Friday, November 27, 2009

How Not to Heat Your House With a Super Expensive Radiant Heating System

So, we've got this super spiffy radiant heating system in the house that we blogged a ton about..mostly me bitching about how looooooong it took to do the staple up part. Its worked fine so far but with it dipping down into the high 30's at night I'd wake up at 6:30am and...the house would be cold! Like 64 deg F in the front part of the house when the thermostats were set to 72....not good as this front part of the house is where the babies hang during the nanny share....

I called the guys that designed the system and was like WTF? We went thru all the settings to make sure I had them set right and a couple of the loops were not flowing as much as they should of been...fixed that but the next morning the front room-bath-kitchen was cold!

Back again I go to the phone and the nice guys at NRT said basically, DUH! you're only running 1/3 of the system that's designed to be run as a whole so no wonder it can't keep up. But I said ya but its a nice and toasty 68 in the basement and the slab loops arent even on! They said, 'Double Duh, you're heating the basement with the same loops that youre trying to heat the main part of the house with!'

See, here's what the staple up looks like. The wood floor has an R value of ~1 but hey that open air below the plates has an R value of... 0! So which way was the heat going to flow? Yep that's right down into the basement and not up into the house...

When it was 64 deg upstairs it was actually warmer downstairs in the 'unheated' garage! I jacked up the heating parameters to the highest safest points. We had 140 deg water flowing in the loops and it was better but the rooms were still cold in the early mornings and the floors were not evenly warm. In the hallway, front room, bathroom, and baby's room the floors never really felt warm. With 140 deg water all the floors shoulda felt toasty.

To the plans we went and discovered that they called for these under-floor plates to be insulated to R-19.

Off to Home Despot I went hoping to find encapsulated R-19 batts. No joy, they don't even stock kraft-faced batts? So, I went on down the road to the local 'real' lumber yard Economy Lumber. They also do not stock encapsulated batts. The counter guy there said it was a 'special order' only item? But they did stock formaldehyde free kraft faced batts and I bought as many as I could fit into the PT Cruiser which was really three but I made a fourth fit. Thank granny goodness that they are seriously compressed by that shrink wrap. Its fun to slice em open and they all pop out and expand like crazy.

Now, when working with non-encapsulated batts ya gots to cover up and wear a real particle filter and eye protection. The itty-bitty glass fibers will get everywhere and into your skin and then itch like crazy. I did pretty good with the itching, I think the kraft facing helped with that...I probably should of been wearing pants though as my legs felt a little itchy afterwards.

We started stuffing the batts in the joist bays. This was bringing back all those horrible memories of working overhead for hours on end grinding nails...ugh.

It didn't actually take all that long to do. You just gots to be careful to not compress the batts too much. To get an actual R-19 outta them they have to be installed magically I'm hoping to get like R-12 with my instal. I'm glad I didn't need to use those insulation holder metal rod thingys. The batts are sticking fine in the bays. This shows that we've insulated the bathroom and the hallway.

And here's an exicting picture of more insulation. This shows that we've completely insulated the front room.

This is the little bit in the nursery and edge of the kitchen. We should of done the two sides but they were like half size and we would of had to cut a batt in half lengthwise to fit...that sounded like a huge PITA so we decided to put it off till the next go round. The 4 bags we were able to fit in the car was not enough to do the entire floor so we just did the areas that felt colder than the others. When we were insulating this area we discovered a serious kink in the tubing. I ran over to the flow meter but the loop was flowing the correct amount? I must of dialed up the flow to compensate for the kink when I was adjusting flows earlier.

Success!! Here's the temps in the kitchen and outside. It wasnt super cold when we took this but you get the idea.

Here's the temp in the 'unheated' basement after the partial insulation job. This is pretty good as its 52 outside and 64 inside. Point being, its a lot closer to the outside temp than it used to be. I've checked it when its in the 40's outside and its in the highe 50's in the basement.

More importantly this is the temp in the front part of the house when it was in the low 40's outside! In the morning now this room is 70 instead of 64 which is much, much better but still not correct as we have it set for 72.
Whats been super great is that in all the areas that are insulated the floor is super toasty warm feeling. When we sit on our butts in the baby room its nice and toasty. Same with the hallway and the bathroom where the floors were always colder. We'll have to buy another 4 bags of insul at least to finish the job but I'm trying to put that off as in the areas left to do we need to run plumbing and wiring and we don't want to have to yank it all down or wrestle with it when we're doing that.

This has nothing to do with the insulation. We just wanted to show a picture of the fabulous shop lights we just put in. These are plug-ins with pull cords. Holy-moly these are a million times better than those stupid halogen work lights we were using. Look how evenly bright it is! We can't believe we didn't do this months ago!


Auntie Sue said...

It's great that at least ONE of the house problems you guys have encountered could be "relatively" simply and cheaply solved! I will keep my fingers and toes crossed that this type of good luck lasts until you three can sit warmly on the floor --- ANY floor --- of your completed dream house! (I do expect, however, to be suffering from severe digit cramping by springtime!). Anyway, congrats on making the necessary parts of the house toasty warm. Hope you had a good turkey day too. ---auntie Sue

Amy from Seabrook said...

I insulated my basement ceiling years ago because of cold floors. Some of the bats went in fine but dropped down later, so you may still be using those sproingy things to hold them in. Or staples.