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We are remodeling an existing cabin in Northern Minnesota. we will be raising it and adding on to it with the entire thing being placed on a walk out lower level. we would like to put radient heat in the concrete floor of the lower level and under the slate portions of the main floor or the entire main floor. we have a few questions. what happens in cold zub zero locations where this year the temps have gone to 44 below and last year the frost level in the ground was 7 feet. what if your electric power goes out? do the tubes freeze up? Is there danger of leaks in this system? Can the tubes be run between the floor joices (sp) ? any comments on this type of system would be wonderful. thank you

Pauly
 

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Typically in radiant heat systems there is a certain % of glycol added to the water. It essentially acts like radiator coolant. Not much of a chance of leaks as long as the system is maintained. Tubes can be run in gypcrete, in board panels, under flooring (b/w joists).
 

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Radiant heat in a concrete floor is typically a very gradual heat. You are heating the slab too. As a Concrete Contractor i never liked it in a house, but to heat Car Wash bays it was sufficient.
In answer to your question, the electricity is essential unless you have a generator set-up. There has to be a pump forcing the heated anti-freeze solution thru the pipes and some sort of heat applied to the tank to heat the anti-freeze.
If you must go electric, you might as well either go with baseboard heat or an electric furnace.
I heat all I can with wood because of natural gas prices. If I had a cabin which was accessible from the road, i would use heating oil from an underground tank going to an oil furnace, and I'd have a `back-up' gravity fed vented floor stove like a simple Perfection or something in case there was a loss of electricity.
But that is just because I despise a cold house in a power outage. Ha! don-ohio
 
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Economy Radiant Floor heat advice

I just designed and installed my own system. I installed tubing in gypcrete upstairs and concrete downstairs. Two zones run off two taco pumps, pump relay and two thermostats feeding 120 F hot water provided from a standard 55 gallon, 42,000 BTU water heater.

The system was far cheaper than any quotes I received and works very well. Non-oxygen barrier PEX is less expensive and may be use in a system without any cast iron or components that will rust. Installing tubing in gypcrete or concrete provides a significant buffer for minor errors in tubing design, length and spacing, and maintains a superior level of comfort. Your feet and sinuses will love it.

Alternatively, placing tubing between floor joists or beams requires higher temperatures (180 F) and is risky business, since wood strength, beam composition and floor glue are degraded by increased temperature over time. Check the specifications with your structural engineer regarding building material temperature ratings, including finished floor coverings.

http://www.diychatroom.com/showthread.php?p=358#post358

http://www.contractortalk.com/showthread.php?p=2176

http://www.construction-resource.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=611 need to get PW logon
 

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Being very familiar with Minnesota winters I can see your concerns. The system I have seen recently that works great for the cabin owner is two part: Forced air and in-floor radient. He claims the furnace rarely kicks on and the in-floor maintains the entire cabin. Why install the furnace? His wife may want central air someday and he will have the option at a limited expense. Another thought is installing suplimental cable heat in tiled areas on the main floor( kitchen,bath,entry etc.) I've installed alot of cable heat and heard nothing but rave reviews. Also,as you probably already know,It's a good idea to turn off your well pump when the cabin is not in use.
 
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