WARMTH Science

For years I have watched my radiant heating business grow and grow. Happy clients brought in friends, neighbors and relatives. Everybody loved floor heat. In the span of several years my firm went from local contractor to a national wholesale outlet. But I still wondered why radiant heat was so popular once installed. No one seemed to take it for granted or grow used to it.

In my travels I have talked with many skilled heating engineers. They spoke of boiler efficiency, duct placement and other technical aspects of heating. It has occurred to me that there is a difference between the WARMTH business and the HEATING business. It seems that every aspect of the human experience has been analyzed and dissected EXCEPT our universal relationship with warmth.

As I pondered this I came to realize that the basics of warmth and radiant heat should be explored. I formulated some theories, and have presented them below in my own style. Several  parts of my WARMTH Theories Are not fully formulated, perhaps you, the reader can make a contribution to the science (of course full credit will be given).  So if you have discovered an aspect of this phenomena that is not discussed, or if you can clarify or correct  any of the points  made, please E-MAIL me ;  warmth@radiantheat.com. 

Early  Warmth Training, the universal experience.

Suppose that you wanted to 'Program' a future customer, so that when he first experienced your radiant heating system he couldn't resist it. Here is what you might do.

Start the warmth training when the customer is born. Just after birth put him in  cold air, perhaps slap him, and then, when the cold and pain are associated, let his mother warm him and feed him.

Continue this recipe for months, let the new customer wet himself, and lie in the cold, then pick him up, let him feel the warmth as he nurses. Notice how your future customer likes to place those little feet against a warm belly.

This customer will associate warmth with everything good !  Notice that the joy of warmth will be learned before the client can see, or talk or walk. Talk about early exposure to a product. ! Later in life, as your client begins to date, Life's most exciting and unforgettable moments will be preceded and accompanied by intense warmth (remember ?).

Even later in life, when this person walks across a warm radiant floor, They will love it, but not know why. Perhaps the science and beauty and economy of floor heating will appeal to them, but at the same time the ancient memories will be reawakened , and they will purchase a radiant system, hopefully yours.

Some folks have compared this theory to the 'back to the womb' theory. I am not sure the comparison holds up. I suspect that in the first 9 months of existence there is no warmth or cold, only a constant temperature. The effects discussed above are all POST birth phenomena.

Pre birth conditioning
Of course most humans are mammals, and mammals have millions of years of experience avoiding cold or frozen feet. In fact mammals with frozen feet would tend to be unsuccessful, and as a result most humans are 'against' cold feet even before birth.

My biologist friends tell me that even an amoebae will sense and travel towards warm water, and so it seems that the need to find a warm object to stand on ( or eat ) is fully integrated into earth's animal population. Furthermore these instincts are buried in "The deepest reaches of the mind". What strikes me as ridiculous is that the so called "5 senses" do not include warmth in any way.

Warming Systems.

In nature, a young mammal can sense a mothers or siblings presence by means of radiant heat, or by direct contact. The youngster will relax and feel safe when it senses this warmth!  Therefore in designing a homes warming system, it is  necessary to provide warm surfaces to echo this natural sensation. That is also the reason why our 70 degree box rooms  feel so unnatural.

Of course each new discovery tends to create a new question, and now I find myself asking, WHAT IS WARMTH. Why is it different than heat ? We know warmth is not maintaining a room at 70 degrees, and I know of no standard definition that fits the radiant heating industry,

I have questioned many warm bodies as to a definition of warmth and one answer that many agree with is " Warmth is  A PLEASURABLE exposure to HEAT".

Mysteries of Warmth

I picked up a warm cup of coffee. As I felt the rush of warmth into my fingers, I realized I had much more to consider !

I realized that the sensations were dynamic, the warmth flowed into my fingers, the sensation was far different from other sensations described above. There is not even a word to describe this basic experience. At the moment of contact a WARMTH flow was established. Or was it a warmth flux ?, a warmth stream or perhaps a warmth rush ! What to call this ?. I asked several wise persons, they all said who cares, your fingers just heat up ! I decided to call this a Warmth flow because the heat transfer will ebb and flow at times and stay constant at other times. Also I could spell flow.

A warmth flow is the Dynamic Change in skin temperature from exposure to a warmer object. The pleasure of a warmth flow is the rapid raising of your skin temperature to a safe but elevated temperature.

When I held my hands out in front of a fireplace there was one change. Same fingers, same effect as above, but as the fingers heat up, they begin to re- radiate out into the room, as a result they do not overheat.

The Radiant Heating engineer in me noticed the warmth flow was different when the flow of heat was by contact (coffee cup) vs. by radiation (fireplace).  I gathered up some assistants and we I spent a pleasant afternoon exploring the concept of warmth flow.

Here is what we learned. Warmth by contact tends to be brief. The skin warms up quickly and the flow slows down. But warmth by radiation is a different thing, the effect can continue for many minutes. This is due to the fact that the body captures heat by radiation and also gives up heat by radiation The body is in the middle of a warmth flow.  Warmth by radiation is self regulating in some cases. Walking on a warm floor is an example of flow cycling because the feet are heated and cooled with each step.

Case studies of warmth exposure.

(A) You lay out on the beach in the full sun. This is a very interesting case. It is a 90 degree day, what could be nice about overheating in the sun ? Why is it so popular ? In this case it might be due to the fact that the body captures heat by radiation and also gives up heat by radiation. The old warmth flow by radiation effect !  The body is in the middle of a warmth flow. 

(B) You sit on a warm rock out in the sun. If the temperature and timing is just right, the sensation is almost illegal. This demonstrates that some parts of the body are very  sensitive to being in a warmth flow. In this case the warmth flow peaks for a few seconds, slows down after a minute, and is typically not noticed afterward. This suggests that a warmth flow is a consumable sensation and is self limiting.

Now lets consider a few test rooms !

(C)  You sit in a 70 degree room. Every part of the room is 70 Degrees. You don't complain about anything, and you don't notice anything.

(D) . Same room as  (C)  but the floor is 80 the air is 65 and the ceiling is 60. Your feet are at there optimum temperature, the air is at the optimum temperature, and you are bathed in warmth radiation. You notice how NICE the room feels.

(E) Your room thermostat sticks at 90 degrees.  You can't last more than an hour in the heat, if you must you will smash a window or door to escape. Why is this example so different from the beach tanning example (A) ? This comparison illustrates a CRITICAL difference between a warmth system and heat. Also note that a flow of warmth  REQUIRES somewhere for the warmth to go.

(F) You place your foot on a portable electric heater and your sock catches fire. The smoke rises straight up the wall and across the ceiling. Notice how inefficient heating by convection is ! Observe how the heat is carried up to the ceiling where if does little good. !

Another observation 

While observing a cat engaged in collecting solar energy from a window, I realized that many animals STOP moving when collecting warmth. A room full of people in front of a fireplace is an another good example, most motion stops, even though a moving body would collect just as much warmth. There are many other examples ( Why does everyone like to lay still while tanning ? ) and so I conclude that warmth has a calming/slowing effect. Is this related to early nursing experience ? I can't tell.

The "BEE CAN'T FLY" aspect of radiant heat. or how the use of radiant heat and Warmth Theory can change HVAC designs.

There is an old, true story of how early flight scientists could prove that the Bee can't fly. Today many heating engineers still argue radiant can't work !  Not enough output !  I have seen many projects where all the math said "NO WAY", and the system flew.  Examples below.

Years ago I had to heat a building with a calculated heat loss of 350,000 BTUH, and I had only 105,000 BTUH available. By using radiant floor heat I placed the heat between (under) the people to be heated and the heat loss. A heat flow was established at floor level and everyone loved to work in that building IN SPITE OF THE COLD. There feet were warm !  (Don't Try this on the job, you could be fined by OSHA ).

20 years ago, I worked in The engineering office where EPDM radiant hose was first  invented. The office had been built in  the 1840's, was on the historic register and could not be changed ! The office had an outside wall 55 feet in length. The wall was full of leaky windows. We stapled insulation and radiant hose to the outside wall and covered that with sheet rock. For less that $600, over one weekend, we converted that office into a thermal paradise. The heat radiated across the room. The leaky windows contributed fresh air. Overall fuel consumption went down. All without touching the floor.

A builder had only one model house and it was not selling well. We installed a 10' x 10' DEMO radiant heat system in the foyer. The salesmen did not mention the floor heat, but would greet visitors and chat in the foyer. During the winter of 93, sales went from 2 houses to 7, (5) with full radiant systems. (Don't try this a home, someone might move into the foyer)

In one of my  projects, I installed a balancing manifold for a large bedroom.  As an experiment I throttled down some of the outer loops and opened up others. As planned, the carpet around the bed became quite warm. If the whole floor had been taken to this heat level, the room would have been very uncomfortable ! but in this case the heat traveled to the cooler areas, and a warmth flow was established. The air stayed crisp. The customer never readjusted the manifold. I now employ "HOT SPOTS" in many installations. A related trick is a "Boot Dryer" in the kitchen or mud room.

Excuse me while I go have a dish of vanilla ice cream with hot chocolate syrup.

An interesting story !

A couple built there  first custom home, and because they had millions to spend, they ordered everything including radiant heat. On  " move in day ", I was there to  test  the system, and they looked around the room and asked where the radiant heat ducts were. I told them to check the floor in a few hours then left. That afternoon, I returned to check for leaks and balance the system. The door was open, and I found both of them sound asleep, stretched out on the living room radiant floor.

Possible change in radiant panel definition ? :

As we know, one aspect of existing conventional RADIANT heating theory is that RADIANT heat is the best heat, AND IT IS. But radiant heat theory does not recognize that warmth by contact is also a " blessed" form of heating  ( as well as a great indoor sport ). Contact with a radiant panel changes the panel into a warmth flow panel ? ( need better definition) . At the moment of contact, there is no radiation  !  therefore the definition of a radiant panel might include its use in this direct contact mode. Perhaps we should also try adjusting our panel surface temperatures to 98.6 degrees.

The Podesta Observation. 4/21/99. (Submitted by John Podesta of Farmingville, NY). The Human thermostat is in the feet ! Heat the Feet, Satisfy the Thermostat. Simple no ?

The Eli Suggestion. 1/6/00 Why not put some radiant hose inside the mattress ! ( Now under Test ! )

Current Summary of  WARMTH Science THEORY

  • The concepts of warmth theory can change HVAC designs.

    If you have any NICE comments or additions to this theory, E-mail them to Warmth@radiantheat.com

    Copyright Long Island Radiant 1997-2000            Last   updated 1/20/00