Well, just moved into our Eichler a few weeks ago and I've discovered a nice surprise when one combines radiant heat with poor housekeeping. You eichler old-timers probably will roll your eyes and scoff at my rookie excitement, but I'm so pleased with myself:
In the morning, when the norcal cold is radiating thru the nice single pane windows, I just find a pillow, blanket, jacket, cardboard box (told you we just moved) that's been sitting on the radiatively heated floor all night. Then I jam my feet under it. Ahhh, like a sauna for my feet!
I'm sure Joe Eichler had this exact thought in mind when he signed up for radiant heat.
Welcome to the Eichler community!
Thought I'd pass on another surprise people seldom think to tell new owners about radiant floor heating--don't leave your garbage by the back door overnight to take out in the morning. That radiant heat that's been toasting the blankie you mention is indiscriminant, it also toasts garbage bags (and their contents). So if you don't want to awake to "what's that smell", do a walk-through of your house before you head to bed.
A corollary--don't leave groceries on the floor in the kitchen to "unpack later". Same problem. Those fresh veggies or diary products or, heaven forbid, meat products don't like the heat much... I know, I know, noone else but me heads for a ringing phone when they get home and forgets about the unpacked groceries ;-)
My radiant heat surprise was not so pleasant. After encountering uneven heating and asking around about the manifold controls, I finally have more uniform heating although the Master BR still cooks while the LR room is still cool (1 wall of glass). I watched the gas portion of my PG&E bill go from $45 in the summer to $125 last week. My neighbor said his peak winter gas is $200/mo which sounds excessive to me.
My wife loves radiant heat, but I'm from the east coast where forced hot air is common and the gas bills are that high when lows are in the 20's. Just 2 nights ago when the low in Silicon Valley was around 41, my programmable thermostat recorded the boiler being on for 8+ hours, which implies it ran all night.
Radiant heat doesn't seem efficient to me.
We have a pretty recent forced air heating in our Eichler and we still used $95 worth of gas last week.
Radiant heating as such is as efficient as anything else. The way it was done in the Eichlers is outdated and inefficent compared to newer radiant heat systems which are much better.
Replacing the radiant heat pipes is possible, but fairly expensive and messy. There are a lot of different options to increase the energy efficiency of your home while still keeping the original radiant heat piping:
- Insulation (Roof, Windows, Walls)
- Updating the boiler to a more efficient model
- The choice of floor coverings makes a huge difference on the efficiency of a radiant heating system.
There are already numerous posts and a FAQ covering all of these issues.