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Mike Kraft
Mike Kraft Member Posts: 406
I was installing a new zone yesterday on a boiler in a 5' "basement" :).While working the homeowner came back and brought some freinds in the basement to introduce me to them.It just happens that the gent is a maintenance manager for a new senior citizen complex.My client wanted me to explain why the circulator placement on a hydronic system is important.On I went............

The manager then told me how the complex has two boilers and two 80 gallon indirects.He also remarked about the Tekmar controls that talk to the boilers and know when and what boiler to fire and how hot it should get.I was begining to salvitate with mechanical envy:)We were all(4 adults)admiring the technology and listening to the man talk.

He then brought us down......."I had nothing but trouble!!"The heat was just would'nt work.The plumbing contractor was back and forth.The heat last winter was a nightmare.My mouth dried and the obvious was right there!He continued......Even the hot water.........the water temps ranged from 90*F - 160*F!!!He had hi hands full for his first winter!

I asked simply."Low bid get the job?"His wife yelled YES!!!I just gave that head shake and blank stare.As we see the owner/owners of the complex are certainly saving quite a bit of money eh?

We have all seen this so many times.Too many.......buyer beware :)So all you authors of periodicals and mag rag articles...........

"The Low Bid News"

Perhaps a new quarterly rag full of architectual/constructual nightmares.Headlines read :

X & Y Mechanical Win Bid.....

As a result HVAC failed during record breaking winters.Fuel useage soared as a result.blah blah blah.........

The complex's contractor had definite issues and the manager explained that during the setting of the equipment there was no plan.Seat of the pants apparently.He also said that the same contractor is installing phase two...hmmmm



  • Only problem is...

    the word doesn't get back to the person in charge of paying the bills. The consumer.

    I could spend hours P&Ming about the one that got away to the low bidder, only to come back to me to get it right the third time, but the only one it would do good for is ME. It would allow me to vent.

    Now, if you can take those jobs and document them and make them a part of your presentation package, then maybe the purse string holder has half a chance at seeing what happens with the low bidder.

    I wrote an article about the Billy Buttcrack hydronic guys working out of the back of a station wagon a few years ago, and it came back to bite me in the butt in court.

    I now concentrate on the positive aspects of hydronic heating in my article:-)

    Chin up Cheeze, make it work to YOUR advantage.

  • ScottMP
    ScottMP Member Posts: 5,884
    I am sure

    The owner walked away thinking " Why could'nt we have gotten that guy to do the work ".

    Your knowledge and reputation will be your best advertisment.


    To Learn More About This Contractor, Click Here to Visit Their Ad in "Find A Contractor"
  • redirected effort

    In that vein, an article that describes an optimum method for selecting a contractor, including how to qualify contractors and references, what to avoid, how to detect problems before they occur, and what the buyer is responsable for.

    Too many times we hear of buyers that get contractors that have all of the warning signs up front, but nobody noticed.

    How do YOU GUYS suggest weeding out trouble?

  • Mike T., Swampeast MO
    Mike T., Swampeast MO Member Posts: 6,928
    The hard part...

    ...is getting that information into the hands (and heads) that really need to see it!!!

    Some people will ALWAYS want to "do it on the cheap" and think, "we don't need that fancy figuring and setup" and there will ALWAYS be those willing to prey on such--even if they truly believe they are doing it "right".

    Others will ALWAYS believe that so-called professionals gouge their customers and that "anyone can do it".

    You'd probably be surprised how many parents have their kids do basic research on the web for them. If your company has its own site, MAKE CERTAIN you include a PROMINENT page covering:

    1) The absolute necessity of a proper heat loss calculation telling the customer WHY you do this and supplying a sample of "what to look for" as well as signs that might indicate "stock" (non-dedicated) calculations.

    2) The LIMITATIONS of radiant (or whatever). This alone should allow many non-informed to identify "wishful thinking" designs. While you should never dwell on what may be considered negative aspects, if you present such as REASONABLE EXPECTATION the reader will likely appreciate your honesty. Unless well-suited to your climate and experience make certain you include a discussion of the limitations of bare tube systems.

    3) The CAPABILITIES of radiant (or whatever).

    4) Links to (and copies of--WITH PERMISSION of course) progressively more technical information.

    5) Things YOU find acceptable for the CUSTOMER to do himself. While only some will be interested in this, I sincerely believe it shows your willingness to work with your customer to control costs WITHOUT compromising quality.


  • Already done...

    Noel et al, I wrote this article for the Radiant Panel Association a couple of years ago. Use it as you see fit, delete those items you disagree with like requiring down payments. To each his own on that soft subject...

    A Consumers Guide to purchasing Radiant Heating systems.

    So, you've seen it on television, and you've heard about it on the radio. You even have a friend who has a friend that had it installed in their home, and you think you're ready to make the big plunge into the world of radiant heating. So where does a person start? You've been to the Yellow Pages, and you didn't even find a category for Radiant Heating. You asked your friend with a friend that had it installed, only to find that the guy he had install it left town with numerous creditors chasing him. Fear not, there are some good radiant heating contractors out there. You just have to know where to find them and you must understand what it is that you're looking for.

    Where to start? An excellent resource is to check for local members of a national association, like the Radiant Panel Association. But just because you found someone who is a member of a national organization doesn't necessarily mean that you've completed your homework. The fact that they're a member of a national organization indicates that they are interested in doing the job correctly, but it doesn't always mean that they are the best people for the job.

    Before you make the decision as to what contractor to use, you have a lot of homework to do. You should familiarize yourself with all the different methods of applications of radiant heating.

    Most people are familiar with the radiant floor aspect of radiant heating, but it is by no means the only method of radiant heating. It is the most comfortable, but it's not the only way to go. Even within the radiant floor category, there are numerous means and methods of providing radiant comfort. The tube can be installed below the floor, suspended just below the floor, or installed in heat transmission plates. It can be installed on top of the floor, in metal and wood heat transmission plates, or stapled to the top of the floor and poured in a cementicous material. All of these different methods have certain benefits to their credit, and all of them have detractors. For example, it you chose to go above the floor with the tube embedded in a cement like material, can you afford to give up the 1-1/2" to 2" of headspace that will be lost to the installation? Can your floors structural system handle the additional dead load weight factors being imparted to them without additional beefing up? What kind of floor finish can be applied over this type of system?

    This is just a minor example of the questions that must be asked, and answered before you even begin making the decision as to which contractor to use. What about some other methods of providing radiant comfort.

    What about radiant ceilings? A radiant ceiling can offer comfort conditions very comparable to those of radiant floors. In fact, many people who have radiant ceilings think they have radiant floors because the floor is so warm. This is due to the inherent nature of radiant heating systems to reflect heat in mother natures effort to balance out any differences in surface temperatures.

    A radiant ceiling heating systems installed cost is generally less than a radiant floor heating systems installed cost. With a radiant floor heating system, even though theoretically, it is not necessary to install heat in every square foot of floor space, you want warm floors everywhere you walk, therefore it becomes necessary to install tubing everywhere in the house floor, even in areas that don't technically need it. With a radiant ceiling heating system, you install heat only in those areas that need it, which is typically just in those areas near the outer perimeter of the home. This results in a lot less tubing having to be installed, which equates to considerable installed cost savings. When considering this type of installation for a retrofit consideration, the only detractor would be the loss of approximately 1-1/2" of ceiling height. You won't have to worry about details like floor finishes, cutting off the bottoms of doors, raising counter tops and structural beefing considerations.

    What about those European style steel panel radiators? I have some of these in my own home, and I can tell you from experience that they too are extremely comfortable. The only possible detractor of their installation has to do with the panel radiator's location. Ideally, it should be located near an outside window, and its "view" of the room should be unobstructed. This presents some challenges to furniture placement that aren't considerations with radiant floors or ceilings. It's not a fix all system, but it does represent another option.

    What about the driving force behind these wonderful heat emitters? What kinds of decisions need to be made there? What are your needs? What are your wants? Do you want the system to be able to heat your domestic hot water needs? Do you want it to take care of melting ice and snow on that north facing porch and sidewalk? Do you need it to heat up the garage for that occasional fit of Home Time? Do you want a Ford or a Chevy, or do you want a Cadillac, Mercedes Benz or possibly even a Rolls Royce? What does your contractor have to offer? Remember that the driving force behind your physical plant will represent one of the more expensive individual components in your comfort system selection. It's important to know the different options available. It's also important to understand the need for a good and efficient means of controlling this system. An under controlled system may be able to provide heat, but heat and comfort are two completely different things. Then there's the question of operating efficiency. Some of the most comfortable systems in the world are also the least efficient. Ask your contractor how they intend to control this wonderful heating system you are planning.

    How many zones are you planning on having? Typically, there are the big three. Sleeping areas, common living spaces, and occasional use living areas. In addition to these, depending on the system you choose, other individual rooms or groups of rooms can be independently zoned. I strongly recommend that the master bathroom be a zone by itself, separated from the sleeping area because you are usually wearing less clothing and are typically wet in the bathroom, hence the need for a higher room temperature than you would typically keep a bedroom or sleeping area at. But these are decisions that you will have to make.

    What about finish floor coverings? Are there some types of flooring that can't be used with radiant heat? The correct answer to this is, it depends. It depends on how large of a heating load you are trying to carry with the floor, and if you're not using the floor to carry the load then it doesn't matter. If you are using the floor to heat the home, the harder and thinner the finish flooring materials are, the better off you will be. Putting thick carpet and pad on a radiant floor heating system is like tossing a thick wool blanket on top of an old upright cast iron radiator. It has a tendency to stifle the heat output of the radiator. Choose your floor finish materials carefully when dealing with radiant floor heating systems.

    There are no finish flooring systems that can't be used with radiant floor heating systems, it's just that some of them require hotter water temperatures and closer tube spacing in order for the floor to put out it's maximum potential. In some rare cases, depending on the system type, age of the home and floor coverings chosen, it may be necessary to provide above floor "augmentation heat" for those extremely cold periods of time. These features are extremely important to the designer/contractor who will be installing your comfort system.

    How does a person choose their installation contractor? First off, you need to find someone who has experience in the hydronic heating field, and preferably someone with experience in the radiant aspects of hydronic heating. Although it's not rocket science, it is substantially more complicated than simply running water lines and it does require certain knowledge about the physical limits imposed by different methods of heating, and choices in physical plant. After you've done your homework and decided what type of system you want, call up a couple of qualified contractors and have them come meet with you. Have a set a blue print or house plans available for them to take back to their offices. Show them what you have in mind as it pertains to zoning, floor finishes and what you expect in the way of physical plant considerations.

    If they have not already offered it, ask them to show you proof of liability and workmen's compensation insurance. Ask them what associations they belong to. Ask them if their employees are trained on a regular basis, and find out if any of them are certified in the installation of radiant heating systems.

    Ask them for references that you can call up, and call these references and ask them if they would mind if you came by to look at their installation. When you get to the references home, ask the homeowner if they're happy with the system. Ask them if they're happy with the installing contractor. Find out if they've had any problems with the system, and find out how the installing contractor responded to those problems.

    Pay particular attention to the quality of the installation. Are the pipes installed in a neat, straight and orderly manner? Did they wipe the excess solder and flux off of their soldered joints? Are there any signs of leaks in the boiler room? Does the wiring appear to have been done in a professional manner? Were the owners given an Owners Manual pertaining to the heating system? Were they shown where all of the emergency shut off valves and switches to their heating system are located?

    Although you may not be able to find the 'perfect' dealer as it pertains to all of these issues, if you request that the installation contractors include these details in their proposals, you and they will know exactly what is included in their proposal. You will also be getting closer to an apples to apples bid comparison, because all of the people involved are playing from the same page.

    Be wary of the contractor who demands money up front. The contractors inability to purchase the materials and labor necessary to perform the work on their own without using your money could indicate that they may not be the best businessmen in the world to do business with. Instead, offer to pay them for work completed in a timely manner. If they balk at that idea, you may want to consider doing business with someone else.

    In general, become an intelligent consumer. Do your homework before you begin calling contractors. This way, you will not be intimidated by terms and jargon you do not understand. Make sure you check out their references and visit their completed job sites. Ask a lot of questions. You are getting ready to purchase what just might be the most expensive individual component your house will ever see, and when done properly, it will provide you with many years of highly efficient, trouble free comfort. Shop wisely, and don't always choose the lowest price. Lowest is not always the best. Look for value, benefits and features and don't make your decision based on price alone.

    An excellent information resource for radiant customers is the Radiant Panel Association, They can be reached at P.O. Box 717, Loveland, Colorado 80539, telephone (970)- 613-0100, or visit their web site at www.radiantpanelassociation.org .

    About the Author; Mark Eatherton is a principle of a firm named Advanced Hydronics, Inc in Denver Colorado. He teaches numerous courses on hydronic heating at Red Rocks Community College in Denver. He is also an authorized instructor for the Radiant Panel Association. He can be reached at 303-778-7772, or on line at [email protected]
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