In today’s economic climate, reducing costs is critical to maintaining profitability. One way to achieve those savings is to reduce jobsite labor costs. The introduction of easy-to-install radiant panel systems has cut the time it takes to install radiant floor heating on almost any project. The less time spent on installation means reduced labor costs - and a happier customer.
These systems give heating professionals more options when designing and installing radiant floor heating systems, thus expanding radiant heat to more applications.
Channeled modular boardRadiant heating installers were first introduced to “dry” systems consisting of prechanneled modular board and metal plates for heat transfer. PEX tubing is then snapped into the grooves. They are lightweight, low in profile and provide a quick heat response time.
“These systems can offer advantages with low floor height and the ability to easily fasten hardwood flooring over them,” says Mark Hudoba, senior product manager of radiant heating and cooling at Uponor.
Embedding tubing in cement or gypsum may not work in some applications due to added weight, scheduling complications or moisture introduced into a home during curing. “Using a dry radiant system makes the process go a bit smoother,” notes Bob Grubbs of Grubbs Mechanical, Bristol, Wis.
“In a retrofit situation, dry radiant has the advantage,” explains Bill Werthman, contractor trainer at Legend Hydronics. A contractor may not be able to get under the floor to install tubing or add framing adaptations required to support the weight of the concrete.
For contractors, these systems mean more money in their pockets.
“Our profit goes completely to us and we don’t have to use any other subcontractors,” says Dan Whitlock of Whitlock Plumbing & Heating, Princeton, Ill. “It gives us total control over the entire job. It also cuts down on errors because you can see exactly where the tubing is going.”
First the header sticks are installed, then the sleepers and corner sweeps. Next the tubing is placed in the wide channels, and the aluminum conduction roll is applied on top. SubRay uses wide channels instead of tight grooves, permitting easy movement of the tube with no noise.
Plastic gridFor radiant professionals looking for an easier method to install PEX in a slab or lightweight overpour application, plastic grid systems allow for PEX tubing to be snapped into place around plastic knobs.
“Because these systems are so flexible, tubing can be installed in any configuration, depending on the spacing for the project,” says Fred Fleming, a Viega product engineer.
Tubing installation for remodel jobs can be reduced from days to hours, Hudoba says. Installers can easily make changes to loop layout if needed.
Easy electricIn a retrofit or small addition application, electric radiant heating may be the best solution. Today there are methods to easily install electric cable for radiant floor heating.
“Some tradespeople like these systems because they are similar to hydronic radiant,” says Kevin McElroy, Nuheat vice president of sales.