Category: Major Systems


This Motion-Sensing Dimmer Fully Automates Your Lighting

Finally, a dimmer that works with CFLs and LEDs as well as traditional incandescents, and can switch on the lights for you when you enter a room. Now that's progress!

Photo: lutron.com

If you’ve bought new light bulbs anytime in the last few years, you know the selection has changed dramatically for the better, with traditional incandescents having been mostly replaced by newer CFLs and LEDs. The transition to more energy-efficient bulbs, however, has not been without its share of hiccups. For example, some people initially struggled to find a next-generation bulb whose output resembles the warm incandescent glow that had become so familiar over past decades. In addition, many homeowners discovered that their old dimmers were not compatible with the latest lighting. Industry leader Lutron has solved that problem by creating a line of cutting-edge dimmers specially designed for use with dimmable CFLs and LEDs. But the company didn’t stop there. With its Maestro Occupancy/Vacancy Sensor Dimmer Switch, Lutron now offers a dimmer that’s even more fully featured and convenient for today’s homeowner. Leveraging innovative motion-sensor technology, the product actually turns the lights on and off for you, automating your home while saving you time and energy.

Photo: lutron.com

Smooth, Reliable Operation
Though dimmers perform a seemingly straightforward role, they are in fact sophisticated electrical components whose proper functioning depends on a variety of factors. When a homeowner uses CFLs or LEDs in combination with a conventional dimmer, the two may work fine in concert, more or less, but the pairing isn’t UL-listed. That means it has not been determined to meet nationally recognized safety standards. Performance issues may also be evident, including:

dropout: when lights turn off before the slider on the dimmer reaches its lowest setting

pop-on: when lights do not turn on at a low level

flickering: when dimmed CFLs or LEDs flicker excessively or turn off when household devices turn on

Lutron eliminates these problems with the company’s advanced, patented technology that provides improved, safe dimmer performance with dimmable LEDs and CFLs. And though the Lutron C•L line works reliably with the latest bulbs, it also boasts compatibility with incandescents and halogens.

Motion-Sensing Technology
Besides smooth and reliable dimming, the Maestro Dimmer Sensor includes motion-aware functionality. By configuring the simple press-and-hold settings, you can set the dimmer to turn on the lights when you enter the room, turn off the lights when you exit, or both. For laundry rooms and storage rooms—spaces you are likely to enter with your arms full—automatic lighting provides a high level of convenience. You no longer need to set down your load, hit the light switch, and then carry on with what you were doing. The lights go on for you.

The Maestro Dimmer Sensor employs passive infrared technology (PIR) with Lutron’s XCT sensing technology to sense the most common types of human movement. It also uses patented technology to detect fine motion, such as turning a page. In tests designed to compare the performance of Maestro sensors with the sensors from three other companies, researchers concluded the Maestro sensors were two to three times better at detecting fine motion. That level of precision helps to ensure that you’re not left in the dark when, for instance, you are working on the computer at night.

The Maestro can even sense the amount of ambient light in the room. When in “Ambient Light Detection” mode, the dimmer turns on the lights only if there’s not enough ambient light, whether from the windows or a table or floor lamp. Over time, the sensor learns your preferred light level and responds accordingly.

Lastly, don’t worry about the Maestro compromising your decor. Sleek and unobtrusive, the dimmer comes in 27 colors to match or complement any scheme.

Photo: lutron.com

This post has been brought to you by Lutron. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Get Instant Alerts Whenever Leaks Threaten Your Home

Even a relatively small leak can result in extensive, expensive repairs. The key to damage control has always been to catch moisture problems early, but only now is there an affordable and effective, truly homeowner-friendly means of doing so.

WallyHome Leak Detection System

Photo: wallyhome.com

With the exception of fire, water poses the greatest threat to our homes, whether it’s a slow-and-steady leak or a sudden flood. In fact, it’s estimated that every year, moisture plays a role in property loss claims to the tune of $11 billion. To help homeowners fend off expensive damage, dozens of manufacturers have brought water leak alarms to the market. But until now, those products were often too cheap to be effective or too expensive for many to adopt. Thankfully, that’s no longer true.

The WallyHome Water Sensing System has made leak detection not only more affordable, but potentially more effective. Whereas some competing leak detectors simply make noise, albeit a piercingly loud alarm, when triggered, Wally recognizes that you might not always be at home when a problem arises. So, when one of its sensors registers a red flag—moisture, or a worrying change in humidity or temperature—you immediately get a text message or email notification about the issue.

Operating on 10-year batteries, Wally sensors are small enough to fit beneath or adjacent to all the most common sources of leaks, including kitchen appliances, toilets, sump pumps, and water heaters. Those sensors communicate readings back to the system hub, which in turn updates your Internet monitoring account. No matter where you are, you can log on to the Wally site or its companion smartphone apps to check on things. Here, you can also configure your own custom alerts.

WallyHome Leak Detection System - Product Image

Photo: wallyhome.com

Once bitten, twice shy: For those who have shelled out thousands for extensive water damage repair in the past, it’s probably easy to justify the purchase price for Wally, because the system promises to catch problems while they’re still small and manageable. The kit comes with six sensors; if necessary, you can always buy more, either individually or in packages of six. There are no monthly charges, and because it’s easy enough to set up yourself, there’s no hefty pro installation fee to cough up.

Of course, for all its virtues, Wally can sense only those leaks that occur within the radius of its sensors, and some of the most devastating water damage stems not from known problem areas, but from areas within walls or under flooring. These are spots where you either are unable to place, or wouldn’t anticipate the need for, a leak detector. That said, the company behind Wally plans to develop additional sensors that should allow homeowners to better handle problems, expected and not.

 

Purchase WallyHome Leak Detection System, $299.


Act NOW for Greater Comfort NEXT Winter

Today, you can play games, watch movies, send email, and surf the Internet—all on a device that's small enough to fit in your pocket. So why can't you be totally comfortable at home during the winter months? Take the home heating off-season to reassess your options.

Photo: fotosearch.com

After a long, hard winter that saw record-breaking snowfalls and temperature lows, it’s only natural to look forward to the fairer weather ahead. But don’t let the arrival of spring distract you from the reality that, if you were uncomfortable at home during the cold months, you are likely to be uncomfortable again. And it’s only a matter of time before winter returns. So rather than wait around for the weather to turn foul once more, capitalize on the off-season to reassess your home heating. There may be no such thing as a perfect system, but, hey, it’s 2015: You deserve heating that operates efficiently to create consistent comfort. Has it been a while since you last looked into your options? Read on for an examination of three main issues that factor into home heat decision-making today.

 

COMFORT

Photo: fotosearch.com

Warmth is warmth, right? Wrong. If you have radiator, baseboard, or forced-air heating, you know the thermostat only approximates the temperature in your home. It cannot provide an accurate reading, because the indoor temperature fluctuates, not only from room to room, but from one corner of a room to another. Typically, it’s warmest near the heating unit and considerably cooler farther away. So depending on where you’re standing or sitting, you can feel either too warm or not nearly warm enough. With forced-air heating, the most ubiquitous type in America, temperatures are particularly variable, thanks to the roller-coaster effect of the system turning on and off. When the heat kicks on, blasts of hot air rush into the space until the target temperature has been reached. Then the heat suddenly turns off, and it stays off until the room gets cold enough to snap the system back into action. Is any of this comfortable? Not really.

If you want steady, even heat in your home, one option is to forego traditional systems in favor of radiant heat. The technology has been around for years—centuries, in fact—but only more recently has it become a viable whole-home solution. In this type of system, heat arrives, not via vents or standalone units, but from panels under the floor. Panels, each inset with hot-water tubing, lie under the floor material of your choice, delivering heat to the space above quietly, invisibly, and in a constant, enveloping way. Certainly, there are aesthetic advantages to a heating system that does not force you to decorate around bulky radiators or wall-hugging baseboards. Air quality benefits too, since there are no dust-spreading, allergy-exacerbating ducts at play here. But for homeowners who want warmth more than anything else, the reason to choose a radiant system is that its design and technology always ensure maximum comfort.

 

ZONING

Photo: fotosearch.com

In an era when energy costs were not so prohibitively high, it might have been fine to install an all-or-nothing system, one that offered no compromise between the “off” setting and full-throttle operation. Times have changed. Today, innovative systems allow homeowners to target different temperatures for different parts of the home. So if you’re sleeping in a second-floor bedroom, you no longer need to cover the cost necessary to keep the unoccupied first-floor at 70 degrees. Though it’s not always impossible to achieve zoned heating with traditional systems, newer technologies accommodate zoning from the get-go. Warmboard, a leading radiant manufacturer, designates a separate thermostat for separate zones, enabling customers to minimize household energy usage. What’s more: In a family with members who prefer different temperatures, zoning makes it so that everyone can get through the winter comfortably.

 

SAVINGS

Photo: warmboard.com

Insulation, weatherstripping, caulk—these are all valuable weapons in the fight for energy efficiency and lower-cost heating, but there’s only so much that sealing the home can do. In other words, you can insulate every wall and plug every air leak, but if your heating system consumes a relatively large amount of energy in the effort to reach and maintain a comfortable indoor temperature, you’re inevitably going to be stuck with sizable month-to-month utility bills.

That’s one of the reasons that more and more homeowners are switching to radiant. Compared to forced-air heating, radiant systems operate at least 25% more efficiently, according to a study conducted by Kansas State University in conjunction with the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. In part, radiant excels in efficiency because, unlike forced-air systems with imperfect ductwork, the former isn’t vulnerable to heat loss. So whereas a forced-air furnace has to work overtime, consuming extra energy to make up for its losses, radiant panels waste virtually no energy when running.

Not every radiant heating system maximizes homeowner savings. Certainly, the basic technology offers efficiency advantages, but individual system components make a big difference too. For instance, in some radiant setups, hydronic tubes (or electric coils) are embedded within a slab of sluggish concrete that takes hours to heat up and cool down. Seeing the limitations of concrete, manufacturers like Warmboard moved on to sheathing under-floor panels in highly conductive aluminum. Here, the heat responds to thermostat adjustments, not gradually, but more or less instantly. In addition, because aluminum transfers heat so effectively, the home boiler can heat the water for the system to a lower temperature than other systems would require. In the end, you can save serious money on home heating by choosing any radiant system, but among all manufacturers offering radiant products, Warmboard can save you the most.

 

This post has been brought to you by Warmboard. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Small-Duct, “Invisible” AC Cools Any Home, New or Old

Thanks to high-velocity mini-duct systems, vintage and custom home owners no longer need to sacrifice space or architectural features in order to enjoy central air conditioning. Innovators like Unico have made HVAC unobtrusive and all but invisible.

High Velocity Air Conditioning

Photo: unicosystem.com

Whether you own an old house or would like to build a new one, you’ve likely asked yourself a hard-to-answer question: Is it more important to preserve architectural integrity or to stay cool through the summer months? For decades, traditional central air-conditioning systems forced homeowners to choose either comfort or aesthetics. That’s because the ductwork that would deliver the cool air had to be coaxed into the structure somehow, upsetting the design. Now, thanks to innovators like Unico System, you no longer have to make that hard choice. Finally, you can enjoy invisible cooling while preserving the look of your historical or new custom home. So if you ever discounted air conditioning, it’s time to reassess things: A high-velocity mini-duct system may be the ideal solution for your home.

High Velocity Air Conditioning - Custom Home

Photo: unicosystem.com

Small Ducts
Whereas full-size ductwork demands such accommodations as added soffits, drop ceilings, and chases run through closets, Unico HVAC relies on flexible round ducts that are only a few inches in diameter. These mini ducts easily slide in behind walls and snake between joists, which means they stay permanently out of sight and do not require that you alter the design of your home in any significant way. Meanwhile, Unico air handlers are much more compact than average models and can be tucked into tight existing spaces, without stealing square footage from your living areas.

Quiet Operation
Traditional central AC systems work to cool down home interiors, but in solving the one problem, they typically create a new issue—noise. Unico systems are different; they are designed to operate as quietly as possible. On the one hand, their small ducts feature an exterior layer of sound-attenuating insulation, which virtually eliminates the noise created by the high-velocity rush of air within. On the other hand, Unico air handlers are comprised of components that likewise include decibel-dampening insulation. You can’t see the Unico system at work—and you can’t hear it, either.

Energy Efficiency
It’s important to note that the insulation ensuring quiet operation plays an additional, equally important role—it keeps air leaks to an absolute minimum. Particularly when traveling through uninsulated space, traditional ductwork loses enough energy to hinder overall efficiency by around 25 percent. With Unico, in contrast, you can achieve zero percent leakage due to its insulated ducts. That means you’re not wasting energy dollars, and you get the cooling you pay for.

Besides duct leakage, another factor influencing air conditioner efficiency is how well (or poorly) a given system deals with humidity. Thanks to high-tech cooling coils, Unico HVAC systems are 30 percent better than others at removing moisture from the air. Lower humidity doesn’t only translate to a higher level of comfort. It also means that you can set the thermostat a few degrees higher than you normally would. With each thermostat degree representing three percent energy savings, the ability of Unico to lower humidity means that from month to month, it’s less expensive to operate.

Even Cooling
When a conventional air conditioner blasts cool air into a room, uneven temperatures tend to result. In one part of the room, you may feel completely comfortable, while in another part of the room, you may feel beads of sweat on your skin. Unico sidesteps the common problem of striation by leveraging the principle of aspiration. Here, cool air enters the conditioned space in such a way that it draws the ambient air into its stream. What results is a draft-free environment with a wholly consistent temperature. In a house cooled by Unico, the temperature remains steady from room to room and from one level of the house to another.

Unobtrusive Vents
Unico places heavy emphasis on its outlets being hardly noticeable. Smaller than traditional vents, and with no unsightly grillwork, Unico outlets can be installed anywhere—on walls, ceilings, or floors—wherever would be least noticeable in the room. Further, Unico outlets can be painted or stained to match your decor perfectly. Indeed, from its broad concept down to its finishing details, Unico has been engineered to deliver comfortable cooling as invisibly as possible.

This post has been brought to you by Unico System. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Cozy Up Key Spaces with European-Style Towel Radiators

Add comfort to your bathroom, entry, or laundry area with towel-cozying, space-warming radiator heat.

Photo: runtalnorthamerica.com

You’re stepping daintily out of the shower when—bam!—you’re hit with a shock of cold air that makes you want to scamper back to bed and jump under the covers. If that scenario sounds too, too familiar, then it may be time to install a towel radiator. While these appliances have been a staple in European homes and hotels for years, they’ve gained popularity here only recently. You may know a similar entity—the towel warmer—but towel radiators are a little different, and a lot better!

Yes, as you might expect, towel radiators keep your bath linens quite toasty, but they also provide a perhaps vastly more valuable ancillary benefit. In the course of their regular operation, towel radiators give off gentle, quiet, room-warming heat. “Towel radiators are an attractive and practical means of adding heating capacity to a bathroom,” notes Daniel O’Brian, a technical specialist with online retailer SupplyHouse.com. You can imagine how the supplementary heat provided by a towel radiator in a bathroom could, on a daily basis, mean the difference between complete contentment and nagging post-shower discomfort.

Photo: runtalnorthamerica.com

There are two types of towel radiators—hydronic and electric. O’Brian explains, “Hydronic models are a good choice if the heat in your home originates at the boiler, because the towel radiator can simply connect to the closed-loop system.” If you have another type of home heating—forced-air, for example—you can install a self-contained electric unit. One advantage of an electric unit, O’Brian notes, is that “you can use it throughout the year, even when your main heating system is turned off.” Of course, when it comes to running—and enjoying the benefits of—a towel radiator, it doesn’t much matter how exactly it’s hooked up to the house. For the user, it’s all about cozy towels and spaces.

Industry leader Runtal has been designing and manufacturing towel radiators for well over 50 years. Today, the company offers a wide variety of models, and though its many products put out different levels of heat, they all share a compact, wall-hugging profile. Extending only three to five inches from the wall, Runtal towel radiators are unobtrusive and eminently versatile. They’re most commonly placed in bathrooms, but the radiators might also be used in entryways or laundry rooms.

Owing to their clean lines and timeless design characteristics, Runtal units look at home in both traditional and contemporary environments. Plus, customers are spoiled for choice when it comes to customization options. For the radiator panels, you can select from 10 standard and 99 custom colors. You can even specify the finish desired for the metal components of the unit. In other words, it’s easy to ensure that a new Runtal towel radiator will smoothly integrate with the look of an established room.

What about installation? Mounting a towel radiator is a DIY-friendly project, according to O’Brian at SupplyHouse.com. When it comes to completing the hookup, however, he explains, “Some electric units are furnished with a simple wall plug, but others must be hardwired, and hardwiring may be beyond the capabilities of a typical DIYer.” Similarly, to a install a hydronic unit, “you would either need to tap into existing lines or run a new line. Either could be daunting for someone without experience.”

Runtal products are manufactured of high-quality cold-rolled steel or stainless steel. The company operates a state-of-the-art factory in Massachusetts to serve the North American market. All products are designed to meet American building requirements and carry a limited five-year warranty.

This post has been brought to you by SupplyHouse.com. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Bob Vila Radio: The Reason for Rafter Vents

Attic insulation promotes, not only energy efficiency, but comfortable indoor temperatures—year round. For best results, however, be sure to supplement attic insulation with air-channeling rafter vents. Here's why.

Seasonal extremes in temperature put your attic insulation to the test. To get the best performance out of your insulation year in, year out, you would do well to install rafter vents in your attic.

Rafter Vents

Photo: completeroofing.ca

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Rafter vents channel air from the vents in your soffit—that’s the underside edge of the roof—all the way up to the ridge vents at the roof peak. That air flow helps keep the attic cooler during the summer, and during the winter, it helps keep ice from forming on the edge of the roof. It also guards against mold, mildew, and rot.

Rafter vents are usually made of aluminum, sheet metal, or plastic. They come in various lengths and are installed between the rafters, under the insulation. Once installed, they allow you to cover your attic floor with insulation all the way out to where the floor meets the roof.

Use a step ladder to install the vents, starting from the edge of the roof and working up to the ridge. And when you’re installing, make sure you don’t cover either end of the vents with insulation. Otherwise all your work will be for naught.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free.


How To: Choose a Water Filtration System

Concerned about household water quality? There are a number of ways to approach the selection and installation of a water filtration system. Which is best depends on your needs.

How to Choose a Water Filter

Photo: supplyhouse.com

In the United States, we are fortunate not to have to think much about water quality. Most of us simply turn on the tap and cook, clean, or bathe with whatever comes out. Due to a variety of factors, however, your tap water may host problems ranging from a bad taste or foul odor to unseen (and unhealthy) bacteria. If you have any reason to doubt the quality of your well water or municipal supply, then it’s time to give serious thought to installing a water filtration system.

According to Daniel O’Brian, a technical expert from online retailer SupplyHouse.com, there are warning signs to watch out for. These include rust stains or scale buildup on kitchen and bathroom fixtures as well as other similarly obvious clues you can see and touch. But there are also more subtle indications of poor water quality. For instance, when showering, do you ever have “a hard time developing lather with soap”? If so, O’Brian says impurities may be to blame. “Calcium, iron, chlorine, sulfur, lead, and decaying organic compounds” are only some of the impurities that people seek to banish through filtration.

How to Choose a Water Filter - Housing Isolated

Photo: supplyhouse.com

Basically, water filtration systems remove impurities in one of three ways. Some products physically block the passage of contaminants by means of a filter medium. Others filter by means of a chemical process. Still others work via ultraviolet light. No matter the design, water filters tend to come in either a plastic or stainless steel housing, and though some filter media last comparatively longer, all lose effectiveness over time and must be replaced periodically.

You may be familiar with pitcher-style water filters or devices that attach to the faucet. In homes with known water problems, however, you may wish to go a step further. Of the multiple options that exist, point-of-use filters are perhaps the most common. Installed under the sink, such products feature either single- or multistage filtration. Similar in-line filters hook up not to the sink, but to the hot water heater, enabling you to bathe in clean, pure filtered water. There are even filters designed specifically for appliances with ice and water dispensers.

The most comprehensive solution is a whole-house filtration system, installed at the point where the water supply enters the home. By intercepting water right before it reaches your home’s plumbing, whole-house systems go a long way toward protecting pipes from the damaging effects of hard water, scale, and the miscellaneous chemicals and compounds—such as acids and tannins—that can spell trouble for the critical components of a plumbing system.

Different types of water filters and media are best suited for different types of water problems. For example, hard water responds best to an ion-exchange softener. For water that tends to have sediment, reverse-osmosis systems are recommended, as these employ a semipermeable membrane to prevent particles from moving beyond the filter medium. If the goal is to target organisms in the water, ultraviolet filters sterilize bacteria and viruses, as do chlorination filters. For improved taste or to eliminate odors, concentrate on oxidizing or activated-carbon filters. Perhaps the best option of all is a multistage water filter, which combines several technologies.

“Different methods and types of filters are available depending on your needs,” notes O’Brian of SupplyHouse.com. “It is important to confer with a company that can test your water and help you determine the best course of action for tackling any impurities that may be present. In addition to the contaminants you’re trying to eliminate, your usage habits and patterns may affect what you ultimately decide is the best product to purchase and install.”

How to Choose a Water Filter - Ultraviolet

Photo: supplyhouse.com

This post has been brought to you by SupplyHouse.com. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Bob Vila Radio: Child-Safe Power Outlets, Reinvented

A promising new company seeks to provide families, finally, with a safe and reliable child-proof power outlet.

You can’t possibly pick a more important job to do around your home than keeping your family safe. And of course many families include little ones who are toddling or crawling around the floor.

Child-Safe Power Outlets

Photo: briohouse.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON CHILD-SAFE POWER OUTLETS or read the text below:

While past attempts to protect kids from electrics hazards have met with only limited success, a promising new “smart” outlet has arrived on the market.

Made by a company called Brio, the child-proof outlet installs much like a regular one, but it behaves much differently. In fact, it automatically withholds power to the outlet until it confirms an actual plug has been inserted—not, say, a screwdriver that had been left lying around.

If you decide to make the switch, make sure you turn off the appropriate breaker in your electrical panel before doing any electrical work. Shocks are serious for anyone, children or adults!

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free.

Built-In USB Ports Redefine the Wall Socket

By installing a new type of wall outlet, you can rid your digital home of unsightly, clutter-creating AC adapters once and for all.

Leviton Wall Outlet USB Charger

Photo: amazon.com

In 2015, people are as likely to charge a digital device as they are to plug in a table lamp or a hair dryer. But while lighting and appliances plug right into the wall, today’s tablets and smartphones charge only via USB cable. That’s why AC adapters are so regrettably ubiquitous these days. Awkward and unsightly though they may be, adapters serve the crucial role of negotiating the connection between USB cords and standard wall outlets. They are, in effect, middlemen. And as with any middlemen, we merely put up with them.

Here’s the best news you’ll hear all day: You don’t need to bother with AC adapters anymore! Thanks to a new crop of receptacles, wall outlets are finally in sync with the way we live now. To get in step with the times, look no further than the Leviton High Speed USB Charger. It fits into a standard outlet box and sits behind a standard faceplate, yet it offers not only a three-prong receptacle but also a pair of built-in USB ports.

Leviton Wall Outlet USB Charger - Diagram

Photo: amazon.com

Some of this product’s advantages are obvious. With adapters out of the way, you can enjoy streamlined, clutter-free, and convenient charging stations. Other benefits are subtler, though equally compelling. Controlled by a smart chip, the USB ports use advanced technology to recognize the charging needs of the device you’ve plugged in and then output the current that’s optimal for charging the device in the least amount of time. You’ll be able to get back to using your device without having to wait around endlessly for it to power up.

Thanks to its thoughtful design, the Leviton High Speed USB Charger easily replaces an existing receptacle. Plus, for convenience, the product is back- and side-wired so that it can accommodate a diverse range of wiring situations. Compliant with National Electrical Code requirements for tamper resistance, the Leviton model is also, unlike some competing products, UL-listed. That means it meets nationally recognized standards for safety. You can install it in your home with confidence.

Leviton Wall Outlet USB Charger - Backsplash View

Phtoto: amazon.com

Purchase the Leviton High Speed USB Charger, $29.95


Thousands of Years in the Making, Radiant Heating Arrives

With a history that stretches back to the Roman Empire and ancient Asia, radiant heating is not some newfangled idea. Instead, it's a smart concept that now, thanks to advances in technology, offers today's homeowners unprecedented comfort and efficiency.

Radiant Heating Technology

Photo: warmboard.com

While the origins of radiant floor heating stretch way back into the mists of history, the technology has come of age only in recent years. Today, it works as well as any other traditional system, if not better, and operates at least 25 percent more efficiently than forced-air systems, the most ubiquitous type of heating in the United States. Increasing numbers of consumers are choosing radiant heating, not only for the energy savings it provides, but also for its indoor air quality benefits and its ability to free homeowners from the tyranny of radiators, baseboards, and vents. That said, many wonder why radiant heating isn’t in more American homes, especially considering its popularity abroad (in Europe and Asia, 40 and 80 percent of homes, respectively, are heated by a radiant system). Well, though it may now be a viable product, it didn’t start out that way.

The very first radiant heating systems emerged in the Roman Empire. In the wealthiest citizens’ homes, the walls and floors were buttressed by slim chambers called hypocausts. Fires around the building fed heat into these hypocausts, which in turn heated the interior spaces of the home. Around the same time, on the other side of the globe, the Korean ondol system heated homes by means of cooking fires that transmitted heat from the kitchen to a series of strategically positioned stones. These stones would absorb the heat and slowly radiate it outward. Though primitive compared with the finely tuned, zero-maintenance radiant-heating products available today, the fact that the basic technology has been around for so long speaks to the simple wisdom of its design.

Radiant Heating Technology - Panel Detail

Photo: warmboard.com

In the United States, it was none other than the distinguished architect Frank Lloyd Wright who first introduced the concept of radiant heating to countless Americans. Of course, Wright was ahead of his time in more ways than one, so it was not until decades after his death that radiant heat finally came into focus.

When environmental concerns came to the fore in the 1970s and 1980s, a diverse group of professionals and amateurs began testing out various nontraditional modes of building. In these experimental efforts, the principles of radiant heating were often aligned with solar power. A typical setup would put a concrete floor, painted a dark color, beneath a sunny south-facing window. Throughout the day, the sun would heat the concrete, then as night fell and temperatures dropped, the concrete would radiate heat back into the home. That worked fine for supplemental heat, but it could not heat a whole house through the winter season.

In the next phase of development, radiant heating took a big step toward becoming its own entity, an active system capable of providing heat with or without help from the sun. Ingeniously, hydronic tubes were set into the concrete flooring. Water heated by the boiler could be pumped through the tubes, heating the concrete in the absence of sun. The only problem now was the concrete. Whereas its thermal mass had proved an asset before, it was now making the system sluggish. Not only would the concrete take too long to heat up, but it would also continue to radiate for several hours after the thermostat had been turned down or off.

The answer, Warmboard found, was to combine hydronic tubing with lightweight, highly conductive aluminum. Compared with concrete, aluminum is a staggering 232 times more conductive. So when heated water travels through the hydronic tubing within aluminum panels, the metal swiftly transfers the heat to the home. The panels conduct heat so effectively that they can be used beneath any type of flooring, be it tile, hardwood, or even thick-pile carpeting.

Broadly similar products exist on the market, but Warmboard stands alone in terms of efficiency and conductivity. Put simply, Warmboard requires the least amount of energy of any radiant system to maintain a comfortable temperature in the home. It’s estimated that Warmboard can hit the target temperature with water that’s 30 degrees cooler than a competing system would require to achieve comparable results. This efficiency means that your furnace doesn’t need to work as hard, and you save an additional 10 to 20 percent on energy costs—above and beyond what you’re already saving by choosing radiant heat over a traditional system.

It may have taken a few thousand years to get right, but radiant heating has finally arrived.

Photo: warmboard.com

This post has been brought to you by Warmboard. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.