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Radiant Heating Concrete Slabs

November 21st, 2007 · 1 Comment

I recently read the “Off The Wall – HeatingHelp.com” area of the April 2007 issue of Plumbing and Mechanical Magazine. The first inquiry focused on the following question: “Can I also put a 140 degree loop for the towel warmer/radiator in my upstairs bathroom?” Since I am not a plumber I found the answers given and the arguments presented to support them interesting, intelligent and educational. Unfortunately I cannot say the same thing about the second inquiry and the replies to it.

The second inquiry pertained to the installation of hydronic tubing on top of an existing concrete slab as a way to delivering radiant heat to the space. Unfortunately the replies did not start and end with something like: “That is a terrible idea, forget it!” Much to my surprise and disappointment the replies appeared to be sincere and included: “I’ve seen a four-car garage where they just poured 3 inches of cement (they used cement with 1-pound stone and a thin layer of double bubble insulation) over the old floor and just raised the doors. Fuelman”; “I shot my 3/8-inch tubing in with plastic clips and a Hilti nail gun. Piping was 6-12 inches on center. They poured 1 ½ inches directly over pipes. Dan”; and, “I built my basement with a similar setup as you’re talking about –above 1400 square feet with a 4-inch slab; radiant heat barrier (bubble, foil, bubble); wire mesh with tubing tied to mesh; and 3 more inches on top. Works great. Joe”.

Please tell me that professionals in the radiant heating industry are not doing this to their customers! The idea of raising a concrete slab or floor an additional 2 to 4 inches is simply a bad idea from virtually all perspectives. As a matter of fact raising the height of a concrete basement floor is worse than lowering the basement ceiling to box in furnace ducts.

True radiant heat professionals should be prepared to answer the following questions from prospective customers:

1. Just how good does a basement look when each door has been shortened by 4 inches?
2. How good of an idea is it to bury non-treated studs in 2 to 4 inches of concrete?
3. Is the height differential between the bottom step and all of the other steps really that noticeable?
4. Is the finished product something that I will be proud to show to my friends and your potential future customer?
5. What radiant heating alternatives exist that will satisfy my heating needs and do not require either raising my floors or lowering my ceilings?
6. Why haven’t you suggested Heatizon Systems Tuff Cable or ZMesh radiant heating and floor warming products to me?

By: Steven D. Bench

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