Easy-to-install radiant heating offers contractors new market opportunities

September 13, 2000
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All across America, radiant floor heating has been riding a wave of popularity. Homeowners are finding the many advantages of radiant versus forced-air heating.

Consequently, hvac contractors are hopping on the bandwagon and seeing how the immense appeal of radiant floor heating is adding very handsome profits to the bottom line.

Most contractors know the basic principles of radiant floor heating. It is the installation of subfloor tubing which carries a heated water-glycol solution under the floor, causing warmth to radiate from the ground which, in turn, heats the air and objects in a room, garage, or exposed sidewalk-driveway.

One company has taken the radiant floor heating concept a step further. Instead of the typical tubing laid in poured concrete, this company manufactures sheet-sized floor material with pre-installed tubing and an aluminum top layer.

Warmboard Radiant Heat Floor Systems, Wilsonville, Ore., introduced its Warmboard™ product in early 1998 and has enjoyed a rapid growth in installations since then.

“Its popularity is growing quite fast,” said Richard Grow, project manager. “We have marketed it heavily in the regions where radiant heat is very popular, including Colorado, Utah, and the upper Midwest. We’ve done most of the direct marketing to architects and hvacr contractors.”

Warmboard is not uniquely manufactured for residential markets, but most of the applications are more suitable for new home construction or retrofit. “It is not intended for industrial-strength applications,” said Grow.

What is warmboard?

To put it simply, Warmboard is a system of panels that incorporates tubes of heated water. An aluminum covering radiates heat energy through the floor covering and into the home.

The company explains the system in the following way:

  • It is a proprietary, solid-core, tongue-and-groove engineered composite panel in standard 4- by 8-ft sheet size, 1 1/32-in. thick, that forms a sub-base in a home’s floor.

  • Its lightweight construction is being marketed as a benefit to regions of California where earthquake activity affects the type of construction materials that may be used.

  • It is an efficient, “invisible” heating system that converts subfloor panels into a heat-distribution system.

  • It is a time-proven, reliable heat-dispersal technology that radiates heat throughout the home.

“We built five houses in the Northwest and tested the Warmboard system before we went into production,” said Grow. “The results were very favorable. Its ability to radiate heat has exceeded our own expectations.”

Installing the system

Although the company recommends installation by a trained installer, it includes three-step installation instructions in its literature. Here is a capsule version of the instructions:

  •  Warmboard is suitable for joists spaced at 12, 16, 19.2, and 24 in. It is recommended that the floor spec have 24-in., on-center joists. Supplemental joists are required 12 in. from the end of any turn panel to support the 4-ft cross groove at turn panels.

  •  The system needs to be fastened in a staggered pattern to optimize performance as a shear diaphragm. It is recommended that the panels be fastened with screws or screw nails, as well as an adhesive.

  •  Once the panels are in place, tubing should be installed as soon as possible. A bonding material is placed in the clean grooves before tube installation. The tubing is pressed in flush with the panel’s top surface.

  •  Carpet tacks can be used when laying carpeting over the panels, as long as they are not attached to the grooves or tubing. If some of the grooves are unused, it is recommended that cuts of tubing that do not carry water be used to fill the grooves, in order to provide a flush floor surface.

    For the best work, the company recommends that Warmboard be installed by a trained contractor.



Training installers

“We put on a lot of training sessions, especially when we can get a group of contractors or architects together at one time,” said Grow.

“The contractors who are installing it have been able to put it down quite easily.”

Grow said he wants to see a steady, controlled growth of Warmboard. He doesn’t want to take orders for the product and not be able to deliver on time. But he is confident that he will soon have the manufacturing capability to support substantial growth.

“I’d call Warmboard the Ferrari of radiant heating,” he concluded. “It has a faster response time than normal radiant heating and puts out more Btu per foot. It is priced very competitively with conventional radiant heating systems.”

And what about competition? Grow didn’t hesitate with his answer.

“We don’t have any competitors right now.”

For more information, contact the company at 503-694-3477.

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