Outdoor enthusiasts will go to great extremes to set up camp. An example is the "re-greening" of a rural log home in Pennsylvania.
Two years ago, Travis and Rachel Wenger were looking for a family retreat and hunting lodge. During their visit to a 2,400 s.f. log home built in '94, they were on the home's wrap-around deck when, suddenly, the realtor clammed-up and turned pale. A 400-pound black bear, ignoring them, climbed the opposite stair to assault the gas grill.
Convinced it was "the sign we were looking for, we immediately agreed to buy the place," said Travis.
Green Mechanical Makeover
Travis and his father Merv set out to remodel the log house, adding more bedrooms and "truck loads of insulation." Plans called for extensive HVAC upgrades and the addition of a large log garage with living quarters above.
Chosen to manage the mechanical makeover was Dave Yates, president of F. W. Behler, Inc. "Before the remodel, the home leaked like a sieve. Their old LP gas furnace burned fuel furiously and they watched the electric meter spin like an old 78 Victrola," said Yates.
Yates and the Wengers settled on a geo-to-radiant solution that included a 27 SEER water-to-air heat pump for a/c and back-up heat, and a high-temp, water-to-water system as the "geothermal boiler" to drive the radiant heat into a 120-gallon "thermal target" storage tank. The reservoir of hot water feeds several Watts Radiant Hydronex panels which in turn feed warmth in the home to half a mile of stapled-up, 3/8" Onix pipe.
"Onix is our preferred tubing for staple-up," said Yates. "It flexes like rope, can be doubled-up and pushed through holes, and flattens slightly during staple-up, greatly improving heat transfer."
Yates' crew saved many days of work by using the HydroNex panels which control hydronic heat flow keying off of an outdoor reset. "Rather than building a large wall for hydronic control and circulation, we placed an order for the panels; they arrived, gorgeous, prefabricated, preassembled and pre-engineered," said Yates.
Radiant, at a Glance
The first radiant heat installation wasn't hydronic. Most of the home's lower level concrete slab is now warmed by HeatWeave electric radiant mats under tile flooring. "We knew we'd need floor-warming down there for the winter months - the big room is where we've placed a bar and pool table," said Rachel.
That's a Garage!
Connecting the home and garage, four feet underground, is a 150-foot length of R-flex, Watts Radiant's pre-insulated tubing with embedded, tandem one-inch supply-and-return PEX tubing (available in various sizes). Warm water feeds a two-zone injection panel which channels water to another half-mile of Onix pipe, most of it stapled to the underfloor of the large bunk-house above, and in the tool room's concrete floor.
The project concluded when Yates tied two solar thermal arrays into the system to heat domestic water and then - thanks to a brilliant control strategy by Watts Radiant engineers - the panels supply space system heat if domestic water needs are met.
"Last winter, the Wengers saw an 80-percent drop in energy expenses," concluded Yates. "The carbon footprint got a lot smaller, but they've added tremendously to the size of their comfort zone!"