Warm Me Up Quick


It’s August 22nd and summer is coming to a close.  That only means one thing, winter is not far away.  We are still without heat here but we think we may have a plan.

We have gotten a plethora of advice regarding how we should proceed.  We are desperately trying to save our terrazzo floors, which has guided our thinking.  Our first thought is that we would have radiant floor heat.  It takes 40% less energy than forced air to achieve the same degree of comfort.  The traditional method is to lay radiant tubing on top of the existing floor, and then lay a new floor. But then we would lose our terrazzo.  My husband proposed we lay the tubing on the ceiling of the crawl space, thus allowing us to save the terrazzo and have radiant heat.

But would it work?  Many say no, some say yes.  What we do know is it would be the most cost effective solution.

We currently have a 1.1 million BTU oil boiler.  The heating bill for the last year the school was operational was $38,000.  Much too rich for our blood and not green enough.  We have bought a biomass boiler from China.  We can feed it wood pellets, corn cobs, or wood waste.  We already have a standing invite to help ourselves to the giant pile of wood chips from a local arborist in town free of charge.  Every orchard burns the wood they prune from their trees.  We can use it for fuel.  The only set back is it’s arrival time.  It costs 90% less to buy a biomass boiler from China instead of Canada.  Some say not all Chinese companies are reputable.  We will see.  Our fingers have been crossed for the last month anticipating the boiler’s arrival.

Let’s hope it gets here before the snow arrives.

Another option is to get a propane tank, have a forced air furnace, and run ducts.  This is the most conventional method of heating our place.  We could set this up and then retrofit the system to our new biomass boiler.  The propane system would then be used as a back up if that is ever needed.

But don’t those radiant floors sound cosier?  What if it did work?  Warm terrazzo floors on a chilly morning, and no need for slippers, and some money left in the bank.  That’s a hard bet not to take.

We haven’t fully decided on what to do.  Although we did buy a small pellet stove as a back up in case that radiant floor thing doesn’t work out.


6 thoughts on “Warm Me Up Quick

  1. We had a neighbour in Swansea that heated their house with a wood-pellet burning stove. they love it. I’d try the underfloor retrofit too, though. Sounds cozy.

  2. Set up a test area with your kids. Make it fun somehow. Science at work!

    1. Get non-insulated flexible plastic tubing (PEX) and something to attach tubes to underside of slab. Make sure the tubes are flat against the slab (no air in between) I suppose you could use aluminum ducting tape.
    2. Go to crawlspace and attach tubes directly below terrazzo area (a couple sq.ft) in between joists under slab, 12″ between tubes.
    3. Figure out a good place to put a thermometer touching top of terrazzo, over tubed area.
    4. Get hot water (take temp of water used at least 140degF/60degC) and circulate it through tubes (may need to hand pump or siphon)
    5. Chart temperature readings from both above floor slab and tube water, over a period of time, say for an hour.
    6. Replenish hot water source if required.
    7. Modify tubes (i.e. put insulation overneath tubes so that they are cosier, tape a metal sheet overneath, then both)

    The theory is that there will be enough BTUs transferred through the concrete to warm your floor and air above. I think the target is 30 BTU/h/sq.ft (upward heat flux requirement) with a floor temp of 70-80degF.

    The R value of concrete is approx .08/inch (US DOE) assume terazzo is less (less air entrainment, more conductive rock). Bonus if you have rebar/wire mesh in the conc.

    . . .of other floor materials;

    Have fun!

  3. Hi Alysa!

    Aaargh! Is all we can say to your decision process here..we think of you often and are hoping to visit before we leave for Turks nov 1. Maybe oct 4 or 5 if that might work??

    Love to you all!


    Sent from Samsung tabletletters from the lunchroom wrote:

    • There was no insulation in the building when we bought it. We have fully insulated the building now. We didn’t want to use oil to heat and there are no gas lines in this part of the County. We heat with wood pellets, and wood. Our heating costs are comparable to a normal size house now.

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