Uncle Bobs Tips

DIY Heating Plumbing

DIY Heating Plumbing

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DIY heating plumbing can be summed up in three words; don't do it! Aside, from the tremendous amount of expertise and specialized tools you need for such an endeavor, the danger and astronomical costs of screwing it up will keep any sensible DIY-er far away from this project.

Now I know a lot of you are not going to like that answer. Listen, I could tell you the procedure, some equipment you'll need, and safety tips to get the project done well. But I don't think that a general article on the web is going to cover the minutia that is involved in each individual's situation. Further, I don't know what your skill level, experience, and understanding are, but I do know that the vast majority of DIYers out there (even the most learned ones) would not complete this project successfully and safely. So, though some of you might be upset that a DIY column is telling you don't do it yourself, remember that there is a time and place for everything under the sun, even calling in the pros.

Underfloor heating, on the other hand is certainly a project well worth the time and effort investment. Radiant heating is said to be one of the most cost and heat efficient forms of all the heating systems. These systems use less electricity than the average heating units, consuming 25-30% less energy), produce cleaner heat in a quieter way, and allow for other available energy sources to be connected. No heat is lost in the ducts, making it more precise than forced air systems, and baseboard heating has nothing to talk about. Radiant alleviates the common allergy problems caused by forced air systems, as well.

An under-floor radiant heating system can be installed using either the wet or the dry method. The dry installation is the straightforward procedure described in the linked article above. The wet method is slightly more complicated and should be cleared with an engineer before proceeding. The basic gist is laying down a bed of concrete in which the piping can rest. The reason an engineer is required is because your floor has a maximum weight capacity and putting a layer of concrete onto the sub floor can very likely exceed that maximum limit. Again, this is not only a costly mistake, but also a dangerous error that can cost someone's life.

Electric and hydronic (heated water runs through the pipes) options are available. Here's a very quick look at the pros and con's to help you decide what's right for you. A hydronic system takes several hours to heat up, while electric takes appx. 30 minutes to an hour to heat up. Hydronic is better for an initial new home project, electric for a remodeling one. This is because the concrete base for hydronic heating can raise the floor level by several inches and many finished homes cannot accommodate this change. Electric is easier to install on your own, none of the cement pouring necessary. Electric systems are similar to electric blankets, and as easy use.

While a number of overlays are available, ceramic tiling is the most efficient flooring. Thick carpeting makes it harder for the heat to penetrate, meaning you get less heat at the end of the day. Solid hardwood panels warm up quickly and keep the heat in. Wood also looks great and can be finished to match any color scheme. The only down side to wood is the possibility of shrinkage or warping. Paying attention to where the wood was bought and how it was dried can prevent this. Basically, quick drying processes make the wood panels susceptible to such behavior with time. Synthetic woods do not give you these problems.

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