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6 Steps to a Cozy Winter Home

October 24, 2017

6 Steps to a Cozy Winter Home

When plummeting temperatures and cruel storms combine to make the outdoors forbidding, everyone takes refuge indoors. There’s only one potential problem: If aggravations like drafts and cold-to-the-touch surfaces plague your home at this time of year, then it’s going to be a long winter indeed. Looking to make your home a comfier, cozier refuge this winter? Your choices run the gamut from the quick and easy to the truly transformative. For starters, think about simply adding accessories that either literally provide warmth or foster a welcoming, intimate environment. Alternatively, to make a big jump from chilly and bleak to homey and snug, pull out all the stops and put in radiant floor heating. Which approach makes the most sense for your home depends on a number of factors; there’s no single right solution that suits every situation.

  1. Set the Scene

    Relax your interior decorating scheme. It’s wise to consider more sweeping improvements, but don’t ignore the power of modest details to help foster a cozy ambience. Start by exchanging bright, cool overhead lights for the subdued glow of table and floor lamps. Meanwhile, cover bare floors with area rugs, and outfit seating areas with blankets and throw pillows. And if your home suffers from uneven heating, consider altering your furniture arrangement to bring the seating areas closer to the source of heat, be it a radiator, baseboard unit, or forced-air vent.


  2. Get with the Program

    Install a programmable thermostat. Budget-conscious homeowners seek any opportunity to spend less on heating. The tricky part is to save without compromising comfort. Here, a programmable thermostat can be a tremendous ally, automatically helping you achieve two things at once—toasty temperatures and manageable costs. Simply set the unit to run on your family’s schedule, so the heat will turn itself up when you wake up in the morning or return home at night, and back down when you go to sleep or leave the house for the day. You may never feel any difference, but you’ll probably notice the difference in your bills.


  3. Button Up

    Seal doors and windows. Drafts are the enemy of a cozy home, as nothing quite so quickly steals comfort as a jolt of cold air. Most of the time, dodging drafts means plugging up any cracks and crevices around openings to the outdoors. Caulk and weatherstripping commonly remedy such issues, but direct measures like door sweeps and so-called “draft snakes” also do the trick. To cut down further on heat loss from windows, you may even decide to put up plastic insulation film or, for that matter, curtains. First, determine where exactly drafts are entering your house; the locations of the problem areas may suggest their own solutions.


  4. Be a Heat-Keeper

    Insulate the attic. Insulation helps stop drafts throughout the house. In the attic specifically, however, insulation provides an additional benefit. Here, it works to prevent the common phenomenon of heat escaping through the roof. As insulating the attic tends to be easy, at least compared with doing so elsewhere, there’s no good reason to hesitate. You may even be able to handle the job yourself. The benefits are twofold: In the short term, you can expect a more comfortable indoor temperature, and in the long run, you can look forward to lower monthly bills. It’s a no-brainer!


  5. Play Detective

    Evaluate your current heating system. Like so much else in your home, your HVAC system requires regular maintenance in order to perform at its peak. For that reason, it’s only prudent to have the furnace inspected every year, ideally before winter even begins. If yours is a forced-air system, consider hiring a specialist to assess the ductwork as well. Notoriously prone to heat loss, ducts are often leaky enough to compromise energy efficiency by as much as 50 percent. That may be one reason why, even when your thermostat is set to a toasty temperature, you’re still uncomfortable.

  6. Make the Switch

    Floor heating

    Consider radiant heating. Some homeowners choose radiant heating because the efficient technology requires no leaky ductwork. But most make the switch because, of all the options, radiant creates the coziest and most pleasant at-home environment. With their cyclical, stop-and-start operation, forced-air systems swing temperatures from chilly to stifling.

    Ready to upgrade your heating system? Contact us today!

    Jim Lavallee Plumbing
    Serving Eastern Massachusetts and the Boston area
    Phone: Toll-free (888) 884-4122

The Best Way to Heat a Home with High Ceilings

April 10, 2017

Radiant heating

Photo: warmboard.com

Don’t get left in the cold when you step into a lofty room! Upgrading to radiant floor heating will keep any size space cozy and comfortable.

By Steven Fox

As summer heat gives way to fall’s cooler temperatures, daily activities—from dinners to DIY projects—migrate back indoors. But really, how much more comfortable are you indoors with your current home heating system? Sure, being inside provides shelter from the elements, but it doesn’t always guarantee a consistent temperature (even when you’ve properly sealed off all air leaks to the outdoors). When you still have to bundle up before walking across your home’s icy floors or need to curl up with a blanket to work comfortably, you may wonder, What am I paying so much each month to heat? The answer is, you’re probably paying most to heat the ceiling and second floor rather than your primary living space. Settling for uneven temperatures or a heating system that underperforms isn’t the only option. Instead, consider a more direct, dependable, and energy-efficient alternative: radiant heat.

Radiant-heating systems aren’t new. In fact, ancient Korea used controlled fires to heat air chambers under floors and behind walls. Fast-forward a few thousand years, and the highly evolved innovative materials and designs behind today’s modern systems are capable of providing efficient, uniform heat that offers numerous advantages over traditional HVAC systems. Their silent, dust-free operation eliminates allergy problems often associated with heating ducts while distributing even heat underfoot. And, on top of all these benefits, radiant heating built into your home’s flooring aims to keep the living space comfortable—no matter how tall the ceiling.

Why Forced Air Falls Short
If you currently rely on forced-air heat and are fed up with its less-than-stellar performance, don’t be too quick to put all the blame on your heating system. The way your home is designed plays a part in how efficiently (or inefficiently) the rooms warm up. Think back to your elementary school science lessons, and remember: Hot air rises. When your forced-air heating system pushes heat out of its vents, the heat naturally rises toward the ceiling. Your rooms become cozily warm at the top, but remain chilly down below, where you do your actual living. 

To cope, shivering homeowners may move closer to the nearest vent or resort to cranking up the thermostat to achieve a comfortable temperature at ground level, producing more heat than actually necessary and ultimately costing more money to do so. For rooms with standard 9-foot ceilings, this law of science is simply an inconvenience; but in the case of high ceilings, upwards of 12 feet, it can be costly. In a two-story house, the result is too much heat upstairs, and the only solution is to open some windows to let the heat (the heat that you’ve just paid for) escape the house. What’s a homeowner to do?

Concentrating Heat Where You Need It Most
While forced-air systems push heat into a room in cycles, unaffected surrounding surfaces can remain cool to the touch and actually steal warmth from your body, leaving you chilly despite the fact that your heating system is working overtime. Radiant floor heating systems, on the other hand, are designed to deliver even heat throughout your rooms by radiating constant warmth from beneath your flooring. The process warms the cooler areas it encounters first—the floor, the furniture, and the people occupying the living space. Because radiant heat warms objects in the room as well as people, you won’t be giving up body heat to, say, that favorite chair of yours. It, too, will emit a welcoming warmth when you sit down, rather than cause you to reach for the nearest woolen blanket.

Choosing the Most Efficient Radiant System
Before committing to an upgraded heating setup, be it in that one lofty room or your whole house, working knowledge of the systems can help you optimize your energy savings with this already highly efficient system. Radiant floor heating travels through flexible hydronic tubes or electric coils installed either inside or adjacent to panels laid beneath your flooring material of choice. The system’s energy source and materials do vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and considerably impact the energy efficiency of this heating system.

Hydronic radiant floor systems lower fuel bills by utilizing a boiler to heat water within a network of tubes beneath your home flooring to relatively low temperatures. Because the whole floor receives even heat, the water doesn’t have to be as hot as what might run through a conventional radiator.

For best possible heat transfer, panels should be made with a very conductive material—aluminum is the most common. Depending on the specific alloy, aluminum can conduct heat 232 times more efficiently than lightweight gypsum concrete, a standard alternative. Put simply, a material that offers better heat transfer means you’ll get more heat, more quickly, and for less energy (and less money). The thin, highly conductive panels produced by industry leader Warmboard require the least energy to operate of any radiant-heating system, providing the same comfort as competing systems while the water in the hydronic tubes can be more than 30 degrees lower than the others. That alone translates into a 10 to 20 percent savings in your monthly energy bills compared to other radiant options!

Whether you are building a brand-new home with a bold design or already live with the luxury of high ceilings, you can ensure affordable everyday comfort by opting for radiant floor heating. Even if the ceiling heights in your home extend only slightly above average, there are enough compelling reasons to choose radiant heat—its ease on allergies, quiet operation, and seasonal energy savings—that the system shines in lofty areas and smaller home additions alike. Install a state-of-the-art radiant-heating system, and you and your family will enjoy its benefits for years to come.

Ready to switch to radiant heating?  Contact us today!

Jim Lavallee Plumbing
Serving Eastern Massachusetts and the Boston area
Phone: Toll-free (888) 884-4122

7 Myths About Radiant Heat, Debunked

March 13, 2017

For once, industry experts agree on something: To keep your home warm through the winter months, there’s no method more comfortable than radiant heating. Although it earns praise for its virtually silent, dust-free, and energy-efficient operation, radiant heating exists in fewer than 10 percent of homes in the United States. Though more and more homeowners are choosing it over other systems, radiant technology hasn’t caught on nearly to the extent that it’s been adopted in Europe and Asia. Perhaps that’s because a certain degree of confusion and uncertainty still surrounds the concept of in-floor heating. Here are answers about the most beloved and least understood heating system in the country.

By Michael Franco

  • Myth #1


    Radiant heating is a newfangled technology. On the contrary, its origins stretch all the way back to Ancient Rome, where closely controlled fires fed heat into air chambers situated under floors and behind walls. In the United States, centuries later, it was none other than Frank Lloyd Wright who helped reintroduce the technology. It’s undergone continual development since then, gradually becoming a viable, if not superior, home heating alternative. Indeed, it may have taken a few thousand years for manufacturers to get right, but make no mistake, radiant heating has arrived.

    Photo: warmboard.com

  • Myth #2


    Radiant systems heat the floor, not the home. That’s only true in certain cases, specifically with electric in-floor products meant to provide supplemental warmth in, say, the chilly master bath—or in any space the primary heating system (e.g., forced-air) fails to keep comfortable. That’s compared with hydronic radiant systems. The latter are not supplemental. On the contrary, hydronic radiant systems are installed instead of, not in addition to, a conventional heating system. Indeed, radiant systems like Warmboard deliver heat, not only to the floors, but throughout the entire home.

    Photo: warmboard.com

  • Myth #3


    Because heat rises, radiant systems are doomed to fail. Actually, heat doesn’t rise. Hot air rises. That’s why forced-air systems are so often ineffective. When furnace-heated air blasts into a room, there’s momentary comfort. But then the warm air swiftly rises to the ceiling, leaving cool air in its place. Uneven temperatures are inevitable. Rather than transmit air, radiant systems transmit thermal radiation. Eventually, thermal radiation warms the air, but first it warms the cooler entities it encounters—the floor, the furniture, and yes, the people standing or sitting in the living space.

    Photo: warmboard.com

  • Myth #4


    Radiant heating is all about energy efficiency. Forced-air systems are notoriously inefficient, in part because air ducts leak—often enough to diminish efficiency by over 20 percent. Plus, if and when warm air reaches the living space, it soon ends up, not where you can feel it, but hovering near the ceiling. By minimizing the heat loss associated with forced-air, radiant heating maximizes energy savings. But while homeowners appreciate lower bills, they truly love radiant for another reason: It’s even, “everywhere” warmth that arrives silently and without allergy-causing dust.

    Photo: warmboard.com

  • Myth #5


    Radiant heating takes forever to warm up. That may be true in some cases, but not all radiant heating systems are equal. The least responsive are those with hydronic tubes set into thick slabs of concrete. Though concrete can absorb and store a considerable quantity of heat, it’s very sluggish. When used in home heating systems, it forces you to wait both while it warms up and cools down. Warmboard replaces concrete with aluminum, a material that conducts heat 232 times better than concrete. That way, when you adjust the thermostat, Warmboard panels respond right away.

    Photo: warmboard.com

  • Myth #6


    Radiant heat does not offer precision control. Wrong. Radiant systems offer an unprecedented degree of control, because they are uniquely well suited to zoning. Whereas in a traditional system, a single thermostat controls the entire house, zoning allows you to set different temperatures in different rooms. That way, you don’t pay to heat unoccupied rooms. And, no matter the temperature preferences of your family members, everyone can be comfortable at the same time. If traditional heating provides a one-size-fits-all solution, then zoning offers a custom, tailored fit.

    Photo: warmboard.com

  • Myth #7


    Not all types of flooring can be used with radiant heating. In the past, popular wisdom held that only certain materials were suitable accompaniments for a radiant system. While professionals approved of tile, stone, and concrete, they cautioned against hardwoods and carpeting. Fortunately, like any other technology, radiant heating has come a long way in recent years. Today, you can pair Warmboard panels with virtually any commonly used floor material. Warmboard gives you total design freedom. You don’t have to make any sacrifices to be comfortable.

    Photo: warmboard.com


    Ready to update your heating system? Contact us today!

    Jim Lavallee Plumbing
    Serving Eastern Massachusetts and the Boston area
    Phone: Toll-free (888) 884-4122


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