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Poor Radiant Installation - HELP!

The installation should have used extruded plates. Cold Lake, AB is not suspended tube country. It's not even staple-up rubber tube country. Those may work in more mild climates, but definitely not in Alberta. Make sure whomever corrects this system uses some sort of extruded under-floor plate Dont let him use the cheap sheet metal "plates".

There's no need for under floor partitioning with plates either. The direct conduction takes care of it.

-Andrew

Comments

  • Jason Whaley
    Jason Whaley Member Posts: 5
    HELP! Poor Radiant Installation - pictures enclosed

    I recently had radiant heat installed in a new house (Cold Lake, AB, Canada). The plumber fastened the PEX tubing on the bottom of the floor joists, approximately 14 inches from the sub floor. Reflective foil wrap was placed right underneath. After one winter, the boiler and pumps never turned off, and the pumps were extremely hot to the touch. Also, our heating bills were 'through the roof'. I wanted to ask one of your in-house experts if the install should have been carried out differently - specifically, having the PEX tubing placed directly underneath (contacting) the sub floor, and a different form of insulation (thick fiberglass with a reflective side). I was also told that I could not zone individual rooms with in-floor heating prior to the install. Is there any truth to that claim?

    The following are three pictures of the setup. Our house is a brand-new 2200 square foot single level ranch-style home. Any insight into this issue would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for you time.



    Sincerely,


    Jason Whaley
    [email protected]
  • Paul Pollets
    Paul Pollets Member Posts: 3,656
    Jason....

    Thanks for sharing your concerns. After looking at the boiler and "near boiler" piping....you can expect very high fuel costs for this install, and probably very little heat from the floors. It's too bad the contractor didn't "do the math".

    Using so many pumps without a mixing strategy, combined with the joist bay suspended piping, makes this project stand out as an example of what not to do. Who would want a system that costs more to run than the mortgage?...and still isn't comfortable?

    As I mentioned in my email last nite, Robert Bean will help you connect with the right approach and contractor.

    For contractors or homeowners who view this...understand that all systems need a control strategy and piping application that delivers the lowest water temperatures with the highest efficiencies. Those who install suspended systems without transfer plates, usually seem to have the most problems.

    Was this a "budget" approach or did the contractor have minimal training?



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  • hr
    hr Member Posts: 6,106
    Open web truss

    joist make for a somewhat complicated insulation detail. Especially between rooms or zones! you would need to box off the various joist where zones are split. End insulation, at the rim joist, is critical! I'd bet this is where you most "loss" is occuring. I like to use a spray foam at that point. The more the better. we use Isoneyne on open web jobs.

    Mixing devices will not fix that system. I doubt that you could ever get hot enough temperatures to make that system perform. But the heat loss would tell the true story.

    Suspended tube does have a place in the industry, if you work within it's output restraints. I'm not sure I would classify that as a "factory approved" suspended tube installation. I feel suspended tube needs at least an R-19 when you start running temperatures in the 140 and up range.

    Start over with a nice transfer plate installation and a much beefier insulation detail.

    hot rod

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  • Simply Rad_2
    Simply Rad_2 Member Posts: 171
    Lucky!

    Jason
    You are very lucky this is under a crawlspace. Latety I have had alot of service call with this exact senario except there was no crawl space. There was drywall! Thats a much harder decision to make. Go with the extruded plates and better insulation package and who will be a happier and wealthier man.
    Jeffrey
  • joel_19
    joel_19 Member Posts: 931
    Hot Rod

    I would politely disagree with you on suspended tube being acceptable if used within it's limits. In my mind it has no place in the industry at all. I think this gentlemans problems help prove it.


    You've done alot of great testing on your own and documented the heat outputs of various install styles . Please correct me if I'm wrong but wouldn't a suspended system always need higher water temps then a plate system , or better still an " on top " system.
    Since our goal should be the lowest possable water temps for maximum eff and comfort why would we consider joist suspended , even if we can technically make it work in some situations ?.

    Another factor is the one size fits all approach that is purported by some web sites which homeowners are drawn to . This is perhaps a bigger problem . These sites promote installs that will not work in many locations or in some styles of construction. Yet homeowners are not informed of this and are drawn into these sites who are all to happy to take thier money .

    I just looked at one where the owner was sold non barrier tube , told to put it 16" OC stapled up in home made plates . They also sold him a water heater which is against code as a heat source in our state. He consequently bought a boiler on his own which can't be hooked up to the non barrier tube without voiding the warrantee , it goes on and on. They sell this set up all over the place wether it's legal or not and wether it will work or not.

    My point is that since that type of system , or joist suspended as in this case will only work in very narrow paremeters , and then only poorly at best , that we should not endorse these types of installs at all. The fear being that since they will continue to be misapplied , in the long run they do more harm to the industry than good.

    P.S Erika saw the beautiful bed in PM that you made . Thanx alot !! I don't have the art skills to make that thing , further proving my inadequacy as a husband . Even so I know it will end up on the "honey do" list. Who wants to buy my fishing pole and golf clubs ? 'cause I'd spend my life trying to build that!


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  • Jason Whaley
    Jason Whaley Member Posts: 5


    This was definitely a budget approach as well as little training. During the planning, I was given very little input, and the plumber did not listen to any of my concerns - many of which have recently surfaced. My biggest concern is that his idea of a 'fix' will be a band-aid solution by another 'know it all'. From reading countless web pages, it is clear to me that the plumber will have to spend three times as much as his initial install to do it right...this is going to be a fight. I have already been in touch with Canadian Home Warranty, and they said to try and resolve it within the next two months, and then they will step in. What would you do?

    Thanks again.

    JW
  • Nron_9
    Nron_9 Member Posts: 237
    before you restart

    before you make any changes to the home get a proper heat loss done on the home. It will tell how much heat is required in each room , them look at type of system to work with , staple up or joist trac or maybe baseboard might be required , or even a combination of them for certain areas. hope this helps keep us posted

    Ron
  • jerry scharf_3
    jerry scharf_3 Member Posts: 419
    thanks for more info

    Jason,

    First, I'm sorry to see you in such a mess. Every bad job like this hurts the general view of how successful radiant systems are.

    The situation as described pust things in a very different light. It's unlikely that there is anything that could succeed with that tubing install. It's a pull it and do it right job, IMO. The good news is that I don't seen nails/staples coming through the subfloor. If this is correct, look at the radiant engineering thermofin C as possibly the best thermal plate for the situation.

    The insulation as installed is possibly the worst choice. Bubble foil has been demonstrate to have limitations, especially in the real world where dirt and fasteners exist. Also allowing that much air space will cause additional losses, as you have the room for leakage "chimneys" to set up strong air currents. You want the heat and insulation up at the top chord of the web, not the bottom.

    As others have said, the near boiler piping seems excessive in some ways and inadequate in others. There is no indication that anything was understood about the controls needed for radiant heat.

    If i was in your situation, here's what I would do. I would hire someone who is a recognized name in the radiant field (the kind of person who could hold sway in court) and pay them to do the following:

    A detailed anlysis of the heating needs of the house

    A detailed critique of the current installation

    A design of an ideal, from scratch system

    A plan for how to go from what's there now to what you need

    These are what anyone wanting to mediate will need to come to an informed decision. It's not the time to worry about $, you're in a mess and you have to dig yourself out. This will end up costing you money, it's all about damage control and ending up with something where you are comfortable and have sane fuel bills.

    let us know how it goes,
    jerry
  • hr
    hr Member Posts: 6,106
    Joel

    suppose you have a customer with HW baseboard heat. They want warm floors in the bathroom. Often times a small loop off the boiler as another zone, with suspended tube will accomplish that. Why add a mixing station to a high temperature system, use plates, and add addition expense when the boiler is already running baseboard temperatures?

    Or a homeowner has a bathroom with a forced air system. Bathroom heats, but floors are cold feeling. Again a load below 10, maybe even 5 BTU/ sq. ft. Loop some suspended tube even with a low supply temperature, perhaps a HX off the exisiting DHW tank.

    True purists will ALWAYS use plates or transfer methods. Nothing wrong with that! I'm still of the opinion suspended tube has a place, when properly applied.

    I KNOW you have the skills to make a bedframe! Copper pipe and a tape measure! You may lack one tool, a Curvo, that's all. Certainly it could be built with fittings instead of curved bends :) I've seen your work, it's not a lack of skillset!

    hot rod

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  • Andrew Hagen (ALH)
    Andrew Hagen (ALH) Member Posts: 165
    Conservative approach

    In my opinion, a home with one or two bathrooms with radiant is an excellent application for transfer plates. Run the system on boiler reset (tek260), and with tile floors you'll be just fine. If the floor is sensitive, run a thermostatic 3-way and a small pump to control that zone. I don't feel that's a purist attitude. I just dont like getting caught with too little heat output potential, especially in a bathroom.

    It's definitely nice to know you have more output than you need along with appropriate zoning....especially in combination systems where different types of heat emitters behave somewhat differently. Combining suspended tube with baseboard seems like combining a rabbit and a tortoise in a 3-legged race.

    At least that would be my approach. Maybe I'm conservative.

    -Andrew
  • Jason Whaley
    Jason Whaley Member Posts: 5
    Thanks to all!!

    Thanks for all the great advice! I have been researching like mad to make sure that I have more working knowledge of radiant heating. I'll do my best to make sure I do not settle for anything less than a proper installation. I'll keep you all posted. Any additional advice is welcome. This web board is a great idea!

    JW
  • Nikolai
    Nikolai Member Posts: 31


    > I recently had radiant heat installed in a new

    > house (Cold Lake, AB, Canada). The plumber

    > fastened the PEX tubing on the bottom of the

    > floor joists, approximately 14 inches from the

    > sub floor. Reflective foil wrap was placed right

    > underneath. After one winter, the boiler and

    > pumps never turned off, and the pumps were

    > extremely hot to the touch. Also, our heating

    > bills were 'through the roof'. I wanted to ask

    > one of your in-house experts if the install

    > should have been carried out differently -

    > specifically, having the PEX tubing placed

    > directly underneath (contacting) the sub floor,

    > and a different form of insulation (thick

    > fiberglass with a reflective side). I was also

    > told that I could not zone individual rooms with

    > in-floor heating prior to the install. Is there

    > any truth to that claim?

    >

    > The following are

    > three pictures of the setup. Our house is a

    > brand-new 2200 square foot single level

    > ranch-style home. Any insight into this issue

    > would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for you

    > time.

    >

    >

    >

    > Sincerely,

    >

    > Jason

    > Whaley [email protected]



  • Steve Ebels_3
    Steve Ebels_3 Member Posts: 1,291
    A few thoughts,

    And a statement or two........

    Take tons of pictures before anything is changed by you or the installing contractor. Then file them away in a safe place to use as a reference later. My gut feeling is that unfortunately, you will need them.

    For this type of installation to work, (IE: heat your home) the heat loss of the house would have to be about 3-4 btu's per sq ft. An exceedingly low number usually not attained in typical construction. More than likely, your heat load is up in the 15-25 tbu/sq ft range.

    Hot Rod is correct in saying there is a place for staple up installations, it's just not the correct design for your needs. It will never work unless you drive 350* water through your pex. In other words, it's not ever going to work. Period.

    I would suggest starting with a room by room heat loss of your home. Take those numbers and divide the heat loss in wach room by the sq ft of floor space to arrive at required btu's per sq ft. Remember that your present "design" will maybe produce up to 10/sq ft if insulated properly, which it most certainly is NOT.

    Once you have those numbers you can begin to make decisions about what type of water temps and heat transfer system you need to work with. Obviously, whoever did this install did not know what he was doing or didn;t take the time to understand what the requirements of your house would be.
  • joel_19
    joel_19 Member Posts: 931
    and

    Since your house is already up you could look into ablower door test and really get an accurate picture of how much heat your house needs. Doing a regular heat loss on acomputer is great there's just this one little problem . It's called infiltration. When you do a heatloss you have to guess at how tight the house is . This makes a heatloss vary wildley. With a blower door test you'll know exactly how many air changes you have. you can then tighten it up and get a really accurate heatloss with that information.

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  • Jason Whaley
    Jason Whaley Member Posts: 5
    Spoke with contractor - legal advice?

    I recently spoke with the builder and he said that the plumber was bringing up a radiant heating expert from Edmonton (3 hrs away). This person would assess the situation and they would take actions to fix the problem. The issue I foresee is that I will have these three guys telling me what they will do to fix it - and offer to do so without a second opinion. This is how I got into this mess in the first place (by trusting someone who knew nothing about radiant heating). On top of that, the plumber claims it was the supplier who told him to install the tubes this backwards fashion, and I suspect it is the same supplier who is coming up to assess the system. From your experience, should I bring in someone else to the meeting who is also an expert, or do I just let this go to court? The builder already implied that if I want bat insulation I would have to pay for it on top of the original system price tag. It seems that all of my articles, letters, web sites, etc., are falling on deaf ears. These guys are in damage control mode and I am not sure what to settle for. At this time, if they would run the proper amount of line, install transfer plates, and insulate it properly, I would be satisfied just to get it done - or should I be satisfied with that? I have only 2 zones upstairs when I wanted each room zoned. They said it could not be done, and that radiant heat in one room would 'spill' over to the next causing confusion between thermostats. Maybe just cut my losses? Opinions?
  • Dave Yates (PAH)
    Dave Yates (PAH) Member Posts: 2,162
    Good grief!

    Low bid gets the new construction work. Builders are so ingrained with the notion that the only difference between mechanical subs is the price, that this is the end result!

    That's the most "suspended" suspended-tube install I've ever seen!

    I haven't seen your home, its plans or the elevations to "see" what kind of heat loss you may have on your hands, but I'd never install a radiant system with the tubes on the bottom truss of a truss-joist floor system!

    I'd want to know the credentials of the so-called expert being brought in from 3 hours away. (s)he may well be tops, but you have the right to question their education and experience - especially given that the folks who foisted this on you are touting their abilities - as if they'd be in the know.

    If I were in your shoes, I'd want to get someone on board who really knows hydronics and radiant heating systems. Paying an independent consultant would be money well invested in my opinion. Robert Bean would be an excellent choice and he's one of the most diplomatic folks I've ever met - meaning he would be good at communicating without alienating the builder and plumber already involved.

    The good news is that your system can be salvaged and redone to deliver the radiant comfort you deserve. But, as others have already said - that begins with an accurate heat loss and proper radiant design.

    I've been involved in a number of consultation/redesigns for failed radiant applications. It won't be cheap to fix the problems, but it will be worth every penny. Who pays will be the rub. I'm available for radiant consultation work too.

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  • heatmeister
    heatmeister Member Posts: 5
    Good Luck

    I darn near got into a similar scenario from a couple of local boys here in Minnesota. The "So called" experts wanted to do the EXACT same kind of installation. Until I found this site, I nearly made a $25K mistake.

    FYI, I ran into a guy from Danfoss out of Maple Ridge, BC at Wetstock. His name is Mark Evans and seemed to be a real knowledgeable nice guy. Phone: 604-639-6825 He may be a good source for information/help or finding a qualified installer.
  • Ken_8
    Ken_8 Member Posts: 1,640
    My 2 cents,

    Take Hot Rod's points about rim joist insulation losses to the bank. Also the comment about that reflective and R-value of that bubble crap as well.

    2" rigid or 6" foil faced fiberglass - with the foil facing up and not in contact with tubing may save the day.

    Obviously, isolation of zones with insulating "partitions" is essential for any real zone control.

    I suspect the improvments of band joist and bottom floor joist insulation may make the existing install functional and substantially reduce energy waste, the comfort issue however could be a function of the R-values of the walls, windows and roof insulation - compromised and reduced output the method of "suspended/stapled to the joist invokes.

    Bottom line, even a poorly designed radiant system can work if the envelope of the structure is altered by increasing the insulation and reducing infiltration.

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  • Constantin
    Constantin Member Posts: 3,796
    Hmmmm....

    It seems to me that any money you spend on hiring experts at this stage of the game will be money well-spent. Check out the Find a Contractor or go to the Radiant Panel Association to find someone qualified to work on your system.

    In particular, you must start with a heat-loss calculation. Next, figure out what systems can deliver the amount of BTU's you need to be comfortable. Plates and lots of insulation may do the trick, but I would not count on it, due to your climate. You may need to add panel radiators and other heat emitters to supplement the floor heating on the coldest of days. Lastly, you need a lot more insulation under those tubes than you currently have.

    So, start over and don't let your contractor rush you into a solution. Figure out what the system has to be capable of, then build a system to suit that need, not the other way around.
  • jerry scharf_3
    jerry scharf_3 Member Posts: 419
    my $.02

    Jason,

    There are any number of things involved.

    Expert opinions for fixing the system:

    Have them bring their guy. Get his/her credentials, then be quiet and listen. If they ask you questions, be forthright in answering them but don't try to insert your opinions and observations into this. When they are done, ask them for a full finding report rather than a simple set of remediation tasks. Do not bring your gun to the meeting with their gun, it's unprofessional and counterproductive.

    Then hire your own person. I like Hot Rod's idea of Robert Bean. He lives in the same general part of Canada and is beyond reproach in the business. Again, get a detailed findings report and suggested mediation tasks. In this world like doctors, you have to find and pay for the second opinion. Also like an expert doctor, the office visit isn't cheap but the treatment costs a whole lot more.

    As for the supplier... You have no relationship with him/her. You have a relationship with the builder, who has relations with the plumber... Politely tell them that the supplier's opinion and a dollar may buy a cup of coffee.

    Falling on deaf ears:

    It is important to keep dated copies of all communications with the builder. You hit it on the head when you say they are in damage control mode. They are out to save their ****, not deliver a working system.

    Your hired expert can help you go over the information you sent so far and recommend other things to submit now in preparation for a fight. It can be assumend that you are infor a fight over this. It may go to mediation or arbitration rather than to court, but it's a fight any way you cut it.

    One nice thing Robert Bean can bring to the table is the potential health issues of an improperly heated house. This may have a greater impact on the people deciding compared to a couple technical experts saying different things.

    What to settle for:

    Until you have your own expert opinion, you have no idea what to settle for. Take in all the information, but make no decisions before that is done. They have no legal ground to pressure you for a quick decision, so just take it in until you're ready.

    Who pays:

    It's going to be messy to say the least. I think you're not understanding the scope of the problem if you think that the cost of bat insulation is what's at stake. I would guess that this is going to cost more to fix the system than it cost to install, even with the fact that you don't have to buy the boiler again. There will almost certainly be more labor involved.

    Certainly the builder and plumber have no clue how big a tab they're on the hook for.

    keep us posted

    jerry
  • Weezbo
    Weezbo Member Posts: 6,232
    i live in alaska and i would venture to say Canada is a bit 2

    nippy to heat a home with that particular stradgey or piping arrangement. your temps are likely close to baseboard. Leaving that system in place and considering say, radiant pannels... might be fairly economical as a means to reajudicate the applicabilities *~/:) dialing the temp down to say 62 in the floor piping might also help create a base line temp in the room and go from there.... then you make the best of what you have ....distribution of btu's of sorts and a tidy pannel system a?
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,546


  • Jason Whaley
    Jason Whaley Member Posts: 5
    Just got the call - more pics and a question

    Thanks again to everyone for your advice in this matter. I just received a phone call tonight from the plumber who has indeed arranged for the supplier to come up and take a look at the install. Early July is the date for the meeting, and as luck would have it I received an email from one of the readers of the web board who also purchased and received advice from the same supplier. I have not yet spoke to him personally, but in his email he says that he was advised to staple the lines TO THE TOP OF THE JOISTS 1.5 inches below the subfloor. He then stapled and taped reflectex 1 inch below the tubes, with the rest of the joists filled with R20 insultation. He says it works good. No word yet on whether or not they told him to perform a heat-loss calculation. I know my guy did not. I am going to take everyone's advice and try to contact another expert (hopefully Robert Bean) for a second opinion. I am apprehensive about going into this meeting by myself though. As I mentioned before, this is how I was led into accepting this original setup. Is it really a bad idea to bring someone else along who may be a better source of information? Anyway, one more thing...I took a look at the setup once again and observed something I would like to ask about. We have a single level 2200 sq foot house. Eight foot ceilings in the basement. We were told to have only 1 zone, but I fought and got two. Basically, there is one single pump for each zone. It is right off the boiler (pic 1 and 2)and it pumps the glycol from the boiler down my main beam (pic 3) with uninsulated black tubing. This is basically a manifold for several lines that run down the joists (pic 4 and 5) on either side. The question I have is: Can that pump circulate the glycol down the main line and throughout the joists effectively? Most designs I have seen on websites throughout North America have a circulating manifold line, and pumps off the manifold where the glycol is circulated through a continuous line throughout each room. Here, there are several lines without a pump running off the manifold to about the half-way point in the house. The second zone in the house is basically the same as the first with the main lines extending right to the end of the house. House length is 69 feet long by 37 feet wide. Also, is there a problem running these lines along the main beam outside of any tyoe of insulation?

    Thanks again everyone. Man, this thing looks really screwed up.

    JW


  • wow.. is it just me, or does that look like large pipe? Are they running 7/8" pipe in those joists? If so, might be tough to get plates in there.

    As other have said, no one should be planning to fix this system without doing a heat load calculation first, and who can show you the numbers.

    The reflective insulation is a waste of time. You already have it, so use it, but do not let it be the only insulation for the system.
This discussion has been closed.