Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
High-End, Luxury Home
Radiant Floor Heating,
Daniel Bertolini, President
Sally Russell, President
Uponor products mentioned in this case study
RESIDENTIAL: Radiant Floor Heating, Snow Melting
BLOOMFIELD HILLS (MI) RESIDENCE
Heating and cooling contractor Daniel Bertolini had a tall order to fill when his long-time friend and professional colleague, builder Sally Russell, approached him about providing the mechanical needs for one of her most ambitious projects to date. Russell was proposing a massive 22,000 square-foot-home on a three-acre lot for the exclusive enclave of Bloomfield Hills, located 14 miles north of Detroit. The community is consistently ranked as one of the five wealthiest in the United States.
With its unique brickwork, turrets and triple-glazed leaded glass windows, the house is reminiscent of the 16th century English Tudor style and designed to appear as if it had been on the property for years. Inside, walnut and oak floors have been hand-scraped, while marble and stone floors have been honed or tumbled to give them an aged appearance.
However, for Russell – president of her namesake building company in Royal Oak, Michigan – state of the art comfort and energy efficiency were also top priorities in the home’s construction.
“My philosophy is simple,” says Russell: “For the homeowner and the builder, it should never be enough to simply have beautiful rooms. One must pay equal attention to all the things that ultimately make the home or office function properly, such as the heating, plumbing and electrical.”
“I’ve worked with Sally on various projects for the past 12 years,” adds Bertolini, president of Aero Heating and Cooling Inc., of Harrison Township in Michigan. “After all that time, I can honestly say that I pretty much know what she likes, and I know what works best for her. That’s why I believe she chose me to design and install a heating and cooling system that would make every inch of the home she designed and built as comfortable as possible.”
For his efforts, Bertolini recently earned an honorable mention in the first annual UPONOR DREAM HOME COMPETITION. Uponor, formerly Wirsbo, is a leading supplier of plumbing and heating systems for residential and commercial building markets across North America and Europe.
Radiant heating a must: From the beginning, Russell had insisted on using radiant floor heating as the primary heating source in the home, rather than a conventional forced air system. She demanded radiant not only because it is more energy-efficient, but also because it provides a healthier, cleaner environment with more consistent room temperatures.
“That’s the one thing Sally was adamant about,” says Bertolini. “In fact, she’s been known to turn down projects where prospective clients insist on having forced air over radiant. It gets back to the idea of if you’re going to install the best, you might as well go the whole nine yards.”
When the house was completed in late 2005, more than 90 percent of the interior structure was warmed with a radiant heating system, made of Uponor cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) piping. In addition, an Uponor snow-melting system was employed to keep the driveway, porte-cochere, terrace, walkways and other outdoor areas snow- and ice-free during the winter months.
Why radiant? With forced air, heated air rises to the ceiling, leaving cold pockets at the floor level. Because the Bloomfield Hills house has many rooms with high ceilings, the use of forced air would have created a fairly big temperature gap between the floor and the ceiling.
There are no such problems with a radiant system, in which heated water flows from the heat source through PEX tubing installed underneath the floor in a looped configuration, with the pipe loops set equidistant from one another. The heat is evenly dispersed where it is needed most – at floor level, the better to warm people and surrounding objects more quickly and effectively. Cold-air drafts are eliminated, and the temperature remains steady throughout each heating zone.
As a result, thermostats need not be set so high to achieve a desired comfort level, which is why radiant heat is more fuel-efficient than forced-air. In addition, because no blowers are involved, airborne allergens are reduced.
The hard-dollar payoff on all these advantages can be found in the monthly utility bills, says Bertolini: “During the coldest month of the winter of 2005-2006, the heating bill – excluding the cost of running the snowmelt – was around $1,200. That’s truly remarkable for a residence spanning more than 20,000 square feet of living space. A similar structure using forced air would cost about 20 percent to 40 percent more to heat.”
Adds Russell: “It just doesn’t make sense to build a beautiful home with magnificent interiors and state-of-the-art features without taking into account those things that make the structure energy and fuel efficient. That’s why when it comes to heating choices, I believe that radiant heat is the only way to go.”
Appendix A: Mechanical and Manpower Requirements
Appendix B: Efficiency Measures
In addition to the use of radiant floor heating in the inside, Aero Heating and Cooling maximized energy efficiency by doing the following:
Appendix C: Summary of Radiant Heating Benefits
Comfort and Convenience: A radiant floor heating system heats objects instead of air. This prevents people from losing heat to the cold objects around them. That, in turn, makes them comfortable at lower thermostat settings. Also, there are no cold drafts or damp floors, so the temperature stays consistent and comfortable all the time. In addition, the use of a radiant snow-melting system in the driveway and walkways eliminates the need for shoveling, resulting in safe, ice-free areas.
Energy Efficiency: High ceilings and numerous windows make it easy for heat to escape. With radiant floor heating, heat stays concentrated near the floor where it is needed the most. The improved comfort and efficiency of the radiant system is expected to save the homeowner anywhere from 20 percent to 40 percent in heating costs.
Versatility: Radiant heating proved the ideal comfort solution for this particular home, which contains a variety of floor coverings, including hardwood, marble, tile, carpet and stone. The versatility of the radiant system gives the owner the freedom to segment the home into multiple zones, each heated appropriately based on the floor coverings, conditions and use patterns. Weather-responsive controls also adjust the amount of heat going into each zone, based on outdoor conditions.
Corrosion-Resistance: Bertolini chose Uponor’s radiant heating system because the PEX tubing is guaranteed to be corrosion-resistant. Uponor also provides a 25-year warranty and the most reliable fitting system on the market.
Comprehensive Training: Training helps assure that every installer is familiar with proper installation techniques for Uponor’s radiant heating system, so that Bertolini’s customers are satisfied with the quality of the product and its installation.
The design information in this case study is provided for illustrative purposes only. The actual requirements of similar projects will depend on regional climatic conditions, project-specific heat loss, owner expectations, applicable building codes, etc. Please contact your Uponor representative for assistance in designing your specific projects.
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For more information about the benefits of cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) tubing, contact a reputable manufacturer, such as Uponor North America (www.uponor-usa.com).
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