We'll be replacing some flooring materials shortly. I have seen advertisements for Warmfloor and am wondering if anyone out there has either installed it or researched the feasability of doing so. I am wondering what surfaces it works well under, how it interacts (or whether it interacts) with the radiant heat system, what sort of expenses I should expect, and assuming you have done this, any contacts you have for installation. Thanks, in advance, for any information you might provide!
I'm not sure which product you are referring to:
A. Step floor (A product that can serve as an alterative to hydronic radiant heat, or
B. Nu-heat, warm floor or similar products used for unheated flooring that don't really heat a room, but they prevent the flooring (usually a tile product) from getting cold in the colder times of the year. (Most reputable tile suppliers sell this type of product.)
The latter is not commonly installed in Eichler homes (mainly due to the fact that there is radiant heat that would negate its' need).
The former is a new product that Franz Rogman swears by (and is the area representative for its' distribution), and I know that the gentleman that owns Calvert Ventures (an advertiser on this site) had it installed in his home. Perhaps you could contact him, he is a contractor and may be able to give you his first hand experience on the product in his house.
Unfortunately, I have no direct experience with this product, but I met with Franz Rogman a few weeks ago to discuss the installation of this product in an original (and renowned) Eichler that has a failed steel radiant system, and my involvement is to upgrade the main electrical panel to handle the additional power needed for the system, and to supply the power for the new heating system. I do know that the product is very thin (about 1/16" thick) and is designed to install under finished flooring without any visible impact.
I don't know how it is designed (as far as BTU's per Sq/ft) or how much electricity (or electrical load) the system uses, but email me in a few months after we get this system installed and I'll let you know.
There is another alternative: pouring a couple inches of a thin concrete product (called Gypcrete) over new radiant lines, either copper or plastic.
Opinions vary about this process, as it raises the flooring, and all the doors, jambs (and really the bottom plate of the framing should) be changed. I know of a couple of persons that have gone through this process, and they both were satisfied with this result.
Thanks, as usual, for such a clear and concise response! The radiant heat system apparently works in the house (copper pipes circa 1974) but I know that it is notoriously expensive to run and takes a lot of time to get going. Since I'm going to be replacing flooring shortly, I thought it would be worthwhile to consider something else. Is it Step Floor creating the need for you to upgrade the electrical or could it work off of existing electrical?
Randy is correct. Henry Calvert has installed it in his home, and Franz Rogmans has installed it for several of his Eichler customers. So for sure, I would talk to each of them. With Franz, you may be able to get contact information for some of his customers so that you can interview them as well.
As to the electrical question, my understanding is that since it is a low-voltage system, your electrical would not need to be upgraded. You do however, need to install a transfromer to bring the voltage down to the correct level. Also, per some of the folks that I interviewed for a past newsletter article on this product, the transformers do give off a faint humming sound.
You are smart to be thinking ahead like this. We replaced all of our flooring with ceramic tile several years ago and it never entered our minds at the time to look into something like this--probably because our radiant system had been abandoned by the previous owner and we were happy with our baseboard system.
Actually, the step floor does require additional power, so in home where the original panel is installed, a service upgrade is required. It does step down the power to low voltage, but the transformers on the current (punny) require 20 amp circuits, 4 transformers total equalling 80 amperes. The existing system is a 125 Amp panel with an existing demand factor of about 25500 KW, and to add 80A at 120V equals an additional 9600KW of load to the system. Not a good idea to keep plugging in stuff until cicuits overload. But service upgrades in Eichlers are pretty simple, and if it costs more than $2500, get a second bid (or call an experienced Eichler electrician, like AAA Christopher).
Any way, don't be intimidated by load calc data, most people never come close to overloading their systems, (unless you add a big load- over 20 A that is constantly in use), and if you have doubts, consult a professional.