Radiant Heating Report: Custom-Fit Radiant
Established just 10 years, C&N Mechanical began doing small radiant jobs, mainly bathroom remodels and small additions, five years ago.
"We began to realize that there weren't that many contractors who were knowledgeable about radiant heat," says owner David Lovesky. "While the phone was always ringing for service work, word-of-mouth referrals for radiant jobs started making the phone ring, too."
A manufacturers rep convinced Lovesky to find out more about Viessmann, Stadler and other high-tech heating lines he represented. Lovesky sold a radiant retrofit job practically a day after attending a three-day Viessmann school. The retrofit, for an established commercial plumbing account, paid the customer back after just one year thanks to the energy-efficient design. That job led to a referral by another subcontractor to do a 3,000-sq. ft. residential retrofit.
Currently, 45 percent of C&N's business comes from radiant jobs, with the rest diversified among commercial plumbing, new construction, fire protection and service and repair.
The 15,000-sq. ft., three-level Kershner Residence is the company's biggest radiant job - not to mention the cure for the biggest headache the home's architect had over the heating system. Before C&N entered the picture, the architect received a bid specifying a staple-up system, running contrary to the joists, with no transfer plates. It also contained a complete hydro-air backup system with seven air handlers. The heating plant consisted of three 700,000-Btu boilers for heat and two 199,000-Btu water heaters for domestic use. The cost of the heating system alone exceeded the price of most upper-middle class homes.
"We were first shown the blueprint at an associate's office as an example of a poorly designed system," Lovesky remembers. "We could only guess that the designer was trying to satisfy both the warm air and the radiant systems to run concurrently - even if the temperature dropped to 80 degrees below zero."
Busy with other work and with only six employees, Lovesky had no intention of pursuing the project. Three months later, however, the architect gave Lovesky a call, thanks to referrals by two homebuilders C&N does business with. Lovesky spent two hours one night with the architect going over options. (He also showed the architect the video we honored with a Publisher's Choice Award. For more on this, see page 53).
At first, the architect asked C&N to work with him as a consultant evaluating other bids. But eventually, the architect hired C&N to take on the complete task.
After doing a heat loss calculation for the whole house, Lovesky figured he could heat the residence on a minus 10-degree F day with less than 450,00 Btus. Instead of staple up, Lovesky installed PEX above the subfloor. For power, he used two Viessmann Vitola Biferral boilers with all the bells and whistles. Meanwhile, a 120-gallon Viessmann indirect water heater supplies domestic hot water, while feeding a hydro-air zone to the basement only and hot water fan coils for the garage and attic spaces. Humidity is maintained with four Nortec steam humidifiers located inside the a/c ductwork.
The system heats the home on a zero degree day with only one boiler running intermittently. The chimney, already constructed at 18 inches by 18 inches, had to be sleeved with a 10-inch lining. Fresh air openings were reduced by two-thirds.
Lovesky, who just five years ago saw an absence of radiant competition, now sees more and more competition.
"More contractors are involved in radiant," he adds. "While we have many word-of-mouth referrals, we realize we cannot cut back on our marketing."
To that end, Lovesky put together a hydronics showroom with an operating Viessmann boiler, Runtal coat rack, Vasco towel racks and Radiant Tech baseboard. The floor consists of Stadler climate panel system with various floor surfaces
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