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Read an article, written by Joel Boucher, published in Innovative Magazine, featuring three of our radiant installations.

Read an article, written by Joel Boucher, published in Journal of Light Construction featuring a home in Lexington, Massachusetts in which we installed a Stadler / Viega radiant heat system.

Radiant Heat

The Very Essence of Comfort

Boucher Energy Systems has installed radiant heat in many homes over the past 15 years. From a 75 square foot tiled bath to a 20,000 square foot home, radiant heat is the ultimate in comfort. Boucher Energy has had a long time relationship with Stadler Corporation, now Viega, a manufacturer of radiant system related equipment. Viega today is a leader in the floor heating systems industry and always highly recommends Boucher Energy Systems for any radiant system installation.

  1. What is radiant heat?
  2. Is radiant floor heating new?
  3. What makes a radiant-floor heating system different from a convection heating system such as finned-tube baseboard?
  4. What is the rate at which my body loses heat?
  5. What types of radiant heat are available?
  6. Will radiant floor heating damage hardwood floors?
  7. Can I put radiant heating in any room?
  8. Can I use radiant heating to heat my entire house?
  9. Is radiant floor heating only for new construction?
  10. What about carpet over a radiant heated floor?
  11. Is it possible to use radiant heat over an existing concrete slab?
  12. What should I do if I want radiant heat?

What is radiant heat?

Warm water - generally from 80 degrees to 140 degrees - is circulated through flexible, durable PEX tubing embedded in the floor. The floor becomes a large radiator. The floor becomes warm and radiates warmth to the walls and objects in the room. As these objects become warm, you experience less heat loss because your standing next to warm objects .... and you feel warm and comfortable.

Is radiant floor heating new?

Click to read early Roman radiant heat proposal

Not at all. In fact, it is probably the oldest method of central heating there is. The Romans used a crude system of radiant heat to warm their famous baths as early as 80 BC. They built fires and let the heat travel through passages under the marble floors. Europeans heated their castles in much the same way during the Dark Ages. Click on the picture to the left to read a very interesting radiant heat proposal in an early Roman book.

In the 1930's, radiant heat began to make a comeback in New England, via the advent of reliable electric circulation pumps that allowed us to economically pump warm water through a building. In these systems, copper or steel piping was embedded into the floors, or many times the ceilings of a home.

Once the war was over, there was a huge need for affordable houses for young GI's. The housing development was born. Perhaps the most well known of these was Levittown, New York. These houses were built on a simple concrete slab. The slab had tubing buried in it, looped to a boiler and presto, radiant heat for the masses.

This concept was used in Massachusetts as well. The "Campanelli" houses where constructed in several towns, including Framingham and Bellingham. These homes were long slab ranches that typically had the boiler located right in the kitchen. Many are still in use today. However, many have failed. We have examined some and found slabs that have cracked and deteriorated. In time, the chemicals and ground moisture attacked the thin-wall copper tubing in the concrete.

Today we have Pex tubing. This is a very specialized plastic pipe that has been in use in Europe since the early 1970's and is impervious to the chemicals that damaged the older copper and steel piped systems. We have seen Pex tubing removed from a concrete slab poured in the early 1980s with the tubing still in perfect condition. The slab was simply being removed for an addition.

I came upon the ad for Boucher Energy in the phone book. From the time Joel came to my house for the initial proposal, to 6 months later when our a/c was installed, I knew I had made the right choice. Every step of the project was professional and painless. The installation went seamlessly and a lot faster than I expected. The team did a tremendous job and Tina expertly handled the paperwork for the proposal, loan, rebates, etc. I recommended them to a family member before the job was even done. Even my house was left cleaner than before they arrived! And as a side note, I was also inspired to get rid of a TON of stuff in my attic which is now neat and organized!! Thank you Boucher energy for a job well done!

M. K., Franklin, MA

Read more testimonials
What makes a radiant-floor heating system different from a convection heating system such as finned-tube baseboard?

A radiant-floor heating system first heats the objects in the room. Then, the objects heat the air to a certain degree. They do that by convection, but the movement of the air is relatively slow because the objects in the room do not get that hot.

Convection systems heat the air first - to a fairly high temperature. The air then uses its warm, "ferris-wheel" like convection currents to heat the people and the objects in the room. In operation, it is the exact opposite of a radiant-floor heating system.

Most people can sense the difference between the two systems right away. This is because the air in a radiantly heated room is usually very still and it's always cooler than a room heated by convection. This lack of air movement affects the overall comfort level. The human body loses about 25% of its heat to convection (drafts), so if the air is still, your body will lose heat and you will usually feel more comfortable.

Benefits at a glance:

  • More comfort first and foremost.
  • Healthier - no dust or allergens being blown around.
  • Higher operating efficiency due to low water temperatures and the heat being where the people are rather
    than at the ceiling.
  • Quieter because there are no fans or blowers.
  • Less maintenance, no filters or ducts or baseboard to clean.
  • Decorating freedom without constraints of vents, returns or baseboard units.

What is the rate at which my body loses heat?

Your body, believe it or not, is a radiator. At rest, you produce about 400 BTU/hr. Your body gives up about 100 BTU/hr. to evaporation when you perspire and breathe. You give up another 100 BTU/hr. to convective air currents. The rest of the heat, a full 200 BTU/hr., you give up by radiating it towards the colder objects around you.

Have you ever noticed that while you feel perfectly comfortable standing on your living room carpet, you feel cold when you walk into the kitchen on the tile floor? Or, at a restaurant, you feel cold near the window, but feel warmer when moved to the center of the room? The temperature of the room has not changed, but your body is radiating LESS heat when it is not near cold objects.

In a radiant floor heating system you will radiate less heat away from your body because the objects around you will be the same temperature as you are. That is why a radiant heating system controls the rate at which your body loses heat.

What types of radiant heat are available?

The three basic types of radiant heat are:

Example of radiant in concrete installed by BES

Installing the tubing directly into a concrete slab. A thin sheet of foam insulation is placed on the ground. We then install the tubing on top of the foam and it is encapsulated into the concrete pour. This method is typically used for basement and garage floors and commercial buildings. It is sometimes used throughout the house, but this is rare in Massachusetts. Cost wise, this is very effective since the concrete was going to be poured already.

Example of a "staple up" method radiant system installed by BES

The "staple up" method. The tubing is attached to the bottom of the subfloor, and is "stapled up" in an aluminum track. A good example is a beautiful kitchen we just fixed. The kitchen was built as an addition up on posts without a basement. The tile floors were beautiful, but very cold. Utilizing the staple up method we were able to make the kitchen much more comfortable without having to disturb the tile at all.

Example of a Climate Panel radiant system installed by BES

Commonly called the "On-Top" method. This idea was pioneered by Stadler Corporation, a Massachusetts based company. Stadler has now become part of the Viega Organization. Today, there are several companies with variations of this product. In an on-top installation, a thin, aluminum and plywood panel is placed "on top" of your existing subfloor. It is then covered with whatever floor covering you choose such as tile or hardwood. In many ways, this is the best installation for the Massachusetts area as it is easy to incorporate with our traditional wood frame construction techniques and works well in both new construction and remodeling.

Will radiant floor heating damage hardwood floors?

If not installed and controlled properly, radiant heating can harm wood floors. However, a low temperature, constant circulation radiant system, installed by a professionally trained contractor, is designed to work safely and successfully with wood flooring. The floor surface temperature of a radiant heating system should not get above 85F. A typical sunroom floor with the sun shining on it gets hotter than a properly controlled radiant system ever makes it.

Can I put radiant heating in any room?

Yes. However, your heating professional should do a heat loss calculation for you. In some exceptionally high heat loss rooms, a supplemental heat source could be necessary.

Can I use radiant heating to heat my entire house?

Absolutely. We often hear from people who regret not heating their entire house with a radiant system. It is easier and more economical to install a radiant system all at once than to go back in at a later date to patch in radiant heat where it had not been installed originally.

Is radiant floor heating only for new construction?

Radiant floor heating systems can be installed in remodeling and retrofit projects as well as in new construction. The type of radiant system used will be determined by the circumstances of construction.

What about carpet over a radiant heated floor?

Carpet is a good insulator and can keep the radiant heat from getting into the room if it is too heavy. If wall to wall carpeting is to be used, the R-value of rug and pad combined should be as low as possible. If plush carpet with a higher R-value is desired, then supplemental wall radiant heat in the lower wall is recommended. Area rugs leave floor space available for the radiant heat to do its job.

Is it possible to use radiant heat over an existing concrete slab?

Radiant heat is the best way to turn a cold slab floor into a warm, inviting, and usable space. This can be accomplished in a couple of different ways. The radiant installation method of choice will be determined by the desired finish floor surface and/or any floor height build up constraints. If wood flooring is to be used, a Climate Panel System might be installed. The other option is to install the tubing on top of the existing slab and pour another thin slab right over it. Height build up of the second slab layer would be a minimum of 1-1/2".

What if I want a radiant heat system?

Give us a call at (508) 473-6648, email us, or click here to make an appointment. We will arrange for someone to come to your home and discuss different radiant heat options for your particular needs.

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