Hartwig Plumbing & Heating took home a System Showcase Award by keeping a radiant system as simple as possible.

Hartwig Plumbing & Heating, Harvard, Ill., took home a System Showcase Award by keeping a radiant system as simple as possible.

"Sometimes these types of jobs can get overengineered to the point that contractors don't understand what they're putting in," says Chad Hartwig, the third-generation family member to work for the business, started in the 1940s. "I like to understand everything and be able to answer any questions owners might have about the job."

The company can best be described as doing a "little bit of this, and a little bit of that." At its busiest, the business employs as many as 50, and sends its crews out to residential and light commercial construction/service in an area that's not quite the farming community it once was. Since becoming a union shop three years ago, Hartwig has gotten into larger commercial jobs, such as hospitals, hotels, and high schools, plus more industrial mechanical work for local manufacturers.

Currently, the company does 85 percent of its business in plumbing and 15 percent in heating. It entered the radiant business about 10 years ago, largely at the demand of customers who had read about it.

As John Siegenthaler's neighboring article ("Dollar-Wise Radiant") recounts, the contractor's award-winning radiant job also represents a winning relationship between contractor and wholesaler.

"We began this project with pretty much a blank plan," Hartwig recounts. "The developer said we need to put infloor in this building, we need to do it competitively with forced air, and we need you to tell us how to get it done."

In the end, the "you" in that equation included a few other members of Park Supply, a wholesaler based in Chicago, not the least of which was designer Piotr Zelasko.

The real estate developer had used radiant heat in other projects, so they new the benefits. But the budget for the first 16-unit apartment building was tight. We'll let John's larger article relate the specifics. Ultimately, each approximately 1,000-sq. ft. apartment has its own manifold station and zone circulator pump providing flow through three circuits of about 300 feet of 1/2-inch Kitec PEX-AL-PEX tubing. The typical radiant floor is constructed with gypsum over precast convrete flooring structure. With the ezception of the linoleum-finished bath and kitchen, the floor is covered with carpet and padding.

In the mechanical room of each building, a gas-fired, noncondensing atmospheric copper fin boiler by LAARS supplies the fire power. A Danfoss thermic valve piped in bypass configuration in the primary loop keeps hot water from entering the building loop until the boiler return line has reached a suitable minimum temperature (110 to 120 degrees F, in this case). Hartwig's crew also used a tekmar 260, single-stage boiler reset control to regulate the temperature of the building loop.

(If you're wondering about cooling, each unit has a through-the-wall air-conditioner.)

So relatively simple was the design that the developers wondered about the size of the mains and the injection style.

"This was a different radiant system than they had used in their other developments," Hartwig adds. "But these were more questions than concerns. With Piotr's help, we were able to explain everything."

When we took a tour of the apartment development, five buildings were up. Plans are to construct possibly four more this year -- all with Zelasko's dollar-wise design.

"The comfort is very apparent when you walk into one of the units," Hartwig says. "It's much different than forced air. So the radiant system is another benefit the developer uses to rent the apartments."