Heating buildings from the floor has proven to be the most comfortable and efficient way of heating and building and an idea that has been around for more than 2,000 years.

The popularity of floor heat has been growing rapidly over the last 10 years. According to the Radiant Panel Association (RPA), tubing sales have doubled in the last four years. Latest figures of the RPA show estimated tubing sales for floor heat in 1999 were close to 140,000,000 feet. Assuming a typical 12-inch spacing, this means 140,000,000 square feet of radiant floors were installed in the United States last year.

There are many reasons floor heat is recognized as the premier heating system. In large, open buildings, such as shops or manufacturing facilities, workers enjoy a comfort level unattainable with any other heat source. Since workers are standing, working or sleeping on the heater, their feet are never cold and tools are warm to the touch. A properly designed system will keep the floor temperature at or below 85 degrees F. Since the floor is the heater, and will be the warmest object in the building, the air temperature in the rafters will be no warmer than the air temperature near the floor and may, in very tall buildings, be cooler. Floor heat is a radiant form of heat as well, which means it heats objects. Therefore, when a cold piece of equipment is brought into a building, it warms up very quickly. In fact, the comfort level in the building, after a big door is opened and closed, returns to normal faster than with any other heat source. Radiant floor heat is recognized as the most efficient form of heat available.

Home owners also benefit from a heated floor, as there is no better feeling than living in a house where the floors always are warm and inviting, even on the coldest winter days. Forget about the need to run around the house in fuzzy slippers or snuggling under a blanket to watch television. Stepping out of the shower onto a warm floor brings a smile to every one who has experienced it. Of course, the idea of having a heating system that is 30 to 50% more efficient than the best scorched (forced) air heating system certainly appeals to everyone.

If snow or ice is a problem, tubing can be embedded in drive ways and sidewalks to keep them clear.

The most frequently asked questions regarding floor heat pertain to problems with the concrete cracking and causing a leak. These cracks will have no effect on the tubing. It only is when a shearing action or complete separation of one section of the floor from another occurs that problems may be encountered.

This can be avoided by proper compaction of the soil before pouring and installation of a good reinforcement in the concrete. Typical spacing of the tubing is 12 inches on center; however, this spacing may be closer in buildings or rooms with a high heat requirement.

There are basically three sizes of tubing used. The most popular size for small buildings or homes is 1.2-inch, for small to medium size buildings 5/8 inch tubing may be used and for larger buildings 3/4 inch is preferred. Circuit lengths are typically 250 feet for 1/2 inch, 300 to 350 feet for 5/8 inch and 500 feet for 3/4 inch. Circuit lengths longer than these only should be attempted after a complete analysis of the heat load of the building is performed and flow rates and pressure drops through the tubing also must be determined.

Energy Management Systems, Holcomb, KS, has been designing and installing floor heating systems for almost 15 years and has the expertise to provide its customers with the best equipment and complete designs, including drawings and layout of the floor heating system. Installation is available for any size project; however, Energy Management Systems also can provide a "kit" for those desiring to install the system themselves. The kit includes prefabricated components, such as manifolds and control boards, and may include partial assembly of the boiler and boiler components when necessary. The drawings and other installation instructions specifically designed for a particular system, complete the kit and assure a person of receiving the components that fit the individual application.

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