With a few refinements, a couple of separate speakers during opening day of the Radiant Panel Association’s Annual National Conference and Radiant Expo, Aug. 22-24, Hartford, Conn., underscored just how eco-friendly radiant systems can be.
Not only is a ground source heat pump an ideal solar thermal collector, said Jeff Persons, Geo Source Inc., but when coupled with a radiant heat distribution system, it is highly energy efficient and comfortable.
Geothermal use the earth as a massive thermal storage battery. “I like to think of it as an energy piggy bank,” Persons added.
During the summer, for example, a geothermal system can essentially store waste heat that can be tapped for the heating season months later. Tubing buried under and around a home can raise the ambient temperate of the earth from 55 degrees F to 74 degrees F.
Person’s version of a piggy bank, however, promises much better returns than the one that sat atop your childhood desk. He says a properly designed geothermal system can save up to 80 percent of heating costs and up to 60 percent of cooling costs. Besides these numbers, he also said such a system could supply up to 60 percent of a home’s domestic hot water.
Although geothermal can supply forced air, Persons added that “geothermal is a perfect match for radiant” due to the low temperatures needed to warm a home.
American contractors rely too often on too many pumps to distribute radiant heat, said speaker John Siegenthaler, Appropriate Designs.
“Increasing energy costs presents a great opportunity to market hydronics by using far less ‘distribution energy,’” Siegenthaler said.
To a great extent, the industry has improved thermal efficiencies with many manufacturers offering full lines of boilers offering 95 percent-plus efficiencies. But contractors have turned a blind eye on distributing that efficient heat.
Siegenthaler presented a series of images of installations in which it was hard to actually count the number of pumps installed in the boiler room. One such example has 21 pumps that accounted for 5,000 watts of electricity.
Meanwhile, Europeans contractors are using pumps on their radiant jobs that draw half the wattage of a night light. At least a couple of European makers of these low-powered pumps are beginning to introduce these models to the United States.
Using these pumps, Siegenthaler said contractor could cut electrical energy costs down by as much as 80 percent.