Hydronic Residential Under 5,000 sq. ft.

Up where Daigle Oil Company is located - Madawaska, Maine - you have to be multi-faceted. Let's face it, when the temperatures drop to 40 degrees F below zero, there aren't too many people willing to come out to work. (Can you even feel anything at that temperature?) So, the heating oil distribution company decided in 1989 the time was right to pioneer radiant heating systems in its area.

Daigle Oil won the Richards' Residence project through a fabulous presentation, which included photos and videotapes.

And the move looked all the better when its Richards' Residence project received the 1999 System Showcase Award for a residential project under 5,000 sq. ft. Alan Michaud, division manager of the Madawaska area for the Daigle Oil Company, coordinates all the company's radiant heat jobs. "We began doing radiant heat when the company president was approached for a job by a person who had allergies," he says. "Of course, the radiant heat didn't blow dust all over the place."

Daigle Oil reports 45 percent of its business comes from distributing oil vs. 55 percent from heat work. Of the heat business, 10 to 20 percent (it varies year to year) are radiant projects, mostly the underfloor variety. In 1998, Michaud says the company completed three residential jobs, one light commercial and one large truck maintenance job.

Money's Not Everything

Despite presenting a bid higher than others, Daigle won the Richards' Residence project.

"It's a competitive market," says Michaud, who aggressively sells the systems. "We're well known for installing quality systems, and our documentation of previous jobs helped secure the job." (Daigle Oil secures photos and videotapes from every project. Both comprise an information packet presented to potential clients.)

This project was coordinated by the homeowner; there was no general contractor. "We rarely go through general contractors," Michaud says. "It's the homeowner making the decision. And radiant heat is getting more popular in this area."

Michaud turned to Earthstar Energy Systems to help put together the system. "We decide together what system will be best based on the design and budget," he says. "We take the time necessary in designing the project so we can be assured they have a quality system."

The Nuts & Bolts

"Proper design for this project was critical because of the heat loss characteristics of the structure and the various finished floor coverings," Michaud explains. He designed the Richards' Residence to encompass seven zones, including five radiant and two baseboard zones. The radiant zones consist of the basement, master bedroom, sunroom, living/ kitchen/dining room and the garage.

The sunroom presented one of the biggest challenges on the jobs: It contained carpeting and three outside walls with its share of glass. "We had to zone it separately because we needed to make sure we had enough tubing in there to heat all the spaces," Michaud says. "We faced a lot of resistance from the carpeting as a floor covering."

Floor coverings were mostly oak wood floor, but other areas contained carpeting or ceramic tile. Additionally, the structure contained cathedral ceilings. So, to create the perfect heating environment, 1/2-inch PEX tubing was snaked throughout the building.

The two baseboard zones strategically heat the bedrooms on the second floor and a large bonus room over the garage and a bathroom. "We had constant contact with the homeowner throughout the project to ensure everything was correct."

The system is maintained by a tekmar 371 variable speed house control, which monitors outside and inside air and supply water temperature. Desired water temperature to the radiant floors is determined by the heat demand and heating curve, Michaud explains. Variable speed pumps, modulated by the control, inject heated water into the circulating zone loops. The project finds its heat source in a Weil McLain PWGO-4 cast-iron, oil-fired boiler, while the indirect-fired domestic hot water tank is a Weil McLain Plus 80. The Richards' Residence also boasts a heat recovery ventilation system.

Another challenge popped up when the homeowner told Michaud about not wanting the manifold in the first floor living area. He overcame the challenge by installing the manifold in a case, and then attaching it underneath the floor to a floor joist.

After the system was finished, Daigle Oil went back and tweaked it to ensure maximum performance. "We're always available for

follow-up," Michaud says. Even in 40 degrees F below zero?

Other Residential Under 5,000 sq. ft. System Showcase Award Winners:

2nd Place: William Jannone & Sons, Hepp Residence, Sparta, N.J.

3rd Place: Aspen Solar Systems, Aspen Center For Environmental Studies, Aspen, Colo.