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Posted by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 7/2/2010

What an awesomely good feeling to finally be done with the first-floor radiant heat! As of sundown all of the tubing is in, all of the manifolds are mounted, and the only thing left to do now is seal and pressure-test the whole shebang.

There are six zones in total on this final manifold, four in the garages proper, and two slated to eventually be embedded in the outside concrete apron fronting the garage entrances. The most difficult loop to run was the far one to the apartment garage, since it has since very long Send and Return lines (running the length of the main garage), and we ended up using my earlier technique of laying out each run first before tying down the various loops, so that it was very apparent where we had good spacing and where we had to lay in the other zones. 

The stubs for the exterior loops (an ice-melt system for the apron) were a bit problematic. There was no point in installing the tubing yet, since they would just be big bundles of PVC that would be in the way for weeks to come, but we knew that we had to be able to allow for the loops in the future or the upcoming concrete pour will fill the PVC sleeves. We eventually put together four lengths of pipe (two Send and two Returns) that extend from the manifold and then take a 90-degree turn to extend outside the front of the first garage opening. Everything was then sealed with several layers of duct tape to prevent concrete from sloshing into the tubes, and we zip-tied the whole bundle together to keep it relatively stable. When we're ready to put in the external loops, we'll fish the tubing through each loop as needed; LoopCAD says that two 300' loops will work perfectly, and it's always a tad pessimistic. Once the concrete is poured, the sleeves won't be in any danger of moving at all, and when we eventually pour the exterior slab, they'll be buried safe and sound under the concrete.

All of this tubing work ended up taking us a bit longer than the second floor did when we tackled that back in January, but there were more loops (17 in all) and manifolds (4) than the task we had faced before (cold weather combined with newbie level of knowledge). Colleen also took off on her trip to see her family which definitely put a crimp in the progress, since it was all on my shoulders for much of the period that she was gone, but by the same token (let's be fair) this also simplified things somewhat—the main house was far and away the more “contentious” portion of the layout and not having to argue about it had its advantages...

On the other hand, our level of knowledge is FAR greater than it was when we started and that showed. Back in January we were lucky to get a single loop done in a day; today we knocked out all four loops in the garage AND stubbed out two others for the exterior apron (to be poured later) in half a day—and frankly we did a better job than we did upstairs, too. We know how the tubing is going to try to bend, and where it needs zip ties vs. those nifty little plastic clips, and we know how important it is to get the underlying wire mesh laid out correctly to simply the job. We know when to double-check the nifty LoopCAD estimate against the reality of how much tubing is left in a circuit, and we know how to label everything quickly and efficiently so we don't confuse ourselves when we're hooking up the manifolds. Our penetrations are much cleaner this time around than they were last time, and we were able to mount the manifolds directly onto the ICF rather than have them free-standing in what will (eventually) be walls.

We just did it so much better this time around. I'm very proud of our work.

Colleen deserves most of the credit for today's success, of course. She knocked out most of three loops all by herself while I alternated between wrestling with the interior loop (lots of curves—didn't want to do that to her) and tying down ill-behaved wire mesh (it really wanted to snap up this time around, undoubtedly because we used more of the mesh from the more tightly-wound interior of the coils). I'd help her get a loop started, since that required a lot of pulling under the wall from the manifold location (under the stairs) into the garage, and later when she was making the home run back to the manifold, I'd help straighten out the tighter coils and push them back through the protective PVC sleeves to the return manifold outlets. It was a good system and we worked together well.

The hook-up of the loops and the pressure test will happen sometime next week, probably Wednesday or Thursday once the folks over at ABC Plumbing have soldered up some air-fill nozzles and pressure gauges for me. Not sure when the inspection is scheduled at this point. And of course, we're not quite done with the radiant just yet--down the road (sometime before drywall) I'll need to install the final interior radiant loop on the third-floor tower (this will use a staple-up approach, since that's all on conventional trusses rather then embedded in concrete) and at some point just before we have our final concrete pour for the exterior driveway apron, we'll install another pair of loops for the snowmelt system.

Next up on our list of Things To Do (funny thing, it seems to get longer rather than shorter as each days' work ends... that's just weird, isn't it?) is the installation of the fabled well packer. With that installed and the new pitless adapter drilled, we can finally get that gaping trench between the well and the house filled back in and remove one more temptation of the weather gods (no rain no rain no rain no rain!).

Enjoy the pics. For reasons that utterly escape me, we forgot to take a snapshot of the garage manifold; I'll add that when I can remember to take a shot.

We're both exhausted, but this sure is fun!

Steven in Colorado Springs


The pantry window has become my temporary "tool stash" area.
The apartment garage! That bundle of tubing leaning against the wall is going into the next area over.
Looking down the length of the main garage. Note the long feed lines towards the front.
Another shot looking into the garage from the kitchen.
Exterior shot of the apartment garage. That big hole in the front is where the garage drains come together; they haven't been joined up and properly buried yet (that's soon).
The garage manifold is a 6-zone unit. The two zones on the right are stubbed out right now; they'll eventually run out to the concrete apron in front of the garages.

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