This home is perched on a gentle rise above the Conestoga River in the heart of Pennsylvania Amish country. Homeowners Douglas and Kathleen DeAngelis wanted their new home to be a balanced blend of sensible design and state-of-the-art technology, so they built it around the long-planned mechanical and electrical systems.
The contemporary, open house design features a walk-out, finished basement, a highly efficient hydronic system with radiant heat and the use of "shoulder-season" electric floor warming.
"I love the fact that the heating system doesn't interfere with furniture placement, and that there are no registers or baseboard to contend with," said Kathleen. "And I was delighted to have all solid surfaces for the flooring, and yet still have warm feet."
While Kathleen was fixed on comfort and the design benefits of radiant heat, Douglas was looking more at the functionality of the system; chiefly, fuel efficiency and energy savings. "I insisted on high efficiency systems and the best means of getting that heat into the home," said Douglas.
With the help of hydronics pro, Vince Youndt, president of Stevens, PA-based Vertex Mechanical Inc., the DeAngelis' chose to break the home into nine separate heating zones. The many system zones gave them great control over how the heat is applied: they both like a warm kitchen, and a cool bedroom. "Yet, guests might like warmer sleeping conditions," added Douglas. "We could do it all with radiant."
"Douglas asked that I choose the radiant heat components," said Youndt. "My strong preference was Watts Radiant, chiefly because they're the only source for the black rubber radiant tubing, 'Onix', a product I use routinely for joist bay staple-up applications. Because of its incredible flexibility, Onix goes up quickly, can be doubled-up and shoved through perimeter feed holes, something that can't even be attempted with PEX. The tubing can also be maneuvered around obstacles in a snap.
"But the key advantage to Onix is that you don't need heat transmission plates," added Youndt. "When it's stapled to the base of the subfloor, it flattens just a wee bit. That greatly increases the surface area where heat transfer takes place, accomplishing the same thing that the transmission plates do, yet at a fraction of the installation time, and expense. Of course, we use foil-faced insulation below the tubing to complete installation of the staple-up sections. Though Onix costs more than PEX tubing, we more than make up for that with these advantages."
When the final blueprint was OK'd, the home's features provided 2,760 sq ft of finished space on the first floor (heated by stapling EPDM rubber "Onix" radiant tubing to the subfloor with no need for transmission plates), 2,400 sq ft of basement space (using 4,475 linear feet of Radiant PEX tubing, in-slab), and a bonus room, offering an additional 350 sq ft above the oversized, three-car garage (heated by hydro-air).
"We also chose to install two zones of HeatWeave electric heat under the tile in our master bath and laundry room/powder room areas," said Kathleen. "We're delighted with the results."
"I prefer the HeatWeave mats because of the ease of installation. And I especially like the way the mat hugs the underlayment when I apply the mortar; the mat stays in place," explained Bob Sullivan, senior installer for Lancaster, PA-based Indoor City, a custom floor finishing firm. "It's much better than the wire types. It's also very rugged. We left an area uncovered for several days, with just a thin sheet of cardboard across it. It handled the traffic well, and worked like a charm long after the tile was installed over top of it."
"The electric radiant's great for warming the floors during the fall and spring seasons when we may not want to use the main radiant heat system for house heat," said Kathleen.
And, just five weeks after the first floor joist bays were insulated from below, the DeAngelis' moved into their new home. "We hear this winter's going to be a bad one," said Kathleen. "If predictions are right, there'll be an abundance of snow and frigid temperatures. But I think we'll be well prepared for it. The thought of having warm floor tiles when it's icy outside has me eager to experience it. That's a first!"