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Can anyone debunk this article?

I am getting radiant heating installed and this article on hydronic heating myths has really scared me off as I'm seeing all the complexities with this system. I am interested in opinions on this: http://livingstingy.blogspot.com/2010/05/do-you-really-want-hydronic-heating.html. The concern I have is that there is a ton of pex running through the house and there are a lot of angle connectors and fused pipes (excuse my lack of knowledge on terms), and I am very worried about leaks.
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Comments

  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,537
    edited November 2014
    What a bunch of malarkey. There I just debunked an article written by someone who has no clue what he is writing about, but yet writes as he is an authourity of such mechanics.

    A hydronic system can be as simple, or as complicated as you want to make it. As far as longevity mine has been in place since 1952' and only on its second boiler that's 62 years. I have ceiling, and floor radiant. Other systems are over 100 years old out there, and still going.

    List your concerns, other than leaks because that should not be a concern. Pex and its connections when properly done are very reliable, and not hidden. A typical system only runs in the 12-15 psi range.

    Nose,around in the museum, and library very educational,, and historical,literature if you want to educate yourself you came to the right web site now.
    Harvey RamerIronmanRobG
  • Tinman
    Tinman Member Posts: 2,797
    edited November 2014
    Fortunately, we live in an age where information travels very fast. But unfortunately, misinformation travels just as fast. It was very hard for me to read that article without getting irritated. One falsehood after another after another. I would say that 99.9% of my customers who have, or once had, some form of hydronic heat in their home or office said it was the best form of heat they've ever experienced. In terms of degree of difficulty? ...I guess that would depend on who is designing, installing, and servicing your hydronic system. This site is loaded with professionals who eat, sleep, and live Hydronics. Hang around a while. You'll see. And learn. And come to love it.
    Steve Minnich
    IronmanGordyRobGToddAK
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,359
    Just out of curiosity could you post some pics of the things that have you worried? If there are specific items you are concerned about post the pictures and people can comment to put you at ease about your specific situation. I agree that article is garbage...it was written by an attorney and the blog is called living stingy...aka CHEAP.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    He lives in Georgia.

    If not for Mr. York or Mr Lennox, few would live in Georgia in the because they can't take the heat. Air Conditioning made the South livable.

    Check HVAC-talk and their Wall of Shame for examples of quality installs in the warmer more humid climes.
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,435
    This leak thing is a big concern. He really needs to get rid of all those higher pressure domestic water pipes in his house.
    Anyone who has ever seen the inside of a typical forced air duct would never have a forced air system installed, nasty stuff.
    As Ice will say, this guy suffers from the "cheap gene". In his case it is so bad it is causing blindness.
    Carl
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,359
    Cheap people only see what they want to see and it's usually not the truth.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,914
    Well,
    I skimmed through, saw this and stopped reading.

    "2. Efficiency: The "boiler" is a boiler, but running at below boiling point. So it runs in an inefficient range.

    That statement makes absolutely no sense.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,359
    edited November 2014
    Chris you should like that statement...he is saying boiling is more efficient. That translates to steam is more efficient! :) It also translates to that guy has zero concept of heat loss BTU's or efficiency.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,537
    That article may as well have been written by a two year old.

    Another genius waiting to happen .........and still waiting.
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,359
    Perhaps someone should comment with a link to this thread so that guy can be properly educated. lol
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,914
    KC_Jones said:

    Perhaps someone should comment with a link to this thread so that guy can be properly educated. lol

    No point,
    He clearly likes forced hot dust because it's cheap to install and that's about all it has ever had going for it.

    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,537
    edited November 2014
    A link to this thread would be better so he can reevaluate his knowledge gene.
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,435
    Check out the rest of his website.
    A lawyer this smart really should be a judge....
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,359
    Gordy said:

    A link to this thread would be better so he can reevaluate his knowledge gene.

    Think he is smart enough to even make that evaluation? lol
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • Paul Pollets
    Paul Pollets Member Posts: 3,573
    What a joke! Attorneys should stick to law and not hydronics.
  • R2.0
    R2.0 Member Posts: 99
    He demonstrates some fundamental misunderstanding of what heat actually is. For instance, he replaced a tankless coil because it heats up the air while on standby with an electric water heater that...what? Magically heats the water instantaneously? Or sits there with 40 gallons of 120F water vs 10 gallons of 180F?

    Likewise, he talks about zoning and individual room control being unnecessary, but then complains that in floor radiant cant give "spot heat" - aka localized heating - like a forced air furnace can. He sounds like my Mom, who never learned that a thermostat is not a manual switch and is constantly moving it up and down to turn the heat on and off.

    I also like the "Boilers only last 10-15 years, and you have expensive maintenance to do." Uh, no - if you do the maintenance, they last far longer than a furnace does. The problems he describes is because he is an (admitted) cheapskate and won't pay for maintenance now to save money later. Same with his recommendations for forced hot air - cheaper up front costs, more expensive in the long run.

    And there's no use in trying to point it out to him, because he is the type who simply won't change his mind, regardless of the data. He's a lawyer - facts don't matter, only what you can make someone believe.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,914
    edited November 2014
    R2.0 said:

    He demonstrates some fundamental misunderstanding of what heat actually is. For instance, he replaced a tankless coil because it heats up the air while on standby with an electric water heater that...what? Magically heats the water instantaneously? Or sits there with 40 gallons of 120F water vs 10 gallons of 180F?

    Likewise, he talks about zoning and individual room control being unnecessary, but then complains that in floor radiant cant give "spot heat" - aka localized heating - like a forced air furnace can. He sounds like my Mom, who never learned that a thermostat is not a manual switch and is constantly moving it up and down to turn the heat on and off.

    I also like the "Boilers only last 10-15 years, and you have expensive maintenance to do." Uh, no - if you do the maintenance, they last far longer than a furnace does. The problems he describes is because he is an (admitted) cheapskate and won't pay for maintenance now to save money later. Same with his recommendations for forced hot air - cheaper up front costs, more expensive in the long run.

    And there's no use in trying to point it out to him, because he is the type who simply won't change his mind, regardless of the data. He's a lawyer - facts don't matter, only what you can make someone believe.


    I agree with you for the most part except for the 40 gallons @ 120F vs 10 gallons @ 180F.

    The main problem is the fact many quality water heaters now have 1" and even 2" foam insulation around the tank vs your typical boiler that has what, 1/2" of fiberglass if that?

    I feel practically no warmth coming from my 50 gallon powervent heater but I sure feel a lot coming from my boiler.

    Personally, I'd rather a good electric heater with 2" insulation over a tankless any day if those were my only two choices. Not to mention most tankless coils can barely handle 3GPM and I run my domestic hot water @ 140F.



    Don't take this as me defending the guy. He has no idea what he's talking about.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • Condoman
    Condoman Member Posts: 88
    Here is a DIY homeowners take on this. I moved from 30 years in a condo to a 1959 ranch a few years ago. We went from electric furnace (read toaster with fan) with A/C. I had never owned a oil fired boiler in my 60+ years.

    First rule was I did not want to be in the burner business. Found a good oil supplier with technical repair staff and got under contract for the burner work.

    Next, we were lucky to have all new baseboard with a single zone pex piped system and a 3 year old boiler.

    We had an addition put on and I plumbed the new baseboard keeping it single zone. Working with pex was easy and no leaks were created. Don't get me wrong you need to study, read and ask questions to get it done right.

    I feel oil fired hydronic is a good choice given what we got with this home. I do keep a spare circulation pump on hand because it will fail some day. All of this is better than an electric furnace in a high rise condo.

    My $.02 worth
  • Docfletcher
    Docfletcher Member Posts: 483
    I converted from central plenum forced hot air to hydronic 20+ years ago. Forced hot air in my house, was dusty, drafty, noisy, warm when the furnace was on and cold when off. Yes it had a filter for dust and it got some of it, but only after blowing the dust throughout the house.

    Hydronic heat just feels better. I am very glad I changed over, well worth the work involved. I had a very good friend without whose help I would not have been able to pull it off .

    It is my understanding the houses designed for hot air with return plenums in each room are somewhat better.
  • R2.0
    R2.0 Member Posts: 99
    ChrisJ said:



    I agree with you for the most part except for the 40 gallons @ 120F vs 10 gallons @ 180F.

    The main problem is the fact many quality water heaters now have 1" and even 2" foam insulation around the tank vs your typical boiler that has what, 1/2" of fiberglass if that?

    I feel practically no warmth coming from my 50 gallon powervent heater but I sure feel a lot coming from my boiler.

    Personally, I'd rather a good electric heater with 2" insulation over a tankless any day if those were my only two choices. Not to mention most tankless coils can barely handle 3GPM and I run my domestic hot water @ 140F.

    Don't take this as me defending the guy. He has no idea what he's talking about.

    True. But if we are talking about cost, fuel needs to be taken into account as well. The Department of Energy has a nice spreadsheet they update that compares fuel prices on a normalized basis. Heatcalc.exe Here's a screen shot:


    So, on an adjusted basis, while electricity is about par with oil, it is three times as expensive as natural gas.

    Oddly enough I was faced with this very question when I had my new boiler installed. I converted from oil to gas. The original boiler from the 40's had a tankless coil or other device, as the stub outs were still there. But at the last boiler replacement the previous owners had installed an electric at another place on the system instead of a tankless coil. The boiler I purchased had one, so I had it hooked up to the old stubs. My plan was to use the tankless in the winter and the electric in the summer. But then I did the math. :o

    I'm not saying that a tankless coil is always preferable over an electric - I didn't get into hard water, etc. Just pointing out that it always helps to look at the whole picture.


  • David Nadle
    David Nadle Member Posts: 624
    I've seen this guy's blog before and this is by far the worst of his posts. Some of them are actually pretty good. But he obviously doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to zoning or boiler efficiency, for starters. Too much of his critique is based on hypothetical catastrophes that have near-zero likelihood. He's also apparently not aware of concepts like two-stage heat.

    Besides the factual inaccuracies in the post, he misses the subjective big picture. I think it's fair to say that for most people, any kind of radiant heat, hydronic or not, just feels better and provides better comfort than forced air. That alone justifies any extra expense or complexity, unless your goal in life is to be "stingy."
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,914
    edited November 2014
    R2.0 said:


    So, on an adjusted basis, while electricity is about par with oil, it is three times as expensive as natural gas.

    This is why I installed a natural gas power vent water heater when I switched to NG in 2011.
    I was assuming if someone is considering a tankless coil it's most likely because they are using oil.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • RobG
    RobG Member Posts: 1,850
    As I am a former resident of Fairfax County Va. he is also confusing polybutylene with cross linked polyethlyne (PEX). Two completely different animals.
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,359
    RobG said:

    As I am a former resident of Fairfax County Va. he is also confusing polybutylene with cross linked polyethlyne (PEX). Two completely different animals.

    He is confusing something? I am shocked...I think I need to sit down.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • FranklinD
    FranklinD Member Posts: 399
    Wow. No wonder comments were disabled on his blog. Funny. My 110 year old house is on it's 3rd boiler as of last year. My radiators, pipes, and hand valves are all original, and now all the valves are freed up and working. Did I spend some $ to replace the boiler? Sure. Comparing to what my friend spent to replace his furnace last year, I spent about 2.5X what he did. But it's his second furnace in 8 years. And I'm sure he'll replace it 2-3 more times, minimum, before I replace my boiler again.

    I'll take the even, comfortable heat, versus having a blow dryer pointed at me in every room, thank you very much.
    Ford Master Technician, "Tinkerer of Terror"
    Police & Fire Equipment Lead Mechanic, NW WI
    Lover of Old Homes & Gravity Hot Water Systems
  • jamesgeorge
    jamesgeorge Member Posts: 2
    many thanks for the reassurance. I had a forced air system in my last home and never felt comfortable. I attached a picture of the connection between pex. Installer said this is normal with some copper ring inside. I was concerned about leaks between these. There are also some elbow ones too which seem very constrictive for water flow. Do these joints stay together for 50+ years? Will they degrade?
  • Docfletcher
    Docfletcher Member Posts: 483
    edited November 2014
    I don't like those crimp steel connections. I'd feel better if he used using Uponor pro pex.
  • Harvey Ramer
    Harvey Ramer Member Posts: 2,225
    Uponor Propex is the connection I trust. I have never had one break or leak. And it's less restrictive. I like that.

    The insert fitting you have pictured, has a flow restriction equal to 13' of pipe. Start counting your 90's. It adds up fast! I have have seen those leak, but very rarely. I see a lot more leaks in copper.

    Harvey
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,914
    edited November 2014
    I'm a homeowner and a copper man my self, but that's mainly because it's what I know how to do and have the tools for not to mention the pex fittings are typically more expensive than copper. When you're only doing a few and doing them yourself time isn't really money.

    That said, my opinion is people thought the same thing about PVC when it came out but how many times do you see 4" cast iron waste lines installed in a modern building? Pretty much never because PVC is awesome for drains.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • FranklinD
    FranklinD Member Posts: 399
    I used 3/4 pex for the majority of my domestic cold/hot water plumbing. I've never used the type with those clamps, only the solid crimp rings. I agree, that particular style is very restrictive, as are the type I used (that's why the major branches are all 3/4...and we don't have a lot of plumbing in this house). I've never had a leak or a problem.

    I've toyed with the idea of barrier pex home runs to each rad...but as long as the existing pipe is good, it'll stay.

    I've read a lot of positive and negative stuff about pex. Some people swear it'll kill you eventually, my take on it is that a LOT of things will do that. It's been around long enough to where it doesn't concern me at all.

    I haven't had the chance to use it in a heating system, though...but I do know several people with radiant systems that use it with absolutely no problems, and have been for years.
    Ford Master Technician, "Tinkerer of Terror"
    Police & Fire Equipment Lead Mechanic, NW WI
    Lover of Old Homes & Gravity Hot Water Systems
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    You should see that PEX blow apart when it freezes. Same with Copper Press fittings. Where I worked, the only ones who used those fittings and SS rings were the irrigation contractors and they used it on 80# pipe.

    Those fittings made with the SS Rings probably have the tube heated up so they can get the fittings on the tube. Especially in cold weather.
  • Harvey Ramer
    Harvey Ramer Member Posts: 2,225
    I wonder if Uponor ever freeze tested their Propress connections? I have seen them apply linear force to a connection and stretch the tube out as thin as a pencil. Connection never let loose. The way it's designed, it gets tighter when you pull on it. Just like Chinese fingers.
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    Every PEX system which does not use an expander tool has highly restrictive fittings. Combine this with the smaller inside diameter of SDR9 PEX and you'd better do some math before you replace like for like on copper with PEX.

    If the lawyer in question were actually interested in learning anything, he might consider allowing at least moderated comments to be posted. FAIL.
    icesailor
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    It's not the pipe that goes in a freeze-up, it's the fittings.
  • kcopp
    kcopp Member Posts: 4,095
    SWEI said:

    It's not the pipe that goes in a freeze-up, it's the fittings.

    Not that I have seen.
    I have seen a number of HWBB installs that have used Uponor/ Wirsbo HePex. the breaks were about 1" off the area where the baseboard adapter fitting made the transition.

  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    Interesting. We use mostly EP fittings and they are great for pretty much everything -- except freezing. Transition fittings are brass, of course, and the LF stuff appears to be more brittle than the old ones were.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,914
    What is the reason all hot water systems don't use antifreeze?
    I'd think it would not only offer freeze protection, but wouldn't it be a corrosion inhibitor as well?

    What are the cons to it?
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • robertplattbell
    robertplattbell Member Posts: 2
    edited November 2014
    To all you haters out there who never actually READ my article about hydronic heating:

    1. The house in question was in New York State, in King Ferry New York, on Cayuga Lake. It was not in Georgia.

    2. I am a Patent Attorney, but my undergraduate degree is in Electrical Engineering. I went to S.U. while working for a small company called Carrier Corporation, in Syracuse New York, as a laboratory technician in the heavy machinery (industrial chiller) and air handling labs, as well as the packaged unitary rooftop lab. TR-1, TR-7A and TR-19, for five years.

    3. Prior to that, I worked at General Motors in the industrial Engineering department and studied industrial hydraulic and pneumatics while at General Motors Institute. Yes, that involved maintenance on plant HVAC systems. I know how to turn a wrench - a six-foot pipe wrench, to be exact.

    4. A "boiler" used in Hydronic heating does not boil water. It is designed to boil water, but instead is run at a below boiling point range - which is less than efficieent. If water pressure ever goes low, yes the water will boil and blow out all our circulation pumps. Ask me how I know this.

    5. Hydronic heating is far more costly, complicated and prone to failure than any other type of heating system. This would be fine if it delivered benefits, such as efficiency, that justify the extra cost. Sadly, it delivers no benefits whatsoever.

    6. Google "PEX Class Action Lawsuit" Any form of plumbing embedded in concrete floors is prone to expensive trouble down the road (10-20 years).

    7. Forced Air systems are not "dusty" but rater remove dust from the air. Hydronic heating, however, just allows dust to settle everywhere. Dust is mostly your dead skin cells that you shed by the millions every day. With hydronic heat, this settles on everything. With forced air, it is removed from the house by the filter, which can then be thrown away.

    9. The cost delta is so staggering. A simple furnace can be replaced for a couple thousand dollars. A hydronic system? Each circulating pump can cost a few hundred. The boiler can cost thousands (particularly condensing boilers). Controls, piping, etc. add even more. The labor to install is staggering.

    10. If you've never had leaks, good for you. Unfortunately I have. And the previous owner of the house had them as well (and never told me). If you are not home when the house starts to leak, it can be a nightmare, particularly with hardwood floors. And then there are mold issues, even after the leak is fixed. We're talking about a system installed in the 1990's, too.

    12. Hydronic heating accounts for about 1.5% of the heating market. That says it all. No one uses this - it's just too darn expensive and provides no real benefit.

    12. Hydronic heating doesn't work very well in the Spring or fall. It can take hours for the system to bring the house up to temperature. By then, the sun is out and it is too hot - so you open windows. Not very efficient!

    13. You can't add A/C to hydronic heat, but it is a simple matter to add it to a forced-air furnace. The house I bought had hydronic heat. to add A/C, I had to install four split systems and two portable A/C units. Running ductwork, once the house was built, was prohibitively expensive.

    Sorry guys, but no sale to unnecessarily complicated technology. KISS -Keep It Simple, Steven.

    WHAT IS REALLY TELLING TO ME is that few of you attack my arguments, but instead make personal attacks. I guess if you can't refute the facts......

    And the facts all have dollar signs attached to them.
  • Docfletcher
    Docfletcher Member Posts: 483
    I'm no expert but experience has taught me it can turn acidic. It's expensive, and it reduces efficiency. I used to use about 8 years ago. Now I just use water.
  • robertplattbell
    robertplattbell Member Posts: 2

    I'm no expert but experience has taught me it can turn acidic. It's expensive, and it reduces efficiency. I used to use about 8 years ago. Now I just use water.

    This is a very interesting issue. Our house did not have antifreeze in the system when I bough it, although it was filled with anti-freeze when built.

    Some claim that antifreeze degrades efficiency. The special antifreeze for hydronic systems can be fairly expensive. In Central New York, most contractors did not stock it, and did not recommend it. People in Maine, however, tell me that it is more common - power outages are more common there, and frozen pipes are a nightmare.

    I only wished I had gone the anti-freeze route, as this was a vacation home, and running the hydronic system all winter, unattended, was problematic. It wasn't until we sold the home that I found a source for antifreeze. It may have helped with galvanic corrosion problems as well.

    Leo_I_G