Radiation is how the sun heats the earth, as there is no air between the two. Radiation is usually far more efficient than convection and the air movement is minimal.

The heating season is just around the corner.

Mirek Walus and Emily Walus | Ideal Heating

The heating season is just aroun
Radiation is how the sun heats the earth, as there is no air between the two. Radiation is usually far more efficient than convection and the air movement is minimal.
The heating season is just around the corner.
by Mirek Walus and Emily Walus

Soaring home heating costs this winter could do more than dent consumers' budgets.

Recently, we all have been moved by the tragedy in the South and rising oil and gasoline prices, but the next shock in the form of the heating bill might be near as the heating season is just around the corner. First hurricane Katrina's and then Rita's effect on energy costs could extend well beyond the end-of-summer driving season and the reconstruction of New Orleans and other coastal towns.

The natural gas wholesale price for delivery during the next 12 months, already at record high levels before the recent weather related events has risen even more in the wake of the last hurricane. Winter heating costs, already at record high levels are projected to be among the highest in history partally as a result of Katrina's 'hell broken loose'.

Energy prices are expected to get worse not only as a long term effect of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico but also because of ever growing appetite for more consumer goods and services as much in this country as in many far away places like India and China where the population boom and the rapid development is like 'the economic force with tsunami powers'. This can perhaps also be called 'one of the little known site effects of current massive trade and outsourcing'. People manufacturing advanced laptops and other 21 Century tools and toys don't want to drive just bicycles anymore. The Gene is out of the bottle and the demand for oil will only go up dragging the kicking and screaming prices with it.

Over 10% of Germany's electric is from 'green sources' but the renewable energy options still remains quite illusive for most Americans. At the same time many are unsympathetic to nuclear power while for example in France over 70% of electric is generated from E=mc.

Obviously we can't move goods and transport people without oil, but can we at least heat with wood like our ancestors did?

At present, this is usually easier said than done since energy efficiency of the standard wood burning stoves and fireplaces is far from good, in addition to the larger issues of safety and the environmental concerns. As the wood burns, it needs oxygen and draft and lots of it. Fireplaces without special inserts and outside intake vents use indoor air to function. Most of it goes out the chimney and cold air is drowning in to sustain the flow. That's why field trials have shown that on cold winter days, the use of conventional masonry fireplaces (without so called 'inserts') actually resulted in an increase in heating costs! Most fireplaces had negative energy efficiency during the tests! A typical oil or gas furnace will require about 50% excess air for satisfactory performance. Conventional fireplaces, on the other hand, operate at about 1500% excess air, 15 times the theoretical requirement and many times what a furnace burning fossil fuel need! Consequently, very high air mass flows through the fireplace and up the chimney when the fire is blazing. This air has to come from the outside and as it enters the house, it cools it! Not the desired side effect in the wintertime!

Most American homes are heated by a forced air furnace, often using the same ducts and registers as central air conditioning uses in the summer. While this is cheap to install and makes sense to use for cold air, as with most 'one size fits all' systems it is not efficient for the hot air which rises very quickly. Thus the smart advice is to have your ceiling fan on in the winter! To complicate the matter further, most new houses nowadays are constructed with great looking cathedral ceilings that provide a nice, airy space, but even more so cause heat to be forced upwards, away from the occupants. Therefore, heating costs go up too as people are forced to set their thermostats at even higher temperatures. *

Heating the air particles is called convection as opposed to radiation, a method of warming objects by gentle infrared rays. Radiation is how the sun heats the earth, as there is no air between the two. Radiation is usually far more efficient than convection and the air movement is minimal.

This simple and innovative concept was discovered by the ancient Greeks, copied by Romans, and likely independently invented by the Koreans as far back as The Choson Dynasty some 600 years ago.

Romans brought the 'Hypocaust' to the Western and Northern Europe. Germans took it even further north. Today, over 90% of Norway's homes are radiant floor heated and this is one of many inventions brought to Europe by the mighty Roman Legions. **

Nevertheless, Norway is one of the Europe's biggest oil and natural gas producers and one of the coldest countries there.

Korean winters can be chilly too, but since the ancient times, a majority of Koreans are using an ingenious floor/slab heating method as the only heat source! ***

In the beginning of the 20th Century, an American Architect Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned to build a large and modern hotel in Japan. During the early project stages of The Tokyo Imperial Hotel, Wright was invited to the home of a Japanese nobleman. There he was shown to the simple but fascinating tea room that was different from typical Japanese rooms. The floor was covered with paper and it was warm. It was a Korean Ondol room in Japan!

The Japanese gentleman had discovered Ondol while in Korea and was absolutely enthralled by it. After returning to Japan he had an identical room built in his home. This was the very room he had shown to Mr. Wright. 'The indescribable comfort of being warmed from below' also impressed Wright. He decided then and there that Ondol was the ideal heating system and began incorporating it in his buildings. Wright, in fact, invented the modern radiant floor heating, using hot water running through pipes instead of original Korean hot exhaust through flues. From the true fusion of Japanese and Western architecture came a true hybrid of the super energy efficient heating system. Imported as an idea and entirely redesigned by Wright 80 years ago. ****

Sure enough one of the most sophisticated houses in America today, Bill Gate's ultra high tech Lake Washington home has it too, along with driveways snow melting for the good measure, but this is a completely different story.



Additional info:

* http://www.ideal-heating.com/index.php?id=2,1

** http://www.ideal-heating.com/article.php?a=18

*** http://www.ideal-heating.com/article.php?a=20

**** http://www.ideal-heating.com/article.php?a=31

About the authors:

Emily Walus is a Westfield NJ High School student and editor of www.ideal-heating.com

Mirek Walus is a co-owner of Ideal Heating LLC, a company in NJ selling new European product: radiant electric floor heating as well as heated driveway, walkway and steps for ice and snow melting. All systems are automatically controlled by floor or ground temperature sensing programmable thermostats.

When low wattage electric radiant floor heating is installed it usually works together with existing heating combining the heating into an energy efficient true hybrid system.


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