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Designing a radiant system - new construction

PNGguyPNGguy Member Posts: 11
I got a bid on for a radiant system from the only guy around who specializes in radiant. It was double what I expected it to be, and am considering doing it myself. I hit the "find a contractor in your area" and got no hits for a 100 mile radius.
I know there's a risk to doing it myself, but his bid is high enough that I'll probably not go that route. I'm assuming that a large percentage of the bid is labor for tying down 3,600' of Pex. I'm fairly certain I could do that.

Here's what I'm building:
4 zones, slab on grade, well insulated new construction.

1) Living space - 850sq'
Lots of windows, 2 entry doors.
2) Garage - 700 sq'
I won't be heating it much, and plan to keep it not much above 50 degrees in the winter.
No windows, 2 roll up doors
3) Woodshop - 480 sq
It'll be heated to 55 or 60 in the winter, unless I'm on vacation and then will be held above freezing.
No windows and one entry door.
4) Metal shop - 1,200 sq'
It'll be heated to 55 or 60 in the winter, unless I'm on vacation and then will be held above freezing.
3 windows, 2 roll up doors and one entry door.

The bid was for Pex 9" OC for the living space (assume this is 1/2"), and 12" OC in the rest of the building (not sure if 1/2" or 3/4"). It ended up being 3,600' of Pex.
An electric boiler, pumps, manifolds, etc. The bid included labor to tie down the Pex and everything except electrical to the boiler. There is no concrete or insulation in the bid. All the part are name brand - Uponor, Taco, etc - I don't think he's going for the cheapest parts he can find (which is good). The warranty is 1 year, unless the manufacturer's warranty is longer than a year.
He designed it as a closed loop system separated from DHW. I'd like the option to add a OWB with storage, and a HX for DHW. He didn't really want to deal with that.
My area has reasonably mild winters - we hover around freezing for a month or two, with occasional dips into the 20's.

My questions are: what do you think a ballpark price should be? What would you do in my situation?

Thanks for reading this far.


  • GroundUpGroundUp Member Posts: 991
    First off, we cannot discuss pricing here. Second, he doesn't sound like much of a hydronics guy if he wouldn't even give a bid on the OWB and HX setup but at least he had the sense to run a closed system. Electric is a lot easier to DIY than gas, but I would still not recommend it if you have no prior experience. Maybe if you post your location someone will know somebody in the area to recommend? The "find a contractor" tool requires contractors to pay for their ad and they wouldn't know about it unless they are members here so there are likely quite a few in your area unlisted here.
  • IronmanIronman Member Posts: 5,681
    According to site rules, no pricing is allowed.

    The most important thing with radiant floors is proper DESIGN. Anyone can lay tubing; that takes no talent and about 5 minutes of training.

    The first step in design is an accurate heat loss calculation. Has that been done?
    Bob Boan

    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • PNGguyPNGguy Member Posts: 11
    Thanks for the replies.

    I'm in Southwest Oregon, near Grants Pass. I do not have heat loss calcs yet, but they should be a arriving soon. Unfortunately, I may get them fairly close to when the slab will be poured.
  • nibsnibs Member Posts: 462
    We did our own, we did the heat loss calc, installed the pex loops mixed and poured our own slab put the manifolds on and got our local gas fitter to connect the gas lines and do the water connections to the boiler.
    Anytime we had a question we got all the help we needed here from many people.
    Our system works beautifully and we remain eternally grateful to the knowledgeable people here.
    Spent many hours watching the Caleffi tutorials, and read everything we could find on line about radiant heat. If this ol' fart can do it so can you.
    Alan (California Radiant) ForbesratioSTEVEusaPA
  • PNGguyPNGguy Member Posts: 11
    I'm not afraid of work and have time to work on things. I had planned to hire most things out, but the bid was stupidly high. I think you're right.

    What hit me the other day was that as long as I get the Pex installed correctly, I can make changes in the rest of the system if something isn't right. It can't be that hard to figure out the Pex and tie it down.

    I appreciate the encouragement.
  • HVACNUTHVACNUT Member Posts: 3,412
    I'd like to know how a contractor laid out a job for a boiler (that apparently can't hanldle the load of an added indirect), 3,600 ft of pex, two garage doors, some windows and entryways, slab on grade without a heat loss calc.
    And he's the only game in town! What a country.
    Get an accurate heat loss calculation before you break ground. Sure, you can try to get it right with temps and flow rates later. So why 3,600 ft of pex? Why not 8,000 ft? Or 1,200 ft?
    Do what @nibs said. Put the physical work on the back burner and do your research. Do it right or dont do it.
  • PNGguyPNGguy Member Posts: 11
    He's not the only game in town, but he's a local specialist. Not too many other people here are in that industry.

    For one, radiant isn't that popular where I am, and the rural west coast has incredibly low population density. Compared to New England, where radiant is much more popular, we're a ghost town. I live not too far from a town of 30,000 people and it's the second largest city in a 150 mile radius. I don't have many options to pick from, which is why I'm searching for info here.

    He didn't want to get involved in a OWB because they aren't legal in this state. So there's more going on than might appear on the surface. I was trying to be somewhat brief, and it still ended up a long post.

  • nibsnibs Member Posts: 462
    Where are you located?
  • PNGguyPNGguy Member Posts: 11
    nibs said:

    Where are you located?

    Southwestern Oregon.
  • nibsnibs Member Posts: 462
    So your design temp would be around zero ? Unless you are right on the coast.
  • PNGguyPNGguy Member Posts: 11
    A really cold winter day is 20 degrees, and we occasionally dip below that, but it's rare.
    According to climate data, the average winter temp (November Feb) is in the mid 30's.
  • HVACNUTHVACNUT Member Posts: 3,412
    Slant Fin has a free app for doing a heat loss calculation. Download it and enter the info.
  • nibsnibs Member Posts: 462
    Make sure to insulate (over insulate if poss) your slab.
    You can sometimes find 4 inch roofmate from a roofing tear off, and if it is in good condition makes a super surface to cement over.
  • GroundUpGroundUp Member Posts: 991
    OWB are not illegal in Oregon. They just need to meet EPA phase 2 requirements, which most gasification units do
  • PNGguyPNGguy Member Posts: 11
    GroundUp said:

    OWB are not illegal in Oregon. They just need to meet EPA phase 2 requirements, which most gasification units do

    I have spoken with the DEQ and they do not agree with you, unless the rule changed in the last 12 months.
  • hot_rodhot_rod Member Posts: 13,508
    From the EPA site
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
  • GroundUpGroundUp Member Posts: 991
    PNGguy said:

    GroundUp said:

    OWB are not illegal in Oregon. They just need to meet EPA phase 2 requirements, which most gasification units do

    I have spoken with the DEQ and they do not agree with you, unless the rule changed in the last 12 months.
    Well, your contact at the DEQ is wrong or there was a miscommunication. I personally know an OWB dealer in Rogue River and have several of my own customers around Oregon that are running my OWB systems. It's quite legal.
  • PNGguyPNGguy Member Posts: 11
    I spoke with the person who wrote the ruling, and we were very clear with each other. I also understand that there are different interpretations of the ruling.

    I also don't really care. The installer I spoke to has sided with the DEQ's interpretation of the ruling, and doesn't get involved with OWBs so he (his company) stays clear of any fallout. And that's why I came here.
  • GroundUpGroundUp Member Posts: 991
    And I offered to discuss design with you, but have not received a response.
  • PNGguyPNGguy Member Posts: 11
    You received a response and we have exchanged messages. Not sure why you are saying I didn't reply.
  • GroundUpGroundUp Member Posts: 991
    Because you didn't reply
  • PNGguyPNGguy Member Posts: 11
    Ground up: You offered you design services. You couldn't show me any past work, other than a picture of some equipment on a wall. You didn't offer any details other than "for $400 or $500 I'll design a system for you". You claim that you have no info that you can share (what you may have designed for previous clients) because you "tear up the paper after you design it".

    There's clearly something wrong with your statements. If you tear up the paper, how did you get the client the info? Do you make two copies, mail them one and tear up the second one?

    Sorry, but a designer who refuses to show a sample of their work, who has no track record that I find (you don't even have a name), who wants a bunch of money with no performance guarantee isn't a guy I'm going to hire.

    Not sure why would be surprised by this.
  • GroundUpGroundUp Member Posts: 991
    You obviously have no concept of how design services work. I spent an hour of my time explaining the holes in your contractor's logic and the approximate costs associated with such material and services. I sent a photo of a recent job that I piped, showing a complete system quite similar to what you will need. You will not find a designer that will spend several hours drafting up a custom design for your particular system and send it to you for you to use and not pay for. Surely you understand why that would be foolish? My designs are specific to each job and confidential to that customer, as I had told you.

    I gave you a sample, I have a very extensive design record in the OWB world nationwide (and you never asked for a name). Good luck.
  • PNGguyPNGguy Member Posts: 11
    I have no interest in arguing with you; I'm simply not interested in your services. I'm also sorry it took you an hour to write 3 paragraphs.

    I never asked for a custom design that I wouldn't pay for - in fact I explicitly said that I wasn't asking for *my* design, but for a sample of what I could expect. That's why I asked to see what you had sent other customers. That's when you told me the lie about "I throw them away when I'm done", when there clearly has to be a copy of it somewhere. You lied to me and expect me to do business with you?

    I am very clear on how design services work. I'm building a house, and have been communicating (without any problems except for you) with the contractor, cabinet makers, concrete floor finishers, appliance salespeople, etc. I completely understand that everybody needs to make a living, and that skilled labor is worth money.

    Even the "Nigerian Prince" who wants to hide all his money in my bank account has given me more background info than you have. If you're some sort of well known radiant floor designer you should say so. I asked for a work sample so I had *some* idae of the quality of work you do. You sent a photo that could have easily come from Google images - there was *zero* proof that it came from you.

    And now you're hurt that I'm not interested in sending you money?
  • GroundUpGroundUp Member Posts: 991
    edited July 2019
    You came to an online forum asking for help. You received none, so I offered some. You then whined about not getting any help, so I reiterated to point out to others that you have no interest in being helped so they, too, do not waste their time trying to help you. For the third time, my designs are confidential and have customer info on them- I will NOT share them with anybody for any reason and yes, my local designs are hand drafted and pitched after the job is complete- like most others in this trade. We all deal with people like you on the daily, try not to feel so special about it. Good luck with your project.
  • ZmanZman Member Posts: 5,871
    Gentlemen, please.
    It didn't work out. That's it.
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
    Rich_49Larry WeingartenGroundUp
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