Ask the Expert: Terry Alsberg of Warmboard

Terry Alsberg of Warmboard answers your questions about radiant floor heating

Expert: Terry Alsberg
Terry Alsberg, an architect and serial entrepreneur, has been in the construction industry for over 40 years. He is the founder of Warmboard and was inspired to invent the product to relieve his children's asthma (which it did).

Q:  I am considering building a second home and want to make it as energy-efficient as possible. What are the energy-saving advantages of radiant heating?  
A:  When hot air rises to the ceiling, just below a cold roof, it creates a lot of heat loss. This explains why attic insulation is so important. Radiant heat concentrates heat near the floor, increasing your comfort without blowing hot air to the ceiling, and dramatically reducing heat loss. And, radiant heat is easily zoned, allowing you to set the temperature for any area in your home without overheating the upstairs or wasting energy on an unused guest room. You’ll increase comfort and lower your heating bills.

Q:  We live in Colorado, where early mornings can be chilly! How quickly does radiant heating warm a house compared to a forced air system?
A:  Traditionally, radiant has relied on high-mass concrete slabs. These systems are very slow to heat up due to their low conductivity. However, the industry has been migrating towards a new generation of low-mass systems. Of these newer systems, those that use thick aluminum respond much faster because of how quickly they conduct heat (imagine cooking with a frying pan versus a stone slab). Depending on which of these systems you choose, your home can be comfortable within 30-60 minutes, very comparable to the response time of forced air.

Q:  I am considering radiant heat for my remodel in Seattle and would like hardwood floors. Is this possible?
A:  In the old days of wet-pour concrete-slab radiant, hardwood often did not perform well due to moisture issues, not to mention the added costs and difficulty of attaching hardwood to a slab.   Much of the new generation of radiant panels are based on engineered wood panels that are overlaid with aluminum.  These are sometimes generically called “Dry” systems.  When the panels are thick enough to hold flooring nails well and the aluminum is thick enough to conduct heat evenly, nothing prevents you from enjoying the beauty of hardwood along with the comfort of radiant.