A Little Radiant Flooring History
Ecowarm has been manufacturing nonstructural radiant heating boards for 18 years and the Ecowarm RadiantBoard product line for 6 years. Warmboard originally sold only their structural Warmboard S product, but more recently introduced their nonstructural Warmboard R, imitating Ecowarm’s RadiantBoard design.
Quality of Ecowarm Compared to Warmboard R
Ecowarm RadiantBoard offers high quality, sustainably forested 6 or 7-ply FSC® certified plywood made in the USA. Warmboard R uses oriented strand board (OSB) from Canada, a substantially less expensive, not-sustainably certified and generally less desirable substrate for flooring.
Ecowarm RadiantBoard uses a thickness of aluminum laminate appropriate for the heat loads experienced in modern homes (performance details below). Our high recycled content aluminum is laminated using with a super-strong water-based Non-VOC adhesive.
Warmboard uses aluminum twice as thick as Ecowarm RadiantBoard which we believe is excessive and costly.
Despite the more desirable and expensive plywood base, Ecowarm RadiantBoard is typically 35% less costly than Warmboard R (or Warmboard S for that matter). Warmboard R remains more expensive than Ecowarm RadiantBoard, because it uses the company’s existing over-engineered aluminum plates borrowed from their structural board Warmboard S.
More contact. Better heat transfer. Excellent efficiency.
Observe the greater contact between tubing and aluminum than other products
Ecowarm RadiantBoard has a patented overbite groove design that gives a larger and tighter surface connection of the tubing to the aluminum resulting in better performance. Good design has a tight, complete connection between the aluminum and the tubing carrying warm water.
With our patented overbite design, tough PEX tubing is snapped or whacked into the groove with a small mallet. When warm water flows through the tubing it expands into the space, making a very tight heat transfer connection. The result is excellent performance.
Warmboard has a U shaped groove design. They recommend malleable Pex Al Pex, because it will stay in place during installation. Notice above that the tight connection stops about half way up the side of the groove. Less surface contact.
Ecowarm Performance Compared to Warmboard
Warmboard, through their in-house sales videos, attempts to demonstrate a vast superiority of their product’s performance over other radiant products. In our case, this is simply not the case.
In the radiant heating industry, efficiency is described by measuring the steady-state performance of a system and, separately, the response rate of a system. Both Warmboard R and Ecowarm RadiantBoard are top-performing systems as demonstrated in the published data of both companies and independent testing.
Radiant System Steady State Efficiency
This is the metric that nearly all radiant manufacturers publish to demonstrate the efficiency of a radiant system using different heat delivery methods (concrete, gypsum pour, underfloor, Ecowarm RadiantBoard, etc).
The temperature of the supply water required to meet a specific heat output to the room demonstrates the efficiency of a system; the lower water temperature the better, resulting in lower operational costs.
Most of a radiant system heating season is spent cycling through a steady-state condition, so this data point is important. Ecowarm RadiantBoard requires very low temperatures to meet steady-state heat loads.
Warmboard’s steady-state performance chart indicates they might require a supply water temperature slightly lower than Ecowarm RadiantBoard in common heat load conditions.
Independent testing by Virginia Tech of many system types shows Warmboard and Ecowarm RadiantBoard’s extremely close in performance. Claims of “Vast Superiority” are simply not supported.
Response Rate: Warmboard conflates their systems excellent responsiveness with efficiency, which is not consistent with the understanding of the radiant industry engineering community. Good responsiveness is very useful… hyperresponsiveness promoted by Warmboard has only a marginal effect on the actual performance in every day and long term use of radiant systems.
*Note: The above video is an infrared timelapse of Ecowarm without the final flooring goods installed. Once your floor is installed you will see even greater conductivity across the surface of the floor.
Why highlight a non-standard application?
Their in-house testing protocol promoted in their sales videos, used by no other manufacturer in the industry, demonstrates a system floor starting from stone-cold (0 BTUs) to a high heat load condition for most modern homes (20 BTU Sq Ft.), using a high supply water temperature (120F) rarely required in modern homes.
In the real world, very little operating time exists under these conditions: starting up your system and shutting it down at the beginning of a season. During the heating season, a radiant system is cycling to maintain the temperature in a room or from setback, not going from stone cold.
So the condition radiant floor purchasers should care about is a system coming from setback, let’s say 15 btu/sq./ft to the 20 btu/sq./ft. in Warmboard’s videos. There long lag time they demonstrate does not occur under the everyday use of radiant floor systems, particularly a responsive system like Ecowarm RadiantBoard.
The Warmboard testing videos describe conditions with on/off radiant system controls popular 20 years ago and do not reflect the advanced controls installed today.
Modern, well-designed radiant heating systems use weather responsive controls that anticipate changing weather conditions and change the system water temperature to maintain constant, comfortable room temperature. These types of controls also save the customer another 20% in heating costs. Systems now use setback and smart thermostats that save energy.
A good response is very useful but hyper responsiveness just does not provide meaningful, cost-effective value or greater comfort in a modern radiant system.
While Warmboard refers to their system as a high performance, hi-speed race car, a more fitting analogy is that Warmboard represents an expensive 200 mph sports car that is operated in a 60 mph speed zone.
“Its pretty badass. If you’re in the market for radiant, I highly recommend looking into these guys. And maybe the best part, is that they are super nice to work with. You can check out my Deep Dive interview with them and you can just see how passionate they are about what they do…even after 30+ years in the business!” – Anthony Carrino
“Ecowarm is easy to install and we use it often!” – Radiant Works
“Installation went great! The system is up and running. Thanks for all your help!” – RAB Associates
Warmboard’s testing reflects the response requirements of outdated, on/off heating systems – which have been obsolete for decades.
Seriously impressive! The panels did not take long to install…The Ecowarm guys sent us shop drawings based on my architectural plans. We laid out the room — it was paint by number. Everything got screwed down, then the installers cut the slits, laid out the tubing, locked it into the precut channels and that’s it! Room is done in 10 minutes. Pretty awesome! — Anthony Carrino, Thebuild.tv
Striping Differences Between Ecowarm and Warmboard
Despite claims by Warmboard, Ecowarm RadiantBoard should not create hot and cold spots on a floor that can be felt by people. In the Ecowarm RadiantBoard images below, cross hairs indicate the low and the high surface temperature across the board. You can also see the 3 temperature sensors we used to confirm the temperatures revealed by the thermographic camera. Note the very modest 2.8° F difference between the high and low temperatures across the Ecowarm RadiantBoard, confirming evenly distributed heat at 15 btu/hr per square foot using 115F supply water.
On the other hand, Warmboard sales videos demonstrate stripping conditions with high supply water temperatures, not seen in well-designed modern homes…. to demonstrate a problem that should not exist. Both Warmboard and Ecowarm RadiantBoard provide even, comfortable heat across a floor.
Ecowarm is FSC Certified. Warmboard is not Sustainable.
Ecowarm RadiantBoard uses FSC certified plywood. FSC certification means our product is made from wood grown in sustainably managed forests with a monitored chain of custody. You know what you are getting. The OSB used by Warmboard R comes from Canada which has sustainability guidelines, not certifications. Additionally, it is impossible to track the provenance of a strand of OSB.
Ecowarm RadiantBoard uses aluminum thick enough for effective heat transfer. Warmboard R uses thicker aluminum due to structural strength issue with their original structural product, Warmboard S. Both Ecowarm and Warmboard use no VOC adhesives for attaching the aluminum laminate. Hardwood can be glued directly to Ecowarm RadiantBoard and Warmboard R.
Ecowarm RadiantBoard use of sustainably forested substrata, No VOC glue, aluminum with recycled content, and a thermodynamically appropriate thickness of aluminum means Ecowarm RadiantBoard has a significantly lower impact on the planet than Warmboard R.
Ecowarm provides even, comfortable heat across your entire floor.
I have installed many Ecowarm RadiantBoard projects and one Warmboard R project over the years. I have found Ecowarm RadiantBoard easier to install than Warmboard R boards; much less breakage, easier and safer to handle, and easier on saw blades. — Vaughn Peiffer, California
The thicker aluminum used by Warmboard makes cutting much more difficult on the blades and the contractor. Installers complain of damaged saws and gashes caused by the very sharp edges. Ecowarm RadiantBoard panels are lighter, making them easier to cut and place.
As the curved combo sections of Ecowarm are serrated, a mallet or heavy roller can be used to pound the tubing in place.
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Ecowarm RadiantBoard incorporates the best balance of high performance, material quality, environmental responsibility, and cost. In short, Ecowarm RadiantBoard represents the best value in radiant board heating systems.