Little Radiant Cat House On The Prairie
A few years ago, we went middle-age crazy and moved to a farm in the country. My wife Ellen, our son Max and I love the country life. Animals love it, too. Move to the country and quadrupeds just start showing up at your door. Our place, Pipe Dreams Farm, on Know It All Lane, is now home to three dogs, two cats, nine cows and soon to come, chickens. (Max and Ellen envision fresh eggs. I see more quadrupeds; coyote and fox arriving to dine.)
A small kitten adopted us one cold winter day last year. You know the routine.
"Ah, he's so cute, can we keep him?" etc., etc.
"All right, but he'll be an outdoor cat."
"No. He'll freeze. He's too small to be left outside."
So, out to the shop I went to build a cat house. I hammered together a respectable house, four walls and a pitched roof. It was enough to keep the little fleabag out of the weather. But the cat was cute and a little undersized. Well, one thought led to another, and I started to feel bad about the possibility of the cat freezing.
I know how traumatic it can be to discover a dead pet. When I was a kid, my dad spray painted a boat in our garage. Next morning, I went to the garage and found Oscar the rabbit toes up, seriously overdosed on paint fumes. I couldn't bear putting Max through that kind of heartbreak. I had to build a better, warmer cathouse.
I decided to give the little bugger a warm floor. I started with a piece of 12-inch floor tile left over from our kitchen remodel. Because of the square footage - that being, 1 sq. ft.- I chose an electric application.
I had a small piece of self-regulating mobile home heat tape that I'd picked up at a garage sale. I calculated a heat loss on my Radiant Works software. Five feet of cable at 3 watts per foot provides 50 Btu/hr. I reckoned that ought to do it. I used a hot glue gun to fasten the cable to the tile.
Then, I set the pre-fabricated building on a piece of 1-inch foam and plugged it into a GFI receptacle. The kitty adopted the house immediately. Now he's no longer an undersized kitten but still manages to cram his fat butt into that "Little Radiant Cat House" on cold winter nights.
The canines manage to wheedle their way into our house on the coldest nights, but they still need shelter during the day, when we are away from home. Some winter days in Missouri don't heat up past zero degrees.
The cathouse project moved me to create something a little more elaborate for the dogs. (They seem to like me more than the cat.) What to do? A hydronic system! Yeah, that's the ticket. So, I took some Thermo Fin remnants that I had lying around and grooved some 1-1/2-inch foam with a hot piece of conduit. I glued the fins into the foam and snapped some Weil McLain PEX-AL-PEX into the fins. Then, I connected the whole enchilada to the low temperature radiant zone of the house system. I connected a set point control to activate at 20 degrees F, and let 'er rip.
You see, I just can't help myself. I'm a radiant guy. I look at things differently. I look at concrete slabs, buildings, bathtubs, dinner plates, telephones, office chairs and dog houses and think, "This would be so much nicer with a warm coil underneath it!"
Next on my list are some radiant counter tops for our kitchen, and a hydronically heated waterbed. Then I can start on the radiant seat for my bobsled. I'll keep you posted.