Greenfield Hill Project

The original house was built in 1926. Since then, there have been many additions. With each addition, someone added another form of heating. The homeowners decided to add yet another addition to the house but no one had thought out all the existing components, which at this point, did not work well together. There were old radiators, a hydro-air system and baseboard heating in various parts of the house. The homeowners wanted radiant heating and hydronic baseboard for the new addition but they also told us that some rooms were too hot, while others were too cold. They wanted to be comfortable in every room.

We decided that it would be best to approach the entire system, rather than just the individual components. First, we measured all of the walls, windows and doors throughout the house. We entered this information into our computer’s heat-loss program. We than measured the existing radiators and baseboard heaters. We ran it all through our system-design software and then we called several equipment manufacturers to get their input and technical suggestions as well. We put together the mechanical and electrical drawings so that we could view it all on paper before we began the actual work. This is the best way to make sure that everything will work as promised. During this phase of the planning, and with the homeowners in full agreement, we decided to move the boiler room into the new addition, and to repipe much of the existing heating system. We planned to do most of the repiping from the basement so that we would be drilling as few holes as possible through existing walls.

We moved the boiler room to its new location. Then we installed a new Burnham boiler and a Phase III indirect water heater. We piped all the pumps and controls onto a plywood board to make things neat. We also used plenty of shutoff valves so that future maintenance would be a snap. Every component went in according to our drawings. Each pump and control had a place. Nothing was left to chance. In the old basement, we repiped the existing system, moving and adding the required zones. The new addition received brand-new zones and we incorporated these into the system. Our goal throughout the project was to reduce the need for future repairs, to minimize noise and to increase both energy efficiency and comfort. Each room is now warm and comfortable. The system costs less to operate now than it did before, even with the added square footage! The pipes and controls operate very quietly. Repairs will be easier and the components will last longer.

The homeowners paid especial attention to the master bathroom. They wanted a Super Shower with all the bells and whistles. This shower also had to be handicap-accessible. They wanted radiant heating in both the bathroom and the shower. The shower floor had to be at a slightly lower level than the bathroom floor. The challenge was to build the shower floor as thin as possible and still be able to fit a shower pan between the radiant floor tubing and the tile floor.

We took several steps to limit the height of the shower. First, we cut off the plywood subfloor. Then, we trimmed a bit from the edges and middle of the floor joists. We next turned 2″ X 12″ planks sideways and installed them between the joists to act as a new sub floor. Then we used Wirsbo’s QuickTrac product on top of this. QuickTrac is only a half-inch thick and it has an aluminum underside to distribute the heat from the radiant tubing. The aluminum is grooved to accept the radiant tubing. The top of the QuickTrac was flush with the bathroom subfloor and this is where we installed the vinyl shower pan. Finally, the tile man installed his mud and tile on top of the pan in the shower and the rest of the bathroom floor.

The Super Shower had everything. We installed radiant heating in the shower floor and the seat to make the tiles warm and comfortable. We mounted a towel warmer just outside the shower. We used Jado shower valves with Grohe temperature balance controls. These deliver a wonderfully forceful shower. We also mounted a hand-held shower near the seat, and just opposite the seat, we piped another shower valve to control the main showerhead. We set the shower valves to the desired temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit and that’s exactly the temperature that flows from them, no matter how long the shower runs. We proved this with a thermometer and the homeowners were quite impressed.

The entire shower is handicap-accessible. They can easily roll a wheelchair in and out. There is no curb to get in the way and the tile on the bathroom floor pitches gently right toward the shower drain. We also installed grab bar to make getting in and out of the wheelchair as safe as possible.