Entrepreneurial Farmers Choose to Invest in Hydronic Heating Solutions
After making the “big leap” into a mortgage to secure a 60-acre parcel in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, farmers Keith and Jenessa Frey considered all the options for a home.
There was a place down the road to rent, they could lease or buy a modular home, or they could opt for a mobile home.
Of course, they could also build, but that would require a lot of time, and, of course, the largest investment.
Keith Frey, a fifth-generation farmer, recalled he once experienced radiant heat in the home of a friend, and this is what he preferred for his family. So, that set some gears in motion.
A few years later, that dream home became a reality, and life has continued to become more interesting since.
A FARMER’S FOUNDATION
In addition to farming the land, the Freys own two businesses: a whole-grain, gluten-free products company that produces a broad range of cereal, bread, and breakfast products and a fast-growing coffee roasting enterprise.
All three businesses have achieved success. Keith Frey attributes much of this goodness to building the home just as they wanted it as soon as they did. It helped get that distraction out of the way, Keith Frey said.
“It’s given us a base of operations and a foundation for everything that followed,” he said.
The home evolved into a 3,000-square-foot, three-bedroom log home with space for two additional bedrooms. Jenessa Frey’s kitchen occupies one end of the large open area on the main floor and blends easily into the great room with a tall stone fireplace.
Because of their insistence on heavy insulation, the heating and cooling equipment ended up being much smaller than anticipated.
“That meant less cost to buy the HVAC gear and also a lot less energy to operate the equipment,” said Keith Frey. “I grew up in an old, drafty farmhouse; we learned that a dollar spent on insulation goes a long way.”
MOUNTAIN VIEW Heating & Cooling
The Freys spent a lot of time doing online research about all facets of the home. Also, a local Watts Water Technologies rep spoke with them about the significance of bundling offerings across the company’s many brands to provide overall value.
“That made real sense to me,” said Keith Frey.
So, he and Kurt Shreiner, co-owner of Lancaster County-based Mountain View Heating & Cooling LLC, performed most of the mechanical system installations. The company tapped Watts for a wide range of material and equipment.
Mountain View technicians installed 1,900 lineal feet of ½-inch Watts PEX radiant heat tubing in the lower concrete slab and 3,160 feet of 3/8-inch Onix synthetic rubber tubing for the under-floor areas in a five-zone system that would warm most of the home’s floors. They also hung three prefabricated, pre-engineered Watts hydronic panels to manage hydronic system flow.
Meanwhile, the Freys’ excavator trenched the geo-exchange field behind the house. Four 300-foot-long trenches were dug to a depth of 10 feet and were piped as they were completed. Each line fed into a large manifold pit.
Kevin Hul, technician, Mountain View, worked closely with Keith Frey and Shreiner. According to Hul, tekmar controls were chosen to integrate management of the home’s forced-air geothermal heating and cooling equipment and the five-zone radiant heat system.
“The geo system allowed easy integration to the tekmar 557 thermostats and controls,” said Shreiner. “The controls included two 557 thermostats, five 552 thermostats, and a set point and wiring center.”
“The tekmar controls are key components of the prefabricated Watts hydronic panels,” said Rich McNally, regional manager, Watts. “Installers make connections and then add power and water. The economy of the modular panels is compelling. Coupled with the controls, they allow indoor feedback for precise zone control.”
Taco zone controls govern a bevy of Taco circulators to control flow within the mile-long network of radiant tubing.
HOME SWEET HOME
Shreiner chose a 125-MBtuh, wall-hung Laars LX modulating condensing (mod-con) boiler as the main source of heat for the home. The Mascot features an advanced control system and outdoor reset, a condensate trap, zero clearance installation, allows venting up to 150 feet, and operates very quietly.
“I especially like the system for its high-efficiency, 95 percent AFUE performance,” Shreiner said.
He also pointed out the New Hampshire company makes the boiler and its own stainless steel heat exchangers here in the U.S.
The boiler is paired with two 120-gallon Bradford White tanks, one of which had a large stainless steel coil inside.
“We chose these for their very low standby loss,” said Shreiner. “One of them is a buffer tank for the hydronic system. The hydronic panels pull from this large volume of water to meet the home’s space heating needs. The other tank is an indirect water heater with a large stainless steel coil inside to heat domestic water.
“The buffer tank is kept at temperatures between 110° and 140°F, which is the first task met by the boiler,” he continued. “Temperatures in the tank vary according to ambient temps as monitored by the outdoor reset control. The hydronic panels pull from this large volume of water to meet the home’s heat needs. The other tank is an indirect water heater, in the truest sense, for domestic water.”
Populating the hydronic control panels and managing flow for all of the home’s five radiant heat zones are Taco 0015 three-speed circulators. The circs also control flow to and from both of the indirect water heaters. A Taco 4900 air separator posts quality control guard duty for the entire hydronic system. The Taco zone controls interface easily with the tekmar components, Shreiner said.
“We’ve installed Taco circs, pumps, zone valves, and zone controls for years,” he said. “With a system as robust as this one, there was no way we’d use anything but the products we’ve come to trust.”
The Freys also installed a small HeatWeave electric radiant mat below the tile in their guest bathroom, which operates with its own dedicated programmable thermostat.
“I didn’t want my guests to experience cold feet here,” Jenessa Frey said. “It was a very small splurge.”
“The geothermal and radiant heat systems are facets of the home we’re most proud of,” said Keith Frey.
Jenessa Frey said they couldn’t have even imagined a home as comfortable as this one.
“The floors were cozy and warm all winter long, even with record low temps,” she said.
Keith Frey looks at the project as an investment in both comfort and efficiency.
“Our home was worth the extra effort, investment, and time. We learned a thing or two about delayed gratification. We will continue to build on that sense of happiness for years to come.”
Information courtesy of John Vastyan, president of Common Ground, a public relations firm that serves the HVAC, plumbing & mechanical, geothermal, radiant heat, renewable energy, and broad construction industry. Contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-664-0535.
Publication date: 2/12/2018