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Radiant Heat

Craig Hopkins

Peafowl breeders who need to provide heat for their peafowl during the winter months face a difficult challenge.  The heating method needs to be safe, efficient, and effective.  Conventional methods such as heat lamps, furnaces, heated roosts, and space heaters are often inefficient, unreliable, and can be dangerous to the peafowl.  Forced air methods such as furnaces and space heaters often become fouled with dust and feathers which lead to poor efficiency and overheating.  Heat lamps can be knocked lose from their hangers and fall to the floor.  Many barn fires have been attributed to a heat lamp falling to the floor and igniting the bedding material.  The purpose of this article is to present information on hot water (hydronic) in-floor radiant heating which is a safe and efficient heating method that can be used for peafowl and any other type of bird and animal.  Hydronic in-floor radiant heating is also becoming quite popular in U.S. homes.  Hydronic radiant heating is used extensively throughout Europe and I was able to see this first hand during a business trip to Holland in January of 2006.

During the summer of 2005, my wife, Lisa and I had a new pole barn constructed on our farm.  Our new pole barn is designed to provide 12, 8 x 8 x 7 high, heated box stalls for our green peafowl, East African crowned cranes, and Cape Barren geese.  We have chosen to install hydronic in-floor radiant heat in the concrete slab to be the heat source for our box stalls.  Radiant heat is safe because there are no ducts, heating elements, fans, filters, or grates to become fouled with dust and feathers generated by the birds.  There are no exposed fixtures that the birds can knock loose while flying.  Radiant heat is very efficient because the heat radiates up from the concrete flooring and evenly warms the entire room area bottom to top.  There are no cold spots or drafts since the heat comes from beneath the floor.

100_3264.JPG (655075 bytes)Our in-floor radiant heat installation is called a slab-on-grade system.  A slab-on-grade system is described as follows.  PEX tubing is distributed through out the concrete slab in 12 inch on-center serpentine loops that are fastened to the 2 inch extruded polystyrene insulation that has been installed on top of shot sand backfill.  A 6-mil polyethylene vapor barrier was installed on top of the backfill prior to laying the 2 inch insulation.  Two inch insulation was also installed verticallyup close tubing clip.jpg (601729 bytes) around the perimeter of the concrete slab to prevent heat loss through the edges of the slab.  There are many other methods to install in-floor radiant heat systems on existing concrete floors and under wood framed flooring.  Articles can be found on the Internet and in home improvement magazines and books.

PEX tubing is cross linked polyethylene tubing.  PEX tubing is very common in new home construction today for plumbing of potable water.  The PEX tubing used for in-floor radiant heat systems is specially designed for this purpose.  In-floor PEX tubing has an additional oxygen diffusion barrier which prevents oxygen from diffusing in to the water circulating through the tubing and the heat source.  If oxygen is allowed to enter the water, corrosion will occur in all ferrous components.  PEX tubing comes in diameters from 3/8 inch to 1 inch.  Our heating system uses dia. tubing.  The serpentine loops of tubing are held in place by plastic clips that screw in to the 2 inch foam insulation.  Our heating system has 14 tubing loops that begin and terminate at a central location where the supply and return manifold is mounted.  The supply and return manifolds will control the water flow through each loop in order to supply heat to the different areas of our pole barn.  In addition to the box stalls, a workshop area and an office area will be heated by the radiant system.  Each of these areas is a different zone in the system which will allows us to keep each of these areas at a different temperature.  The box stalls have been designed to have a constant temperature of 40 deg. F in the winter months.

A LP fueled boiler supplies the heat for the hot water in the tubing.  There are many other types of heat sources that can be manifold.jpg (645559 bytes)used to heat the hot water.  Some examples are a hot water heater, wood fueled boiler, natural gas fueled boiler, or a heat pump.  The LP boiler was our best option.  We have installed provisions to allow100_4002.JPG (855328 bytes) us to utilize a wood fueled boiler in the future if we so choose.  The radiant system has a circulating pump to move the hot water through the 3,500 feet of tubing that runs through the concrete slab.  The circulating pump and the flow control valves are controlled by thermostats mounted in the box stalls, workshop, and office area.  The workshop zone has been designed to be 50 deg. F during the winter months and the office area will be 60 deg. F.  The design work for our radiant system was done by Bader Mechanical, a local heating and air conditioning contractor.  We provided the dimensions of each area to be heated, the R values for the insulation in each area, and the desired temperature to be maintained by the radiant system.  Bader Mechanical took this information and sized the boiler and the rest of the radiant system accordingly.  Once we had the design information, we purchased the materials and we have done all of the installation ourselves.  The manufacturer for all of our radiant system supplies provided us with a complete installation guide that has been very easy to follow.  There are many articles on the Internet and in home improvement magazines that describes the steps required to install a radiant heat system.

Each of the heated areas are well insulated, which is a key to making the radiant system work efficiently.  We used R19 insulation in the walls and R30 insulation in the ceilings.  After the insulation was in place, the PEX tubing was hooked up to the manifolds and the system was filled with water.  The boiler is on line and provides heat to the 3 heated areas of our barn.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article and I hope that it has given you some valuable information on a safe and efficient method of providing heat for your peafowl, animals and even yourself. 

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