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Radiant Floor Heating/Radiant Ceiling Heat - cracked plaster ceilings

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Question
We're purchasing a house built in 1957 that has radiant ceiling heat.  Several of the rooms have have cracks every 24" or so in the ceiling, which we assume is from the heat.  The plastered ceilings are heavily textured--our best guess is previous residents were trying to cover the cracks.  Some rooms even have wallpaper on the ceilings (again, we're guessing an attempt to cover cracks).   What, in your estimation, caused the cracks?  We're expecting to re-do the ceilings over time.  What would you recommend to replace them?  We're afraid to re-plaster just to have it crack all over again.  Could we install some sort of dry-wall and then install wood planking?   Also, can you recommend any reading material for us to get a better handle on how to manage and maintain this heating system?  Everyone we talk to acts like it's something from another planet!  Thank you!

Answer
Badger Radiant Ceilings SIP home
Badger Radiant Ceiling  
The main reason radiant ceilings crack or streak plaster is improper operation or neglect.

Most of the older copper tube radiant ceilings we service are running at much hot water temperatures than need be. They should never run above 120F and in most weather and almost any climate rarely run above body temperature.

The key to low temperature operation is proper fluid temperature control with outdoor reset mixing of conventional boilers or built-in reset featured with all condensing boilers available today.

Good plaster people should proceed as usual with extra caution not to damage the typically soft copper tubing embedded in the plaster. I have used 3/8" drywall to cover older ceiling of all kinds and find that it has little effect on the output of the original radiant ceiling panel.

Wood, on the other hand will insulate the wrong side of the panel and should be avoided.

A room-by-room ACCA Manual 'J' performed on dedicated radiant ceiling software is the best way to determine the required water temperature and the required insulation of the ceiling panel.  

Radiant Floor Heating

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Morgan M. Audetat

Expertise

Radiant panel heating design, including floors and ceilings, European wall panels and snow melting for residential and light commercial buildings..............................................................-Master of Steam and Hot Water,City of Minneapolis....................................................--- Master Plumber, State of Minnesota...........

Experience

30 years..... Charter Board Member - Radiant Panel Association, former manufacturer of condensing boilers, former national distributor of radiant floor products, son and apprentice of mechanical & plumbing contractor. Current owner---www.BadgerRadiantDesigns.com---Minneapolis mechanical/plumbing contractor specializing in hydronic based, integrated HVAC systems. Radiant floor heating/cooling. Snow Melting. Condensing Boilers. Indirect water heaters. System design, consulting and technical training world-wide. Licensed contractor, designer, installer and consultant.

Education/Credentials
B.S. University WI 1981 CONTINUING EDUCATION: Viessmann Condensing boiler and Solar water heating certification 2010, N.D.S.U. Lead Worker RRP certification 2010, Knight condensing boiler certification 2009, Wrightsoft Manual J CAD certification 2009, RPA Designer & Installer Certification 2008, Nate Hydronic/Forced Air Certification 2008, Uponor/Wirsbo advanced design school certification 2007, Buderus Wall-hung certification 2007, Power Limited License (low voltage controls) 40 CE credits 2005, Basic Hydronic Certification IPEX & Northern Alberta Institute of Technology 1998, Charter Board Member - Radiant Panel Association 1994, Residential Off-Electric to Hydronic Conversion Heating School Canadian Hydronics Council 1994, B&G Little Red School House 1993, Rood Utilities (now Auburn Technical Institute) Oil Burner School 1993 ,Tekmar Controls residential and commercial 1993, Division Manager and Advanced Hydronic Seminar Instructor for the first Exclusively Hydronic Radiant Floor Distributor in the USA 1990, Hydronic Radiant Heating Association Workshop participant with Richard c. Bourne, PE spring 1988, Master Plumbing, Hydronic, Solar Course Red Rocks Community College 1987.

Awards and Honors
2009 System Showcase Award - Radiant Panel Association

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