Designing Radiant Floor Heating That Is The Best Combination of High Performance, Environmental Responsiblity And Cost

I grew up in a house with an addition with radiant floor heating. My mother was a Frank Lloyd Wright fan and so the new wing on our house had radiant floor heating with tubing in concrete covered with a thin cork floor. Frank Lloyd Wright was an early proponent of radiant floor heating. I remember it was always warm and inviting in the big playroom with radiant heat where we kids always played. Later as a professor at the University of New Mexico in the early 1980s, I met a Norwegian who was promoting and educating people about radiant floor heating. Again I was amazed at how comfortable it was. This time I also wanted to understand the thermodynamics of how it worked and all the ways it could be installed. Thus began my now 36 year involvement with radiant floor heating.

Along this journey I was a radiant floor heating contractor who installed around half a million square feet of radiant floor heating, I became president of a national brand of radiant floor heating, later Associate Director of the original radiant heating trade group, the Radiant Panel Association. For the last 15 years I’ve been involved in developing radiant floor heating products. Most prominent among those is our patented Ecowarm Plus high performance radiant heating board system. I am now the CEO of the company that manufactures this product. I worked on procuring the Patent, have developed all the tooling to manufacture the product and have made all the decisions on the materials used and how it’s made.

These many experiences have resulted in unique insights into designing a radiant floor heating product with the best balance of high-performance, cost and environmental responsibility. I hope sharing these insights will help others evaluate the best radiant system to buy. I wanted a radiant floor heating system that:

  • Would efficiently deliver heat to its top layer quickly for high-performance by using a thermodynamically appropriate thickness of conductive aluminum
  • That accelerates rapidly so set back thermostats could be used
  • That only uses quality materials that are as green and environmentally responsible as possible
  • That has a slightly undercut groove for tubing retention
  • That it’s cost combined with the above features could make it the best value in the industry.

Our patented Ecowarm Plus accomplishes all these goals:

What is meant by thermodynamically appropriate thickness of aluminum?

In our design the aluminum is on top of the board and in contact with the radiant tubing. Since aluminum is over 1500 times more conductive than wood, it serves to help spread heat both laterally and upward. Aluminum, thus is a very valuable component of the design, but using too little would mean an under performing system and using too thick an aluminum layer is both very costly and environmentally irresponsible. Think of the thickness of the aluminum like a water pipe where a certain size pipe will meet the energy needs of the house and a greatly oversize pipe will not deliver more energy but is just a costly big pipe. Most modern houses meeting energy codes have heat losses between 13-25 BTU.SQ FT/Hour and operate much of the year below their maximum heat loss.The thickness of the aluminum on Ecowarm Plus is chosen to be very effective in this range with low water temperatures and is capable of generously exceeding this up to 42 BTU SQ FT/Hour with modest elevations of water temperatures.

What is the importance of rapid acceleration?

The conductive aluminum layer means our radiant board heats up rapidly (up to 5 time faster than concrete or Gypsum). This is rapid response means Ecowarm Plus can be appropriately used with setback thermostats. It is also valuable in climates where there is both a heating and cooling load in the same day.

How is quality and environmental responsibility achieved by Ecowarm Plus?

EcowarmPlus is made using quality 7 ply American made FSC® certified plywood in a plant that is itself FSC certified. FSC certification means the wood is certified sustainably grown and harvested. Ecowarm plus uses made in America aluminum with recycled content and low VOC American made water based adhesives. In addition to its green qualities good plywood is the substrata preferred for nailing hardwood in quality homes.

Why is a tube retaining slightly undercut groove important?

Tubing is “walked” into our slightly undercut groove. This means it is firmly retained in our board making for ease of installation and assuring it will not tick or create sounds after installation.

Is Ecowarm Plus the best balance of high-performance, cost and environmental responsibility in the radiant floor heating market? Yes!