Mother Nature’s cold shoulder is coming. Relentless, invasive, penetrating cold. You might call her mother nature, but I already have a mom and she’s nothing like that! So, those of us who can’t commute from Florida have to deal with it. Out comes the space heaters of all kinds, ready to fry ankles and even buildings if we’re not careful. No matter. The floor is still cold, near windows feel drafty, and let’s face it, the “Snuggie” fleece one-piece just isn’t for people with dignity.
There’s got to be a better way to stay warm this winter than dressing up like a herd of flannel zebras!
During a recent Lunch & Learn the crack (overworked) design team at Murphy Bros. grilled the ThermaRay representative, Don Mordal on their radiant heating systems. On the whole, radiant heat has largely been ignored by the residential remodeling market. All of us know about in-floor heat and how good it feels on bare feet (unintended Rhyme). Historically, we also know that particular generic in-floor product (not ThermaRay) doesn’t feel as good on the pocket book and can have issues down the road if not installed perfectly.
But what if it was reasonably priced, easier to retrofit existing surfaces and rarely if ever failed? That’s what got our attention. When we found out it could be put in ceilings, either behind the ceiling surface or flush with it, much like a frosted ceiling tile, we got really curious.We started thinking, what about cold basements, additions, 3 & 4 season porches, let alone entryways, kitchens and the like? And then we really started talking.
Actually from an applied building principle it’s as old as Apollo and Zeus. The Greeks and Romans used radiant heat in bathhouses and homes as early as 500 BC. It’s basic thermodynamics—heat transfers from a hot object to a cooler object. It’s how the sun heats the earth.
Like light from a flashlight, radiant rays travel in straight lines and stop when they reach a surface or more importantly a person that can absorb that warmth. The radiant rays will not only warm you, but also warm every surface in your living room or your kitchen, including the countertops and floors. On the other hand forced-air systems have the greatest amount of wasted energy, with the heat collecting at the ceiling and lower temperatures at the floor level.
Frank Lloyd Wright traveled to Japan in 1905 and inevitably started incorporating radiant heating into his homes, including the historical first Usonian home—The Herbert Jacobs house in 1937. Modern new home construction has used it since the 1950s for in-floor heating, and since the 80’s in more and more commercial settings
Since we are by nature skeptics at heart, we're pretty sure the sun will come back up in the east, but you know, we’ll see, we decided to test it with our client services support staffer Tania, who sits at our front desk, and who has been one sweater shy of a Snuggie lately as daytime temps have been falling.
“This single panel runs in the hundreds, looks just like a light panel that’s off, and we rigged it to work with a simple remote,” explains owner John Murphy. “I can definitely see this as a more energy efficient and comfortable solution for many remodeling applications. And hey, you’ve got to love a lifetime warranty. Pretty hard to find those today,” says John. “I also like the fact that if you use their floor joist heating system you can change out the floor covering in the future without touching or affecting the system.”
The radiant ceiling heating system is a panelized heating system that installs above the sheetrock ceiling and between the trusses. The heating panels are about the thickness of sheetrock (½” thick and 9”, 12” and 18” wide and 3’-7’ long in one foot increments). Like the floor warming, it is an invisible and silent heating system that gently warms the space from above. A radiant ceiling system feels like walking from the shade to the sun. On a cool day you feel those radiant rays immediately when you walk into the space.
The ThermaRay radiant floor warming system is a spooled cable system that installs directly on top of the subfloor and below all floor coverings (tile, marble, slate, vinyl, laminate, engineered, wood, etc.). The cable system fits any size or shape of room and can also be paired with any anti fracture or uncoupling membrane.
A floor joist heating system uses the same heating panels as the ceiling system, but are installed below the subfloor. The floor joist system is not in the wear surface and can be used in new construction, remodel or retrofit applications. With a little extra planning a ThermaRay floor cable system can also be used to warm your countertops and islands.