you can? You only have one lifetime to live. I have never seen the point of putting oneself through a life of misery and sacrifice in order to die rich. Doesn't make sense. Also it is important to leave this place a little better than we found it. Everybody who builds and creates has a duty to humanity and should do so with future generations in mind. If all we ever do is take, soon this world will have nothing left to give.

    Those are my thoughts for the night. Hopefully somewhere in the scrambled parables you can find some reasoning that will direct you in the right path. As far as a dollars and cents conversation, I am not interested and a lot of other Wallies aren't either.

  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,853
    edited February 2014
    You really should consider radiant heating AND cooling...

    Then the necessary duct work for the latent cooling needs and the ventilation needs will be significantly smaller.

    If you want to go with alternative energy, radiant heating and cooling systems provides THE best vehicle for delivering those precious BTU's. Can you use forced air? Yes, but, you will NEVER be as comfortable, and the system will NEVER be as efficient as it would/could/should be if you went full hydronics.

    If your budget is in a crunch, consider going with radiant ceilings instead of radiant floors throughout. Reserve radiant floors for areas where it really makes a lOT of sense, like bathrooms. Otherwise, consider radiant ceilings and or walls, get the benefit of true radiant comfort, and live within your means.

    If your hydronics contractor doesn't understand radiant cooling, have him contact a major tube extruder and have them give him guidance. It is no longer a "concept", but is now a proven method of delivering excellent, extremely efficient comfort. You have one chance to do it right…

    Also, we don't discuss price here for obvious reasons. but you can expect the radiant system to come in possibly as much as 2 X the forced error system, and a combo heating/cooling system somewhere around2.5 to 3 X as expensive, but well worth it. You WILL get the money back when you sell your home.

    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.
  • mke99
    mke99 Member Posts: 2

    Thanks everyone for the suggestions.