I got an inquiry from someone who had read about my installing a retrofit radiant heat system in our house.  One part of it I posted when I was writing for Green Building Elements, but I haven’t been able to access the article in order to repost it here.  The other part I posted as a personal article on my LiveJournal.  I am re-posting that article here, for reference.  (And if I can gain access to the other one, I’ll re-post it here, as well; this is one of my reasons for starting this blog: to keep an archive of my writing, so it doesn’t get lost.)

I’ll see about posting an update about the radiant heating system sometime next week.  Stay tuned.  In the meantime, here’s the article about the system from November of 2008:

My Furnace Hasn’t Run For 3 Days
…and I couldn’t be happier.

It has been snowing this weekend, so it’s not like we don’t need heat in the house. The reason the furnace is parked (and hopefully will remain idle all season, now) is that we finally have the radiant heating system installed and running.

Last winter I put in the tubing for the radiant system alongside the floor joists (and wrote about it for Green Building Elements), but it took long enough to do the installation that, it was late in the season by the time I had it ready, so we just let it slide through the spring and summer. I did have a guy come out to look at it, who I thought was going to hook up the system, but he thought it would be an easier installation than was the case once he came over to look at it, so he didn’t want to do the installation. So, finally last week, I had another company come out to do the all the plumbing work to get the system running.

The company that ended up doing the work was another one that had been recommended by the supplier. It took four days to do all the installation, though some of that was just part-days. I certainly saved money by doing all the tubing installation myself, though there certainly were plenty of aggravations in doing all of that. But the plumbing was something that I didn’t want to do badly (especially since some of the components are pretty pricey), so, though I am of a do-it-yourself bent in many respects, this was something I wanted to have done by someone with some experience and expertise. And they have done a really nice job with it.

We still have the old furnace and thermostat online and available. If it gets very, very cold this winter, we may have the forced-air system running to supplement the radiant heating. Right now, the thermostat on the furnace is set a couple degrees lower than the radiant heating system, so it shouldn’t come on unless we get a situation where the radiant system can’t provide enough heat for the house. We’ll see what happens when we get the really cold days of winter.

Even if it doesn’t save us any energy (though I expect that it will be more efficient than the old forced air system it is replacing) it is nicer and more comfortable in the house, so it’s an improvement in any case. But if it’s more comfortable in the house, and we’re using less gas to do it, then it’s a better system all around.

I don’t know exactly how to describe it. The floor is not hot, but it’s definitely warmer than it was with the forced air furnace. It doesn’t feel cold though, like it did last week or before. The air doesn’t have a chill about it, either. It’s also quieter. Without the blower running, it stays quieter in the house. With a couple kids around, you’d think it wouldn’t be that noticeable, but I have been aware of it not running, especially right after I get home (when I would expect the influx of cold air from opening the door would start up the furnace, if it wasn’t running already).

We’re still experimenting with the right temperature for it. We’ve already set it back a couple degrees from where it was initially set, and it’s still comfortable. Once we have an idea of the right temperature setting to use we’ll see if we want to do any nighttime setback (and whether or not that works with the radiant system). We also have controls for each of the loops, so if we want to throttle things in one area or another, we may also have that to experiment with.

(By the way, I’ve written this while lying on the floor with my laptop, and it’s been comfortable and pleasant the whole time.)