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The Roman Green Genius

Roman Genius + Yankee Ingenuity = Better Green

Colosseum_in_Rome,_Italy_-_April_2007Most of us are used to air heated homes, either heated by a baseboard heater or wall radiator, which is then distributed by convection, or forced air (the most common heating system in the US), which is blown from a duct by a fan. But as they heat, they also blow dust, allergens, and hot air around. They produce uneven noisy heat, and waste energy in a number of ways.

Roman Genius ….
Roman engineers developed the concept of radiant floor heating and for the last 2,000 years radiant floor heating has been considered the pinnacle in heating comfort.

The warmth and comfort we feel from the sun on a cool spring day or in front of a crackling fire on a cold winter’s night is radiant heat. Radiant floor heating uses a very subtle form of this same radiant energy usually accomplished with hot water recirculated through tubing hidden in a conductive panel under your finished floors. Radiant heat gently and evenly warms the surfaces of objects in the room. The air in the room is warmed when it comes into contact with the warmed objects, the largest of which is the floor. Since heat rises, the radiant heat in the lower part of the room is­ warmer near foot level and slightly less at head level creating the perfect climate for comfort. With the entire floor surface radiating heat, the temperature can be quite a bit lower than that of more conventional heating units. By bringing the floor of your home up to a mildly warm temperature (typically 75˚-85˚F (24-29°C)) you experience silent, even, and comfortable warmth. Additionally, radiant heating will dramatically improve your indoor air quality, and lower your heating bills. If a 3000 square foot (914 meters) home costs $4000 to heat, a homeowner would save $1000 by using a radiant system over forced air.distrib

…. Meets Yankee Ingenuity –
In 1992 Terry Alsberg, architect, boat builder, and entrepreneur, was trying to install a radiant flooring system in his home and found the existing 2 x 6 redwood floor framing joists could not support the load of concrete in which typical radiant floor water tubing is embedded. So, he invented Warmboard, a radiant floor panel that ingeniously serves also as a structural subfloor, and started Warmboard, Inc., headquartered in Aptos, California, manufacturing it’s namesake product.

Warmboard consists of two main ingredients. The bottom layer is plywood (4’ x 8’ x 1-1/8” thick) made of 7 ply layers of Douglas Fir which is cross-banded and bonded together with exterior grade phenolic adhesive, as well as grooved in an efficient curvilinear pattern to accommodate the tubing that carries the water. The top layer is made of high-grade, 24-gauge aluminum surface which is bonded to the plywood and inset continuously into the curvilinear grooves.

Containing 20% recycled aluminum, the aluminum plate is durable and waterproof, and is compatible with various floor finishes (hardwood, carpet, tile or stone) which can be placed directly against the aluminum.

WarmboardBrochureThe plywood material comes from trees grown in Oregon and complies with the Oregon Forest Practices Act which promotes sustainable forest harvesting, protects wildlife habitats, and limits clear-cutting. The construction of the plywood is resistant to warping, shrinking, or twisting and approved as a structural panel by APA (The Engineered Wood Association).

Warmboard has an energy efficiency of 96% at a water temperature of 104°F (40°C), to gain an area of comfortable warmth. Other radiant systems have an efficiency range of 85% to 89% running a water temperature range of 140°F(60°C) to 167°F(75°C), for the same comfort. The high conductivity of Warmboard allows the water temperature to be between 90°F(32°C) and 110°F(43°C), way less than that required for a typical radiant flooring system. Consequently, lower water temperatures require less energy to heat up the water and helps reduce utility bills.

The Warmboard system helps reduces waste in the manufacturing process as well as at the jobsite. The company’s CAD design services customize the panels for each project and ship out the exact amount of panels. Consequently, the crew on site can install two building systems in one pass, install the subfloor like any other structural plywood, and minimize cutting and waste.

The water supply can come from a variety of sources including a domestic hot water heater or a solar thermal hot water heater.

Warmboard uses less energy operating with some of the lowest water temperatures in the industry allowing perfect integration with geothermal or solar systems.
A complete system can gain between 7 and 11 LEED points.

Warmboard exemplifies a product of sustainable manufacturing. It not only serves two purposes in one product, but also is constructed of environmentally sound materials and addresses long term durability.

As a proponent for energy-efficiency, Warmboard, Inc. has contributed to the last three Solar Decathlons organized by the U.S. Department of Energy, and donated its Warmboard system to numerous top-placing teams. This year, the company sponsored the Refract House built by Team California.

Products that are efficient with labor as well as materials are critical to paving the way for efficient and sustainable design and construction. Warmboard has succeeded even to the point of being the chosen material for a heating upgrade project in Antarctica. Because they required a system that would provide reliable warmth, be efficient with energy usage, and could be installed easily without the use of concrete due to the difficulty of pouring concrete in freezing temperatures.

The Germans, Swiss, and South Koreans are now the biggest users of hydronic heating in their buildings. With Warmboard being two products in one, the substrate floor and the radiant heating, it’s now easier for the rest of us to jump on that green bandwagon.

2000 years after the Romans developed the concept of radiant floor heating, we realize (once again), that what’s old – is new again — and green.

as the green future unfolds.

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20 Responses to “The Roman Green Genius”

  1. Karen Says:

    Isn’t that amazing! They were ahead of their time.

  2. Linda Says:

    Hi Karen … Yes ! They were pretty creative back then.

  3. Diane Scott Says:

    I truly wish we could afford to do this, our house is always backwards. We have to “over cool” in the summer and no matter how reasonable during the winter, nor how long the heater runs, it gets cold again within too short a time. This idea is ideal!
    .-= Diane Scott´s last blog ..Home Sweet Affordable Home Buyer Tax Credits =-.

  4. Linda Says:

    Hi Diane … One of these days, just one of these days… 🙂

  5. Barbara Swafford Says:

    Hi Linda,

    This is something I’d love to have. There’s nothing worse than walking barefoot on a cold floor.

    I find it amazing how this concept is now being reborn. Makes me wonder what else we’ll learn by studying construction from the past.
    .-= Barbara Swafford´s last blog ..The Power Of A Post =-.

  6. Linda Says:

    Hi Barbara … There is so much that is being brought up to date, it would not surprise you! I will try and bring it up when I can! 😉 I would love to have this one my floors as well!

  7. corrin Says:

    I would love to do the heated floors in our house one day. Just hoping it comes down in price!
    .-= corrin´s last blog ..Explore New Zealand at McCormick & Schmick’s =-.

  8. Linda Says:

    Hi Corrin … Keep your fingers crossed! Maybe the high demand will bring down the price!!

    Hi A … Absolutely True! There many things we could do today that have a history (i.e. root cellars)!

  9. A. @ A Changing Life Says:

    We always seem to discount systems from so long ago, and yet there were some very advanced societies. We shouldn’t reject ideas just because they aren’t our own.

  10. TheAL Says:

    Sometimes older is better! I hope I can do this some day. Genius!
    .-= TheAL´s last blog ..I say brrrr, It’s Cold in Here! =-.

  11. Barbara Says:

    When we lived in our dome home back in the 80’s, this was an option. We couldn’t afford it at the time, but visiting a dome that had it, was a selling point! It is a great idea, that I hope really takes off, and becomes more affordable! Yes, and I agree, bring back the root cellars! 🙂

  12. Linda Says:

    Hi Barbara … Right now, I sure could use it as it is pretty cold here and my floors are about at ice level! LOL!

  13. Do Portable Solar Showers Really Work | Camping Holidays Says:

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  14. Lissof Says:

    Thanks Linda, I will pass this along. I do enjoy reading about products on the market, that can make our life more comfortable and be energy efficient at the same time.

  15. Linda Says:

    Hi Lissof … Happy New Year! Thank You!

  16. Do Portable Solar Showers Really Work | Outdoor Camping Life Says:

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  17. lvs Says:

    wow smart….I guess we forget and relearn things to repeat them. Very nice post.
    .-= lvs´s last blog ..Carbon Footprint: Think Smart =-.

  18. Linda Says:

    Hi Ivs …. that is just how we as a people are…. we end up repeating things….

  19. Brad Says:

    Hey Linda! The whole system is pretty neat and who doesn’t like a warm floor?!

  20. Linda Says:

    Hi Brad … I certainly would like one now as the temp is 14 degrees right now and that is just tooooo cold for east texas!

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